When it comes to home safety supplies, many of us feel lost, confused, and straight-up overwhelmed. Sure, we have the fundamentals covered. We have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors installed throughout our homes and we have a fire extinguisher ready to whip out on a moment’s notice. But this doesn’t feel like it could possibly be enough. At the same time, though, we feel positively inundated by the number of home safety products on the market. How do you strike a balance between having way too little and having way too much?
The truth is, there’s basically always something more we could be doing to protect ourselves and our homes. There’s another product we could buy (or, conversely, avoid buying). There’s another hazard we could research. There’s another change we could make. Perfection may feel perpetually out of reach, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.
It’s also wise to teach children how and when to dial 9-1-1, Debra Holtzman, national child safety expert and author of The Safe Baby, tells SheKnows. “Post emergency telephone numbers on the refrigerator, and program them into your cell phone.” Steps like these may seem simple, but they can have an outsized impact when a disaster actually does arise.
Not to mention, there are tons of home safety products out there that are decidedly meaningful — that can make more than a minor impact in improving the safety of our homes, according to these same home safety experts. Single purchases — like fully-stocked first aid kits, disaster supplies, and window guards — really can make a big difference. Plus, they can leave you feeling like you’ve gone a step beyond the smoke detector and fire extinguisher, without forcing you to snap up every niche product on the market.
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
First things first, you need working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If you don’t have them, get them. If you haven’t replaced the batteries in a while, replace them.
“Install a carbon monoxide alarm in every sleeping area, on every level of the home, and at least 15 feet from any fuel-burning appliance,” Holtzman says. And be sure smoke detectors are just as present. Holtzman recommends putting them in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home (including your basement).
Driscoll notes that you can often find combination alarms that detect smoke and carbon monoxide — an efficiency that makes keeping your home safe even easier.
And remember that installing these alarms is not enough. You need to replace and test the batteries regularly to ensure the alarms are properly working. Holtzman recommends testing your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on a monthly basis. And O’Brien recommends replacing the batteries on these alarms every time you change your clocks forward and back. “Change them even if you replaced them two months ago,” he tells SheKnows. A routine like this can be particularly easy to remember, and follow-through matters.
Fire extinguishers can be helpful to have on hand — especially if you’re dealing with a small, confined fire. For this reason, Holtzman recommends buying a few multipurpose fire extinguishers and installing them in high-risk areas, like kitchens, basements, and workshops.
“Take the time to learn how to operate the equipment before an emergency strikes,” she says. This will help you more effectively handle any emergencies that arise. (And remember, when you’re putting out a fire using your fire extinguisher, ask the rest of your family to leave the home and make sure someone calls the fire department immediately.)
Fire Escape Ladders and Sprinklers
If you want to take your fire preparedness to the next level, buying a few fire escape ladders can be a great way to do so, Driscoll says. These can prove incredibly helpful when you need to get out of a room on the second or third floor of your home. Consider buying a few fire escape ladders and keeping one in every bedroom on the higher floors of your house.
Another next step you can take is to install an automatic sprinkler system, Holtzman says. “A system like this sprays water on the area where fire is detected…so that a fire will be attacked in its early stages,” she says. These systems can be expensive, but they’re typically less costly to install when a house is already under construction.
Above all else, though, make sure you have a fire preparedness plan. “Everyone should have a plan — what to do, where to go, how to get out,” O’Brien says. Have a designated meeting place outside your home, and practice your fire plan regularly. All three home safety experts agree this is vital; you can’t add it to your shopping list, but you need to do it.
A Fully Stocked First Aid Kit
Home safety isn’t merely about preventing fires and other major disasters. It’s also about being able to handle the minor accidents that pervade the day-to-day. Because cuts, scrapes and bruises are a fact of life — especially when you have kids around — you’ll want to make sure you have at least one fully stocked first aid kit in your home.
Before that doesn’t mean you need a long shopping list. Plenty of stores offer pre-assembled first aid kits, and most of them are very comprehensive. Still, Holtzman says you’ll want to check to make sure your first aid kit has a few basic necessities: disposable gloves, bandages (in an array of sizes), antiseptic wipes, sharp scissors, and tweezers are all must-haves. And Holtzman recommends having a first aid manual on hand, as well.
A Fully Stocked Disaster Supply Kit
If things go seriously awry — if a major storm, flood, or natural disaster strikes your community — you’ll want to be thoroughly prepared for the safety of both your home and your loved ones. And assembling a disaster supply kit is a great way to do this, Holtzman says.
Start by stocking up on the products you need for everyday life. Think: nonperishable foods, water, and medication — and be sure to account for your children and your pets, too. According to Holtzman, you’ll want at least a three-day supply of these basic products. (And don’t forget a manual can opener — you might need it to open those nonperishable foods.)
Once you’ve got your basics covered, stock up on a few other fundamentals — like flashlights, a radio, and some batteries. “Look for flashlights and radios powered by solar energy and by hand-cranking mechanisms,” Holtzman says. “[That way,] you won’t have to worry about depleted batteries when power outages or other emergencies hit.”
As the weather continues to get warmer, many of us may find ourselves leaving our windows open more and more. This is a potential safety concern, especially if there are little ones running around.
According to Driscoll, screens aren’t enough; while they may keep bugs out, they won’t necessarily keep children in. So consider investing in window guards, locks, or other devices that will keep your windows from opening more than you’d like them to.
Photo : Kucher Serhii/Shutterstock.
Cabinet latches and other kinds of locks are great go-tos for parents who are trying to keep their kids out of certain cabinets, chests and drawers. “Cabinet latches are a good deterrent for slowing kids down in kitchens and bathrooms,” Driscoll tells SheKnows.
But, she warns, this is only a temporary solution. “Kids can be very industrious,” she says. “Eventually, they’ll watch mom and dad, and they’ll figure [the latches] out.” Because of this, you’ll want to pair your use of cabinet latches with other strategies — like storing harmful products up high, where they’ll be out-of-reach and out-of-sight.
Electrical Outlet Covers
Electrical outlets can be incredibly risky, especially if you have kids around. To solve this problem, many people turn to outlet caps (those little plastic devices you plug into each individual outlet, pictured above). But Driscoll says she favors a more heavy-duty solution: outlet covers.
Outlet caps get the job done, but you have to unplug them any time you want to plug something else (like a vacuum) in. This can be tedious, and it can also raise safety concerns: What happens if you forget to pop the outlet cap back in once you’re done using the vacuum? Outlet covers, on the other hand, cover the outlet and the plugs currently using that outlet. This makes it easier for you to access the electrical appliances you need to use, while also maximizing the safety of your home.
One more note on outlets: Don’t overwhelm them, O’Brien says. According to him, fires can start if you plug too many appliances into the same outlet or extension cord. So unplug devices when you’re not using them, keep unused appliance plugs well out of any child’s reach, and pay close attention to how many items are plugged into the same outlet at a given time.
Photo : Amy Johansson/Shutterstock.
Hand of person taking out hot dish from electric oven in kitchen; Shutterstock ID 263617286; Purchase
When childproofing your home, burn safety can be just as important to consider as fire safety. So you might consider buying a few stovetop knob covers, which can keep children from reaching up and accidentally turning the stove on.
According to Driscoll, strategic solutions can be just as helpful as product-based ones in this category. Exclusively cooking on your stove’s most out-of-reach burner can keep children from burning their hands on the stove. And keeping your children from playing with pots and pans can help them more clearly understand the difference between toys and cooking tools (which can become very hot and potentially dangerous).