June is Home Safety Month

by Dan Krell (c) 2009.

The Home Safety Council (homesafteycouncil.org) estimates that there are approximately twenty thousand deaths and 21 million emergency room visits each year. To help educate about home safety, the HSC declared June to be “Home Safety Month.” Home safety is often taken for granted by home owners and home buyers; even the tidiest of homes can improve on home safety. Whether or not you are planning to buy or sell a home, the HSC recommends scheduling a home safety evaluation.

There are many safety considerations within your home. Some safety issues depend on age (e.g., if there are infants present), while others confront you on a daily basis. Among the many fire, health and general safety considerations within the home, some of the commonly overlooked safety items include: handrails, chimneys, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

Some of the most dangerous falls you can take is in your home. The National Safety Council (NSC.org) reports “falls are the leading cause for injury related death” among elderly Americans. The NSC reports that in 2003 thirteen thousand Americans age 65 and over died and 1.8 million received injuries requiring a trip to the emergency room all resulting from a fall in the home. Anyone can have a nasty fall in the home, many do not realize how easy it is for someone to slip and fall down a flight of stairs. Having secure and stable hand rails along the stairs can not only prevent a fall, but possibly lessen the severity of an injury resulting from a fall.

Unfortunately, chimney maintenance is another overlooked home safety item. Not cleaning the flue with regular use can allow creosote to build up and create a safety and fire hazard. Sometimes improperly vented or used fireplace can produce excess carbon monoxide, which is potentially lethal. Regular professional inspections and cleaning can prevent fires and possibly reduce health risks associated with carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is invisible, odorless and tasteless; you may have been poisoned by carbon monoxide in the past and not have known it. The symptoms of carbon monoxide poising can mimic flu symptoms (headache, fatigue, nausea and dizziness); however prolonged exposure can result in brain damage and death. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be prevented by properly installing carbon monoxide detectors in any home that uses liquid, gas or solid fuel (e.g., propane, natural gas, wood, etc.).

Smoke detectors have been widely available for several decades, however you still hear about the tragic fire where someone’s death could have been prevented if there was a working smoke detector installed in the home. Besides not having a smoke detector, fire related tragedies occur because people remove dead batteries from the chirping detectors and forget to install a fresh battery; or the smoke detector itself needed replacement due to its age (a smoke detector’s life span is about eight to ten years).

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (montgomerycountymd.gov) recommends that smoke detectors be installed on each level and outside each sleeping area. The MCFRS recommends testing the detectors regularly and replacing the batteries each fall along with the change of the clock.

Take the opportunity to make June a Home Safety Month by scheduling a home safety evaluation. Montgomery County residents can schedule a home safety evaluation by calling the Home Safety Hotline (240-777-2476).

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of May 25, 2009. Copyright (c) 2009 Dan Krell.