Home Safety Basics

The safety of family, home and belongings is critical to all of us. Being prepared and alert can save time, injury and possibly your life. Here are some things to do to help keep your family safe around your home:

  • Store medications and small items such as jewelry and coins where toddlers can’t reach. Be alert for items that would stick in a child’s throat.
  • Lock unloaded guns in a secure place and store guns and bullets in separate places. Do not let children see where the gun or bullets are hidden.
  • Put razors, cosmetics and other health and beauty items out of reach.
  • Do not leave hair dryers, curling irons or other grooming appliances out after use.
  • Install child safety latches on cabinets and drawers.
  • Do not store prescription drugs in the bathroom. Find a cool, dry spot in the house that is out of the reach of children and check for childproof safety caps for medication.
  • Set your water heater temperature at 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower to prevent burns and scalds.
  • Turn pot handles away from the edge of the stove.
  • Store cleaners and chemicals in their original containers in places where children can’t get to them. Never store them under the sink, even if protected by safety latches.
  • Keep knives and other sharp objects out of children’s reach.
  • Tuck away cords of electrical appliances so that small children cannot grab them.
  • Replace electrical cords that are frayed or cracked or that become hot. Do not overload outlets and extension cords. Never run electrical cords under rugs.
  • Put safety caps in all unused electrical outlets.
  • Place house plants well out of reach of children. Some are poisonous if eaten, or the container could hurt a child if it fell on them.
  • Secure bookcases to the walls to prevent children from pulling the cases over.
  • Keep tools and garden chemicals out of children’s reach.

The National Crime Prevention Council offers this advice to keep your property and family protected:

Check Your Locks

Door and window locks in most homes today might keep out someone who just rattles the knob, but they won't stop a determined or professional burglar. In more than 40 percent of residential burglaries, the thieves came in through an unlocked door or window.

Every exterior door should have a dead-bolt lock with a one-inch throw. If you have a key-in-the-knob lock, install an auxiliary lock--a vertical bolt, cylinder dead-bolt, or horizontal-bolt model. And if you just moved into a new house or apartment, rekey the locks. You never know who may still have old keys. Also, do not hide your keys in mailboxes, planters, or under doormats. Give a duplicate key to a trusted neighbor instead.

Secure sliding glass doors with commercially available locks, with a rigid wooden dowel in the track or with a nail inserted through a hole drilled in the sliding door frame and projecting into the fixed frame. Lock double-hung windows with window key locks or by sliding a bolt or nail through a hole drilled at a downward angle in each top corner or the inside sash and part way through the outside sash. Consider grilles for basement or street-level windows if you live in a high-crime area.

Check Your Doors

Locks lose their effectiveness if they are installed in flimsy or weak doors. Make sure outside doors are solid, at least 1 3/4 inch metal or hard wood. Doors should fit tightly in their frames and hinges should be on the inside. Double check the door between your house and the garage since that is a common entry spot for thieves.

Install a peephole or wide-angle viewer in all entry doors so you can see who is outside without opening the door. A short chain between the doors and the jamb is not a good substitute because it can be broken easily.

Look at Your Home from the Outside

To discourage burglars from selecting your home, make sure that any shrubbery around doors and windows is pruned so they will not hide anyone tampering with the entry points. Cut back tree limbs that could help a thief climb into second story windows.

Keep your yard well-maintained and store ladders and tools inside your garage or basement when you're not using them. All entrances and porches should be well lit.

Consider an Alarm System

If you live in an isolated area or in a neighborhood vulnerable to break-ins, explore the costs of an alarm system. The simplest in-house alarm system sets up a small electrical circuit across door locks and from window to frame. When this current is interrupted by someone opening the door or window, the alarm sounds. More sophisticated systems include sensing devices that set off a siren when an intruder disturbs a field of continually moving sound or radar waves. Advanced alarm system can be monitored by a central station which alerts the police if a thief breaks in. These systems can include smoke/fire alarms and "help" or "panic" buttons to signal a medical or other emergency as well.

Have a Family Plan

Remember that your goal is to avoid any confrontations with a burglar since there is a good chance he or she is armed. If you find a door ajar, a screen slit, or a window broken when you come home -- do not go inside. Call the police from a neighbor's house.

Prepare When You Leave Town

Notify a trusted neighbor that has a view of your house of your vacation schedule and ask him or her to pick up your mail, deliveries and newspapers. Put lights and a radio on timers to create the illusion that someone is home. Leave shades, blinds, and curtains in normal positions and arrange to have your lawn and garden maintained if you will be gone a long time. In winter, ask your neighbor to remove snow from your sidewalk and driveway and to leave footprints around your home to make it look like someone is around.

For a small investment of time and money, you can greatly reduce your chances of being a victim of home burglary. For more information on home security and safety, contact your local police or sheriff's department.

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