It can sometimes be difficult to remember all the little things we should be doing to keep our families safe. Luckily there are a lot of observances during the year that remind us to take time out from our busy lives and think about safety. For all you fellow parents out there, here are what I believe to be the top five hidden home dangers, along with my stay-safe solutions.
DANGER #1: Carbon monoxide
You can’t see it, and you can’t smell it, but carbon monoxide (CO) is the leading cause of accidental poisoning in the U.S. It’s produced by improperly working appliances, fireplaces, and it can even seep into the house from a running car in the garage.
SOLUTION #1: Carbon monoxide alarms
The only way to detect carbon monoxide? With an alarm. These should be installed on every level of the home, including the basement, and outside each sleeping area. Check with your fire department to see what local and state laws require in terms of placement. And be sure to have your appliances checked regularly.
* * *
DANGER #2: Kitchen gadgets and equipment
Cooking equipment is, and has long been, the leading cause of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The most common sources: stovetops, ovens, rotisseries, microwaves, portable cooking units, and barbecue or hibachi grills.
SOLUTION #2: Fire extinguishers
Unattended cooking is the main reason behind home fires, so start by staying in the kitchen when you’re using the stovetop, checking food frequently when it’s in the oven, and keeping the range clear of anything that can catch fire. But even for those who consider themselves Top Chef contenders, I recommend keeping a fire extinguisher or extinguishing spray on hand to prevent a small kitchen fire from growing out of control.
* * *
DANGER #3: Foundation cracks
If you’re like many homeowners, you’re probably unfamiliar with radon: the second leading cause of lung cancer (behind smoking). This odorless, radioactive gas can move up from the soil and enter the home through cracks in the foundation. Even if you don’t have a basement, radon can still enter your home through cracks around service pipes and construction joints.
SOLUTION #3: Radon test kits
You can’t see or smell radon, but you can easily test for it with an at-home kit. Rest assured, though, even if you come up with an elevated result, radon is fixable: the EPA says some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels by up to 99 percent.
* * *
DANGER #4: Rapid fires
It’s little known how fast home fires can spread. From the time a smoke alarm sounds, your family can have as little as two minutes to escape safely before the fire spreads throughout your home, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
SOLUTION #4: Home escape plan
Your ability to escape from a home fire depends on advance warning from a smoke alarm but, also, from advance planning with an escape plan. Shockingly, though, only 29 percent of families have ever practiced their fire escape plan, according to one of our recent surveys. I recommend practicing your plan regularly—at least twice a year—so that everyone knows what to do in the event of a fire. You might even consider holding a drill at night
* * *
DANGER #5: Home theft
While not exactly a “hidden” danger, home theft is something that’s frequently overlooked. You might think it’ll never happen to you, but the reality is that a home is broken into every 14 seconds in the United States, according to the FBI.
SOLUTION #5: Residential safes
There are basic ways to deter burglars from getting inside your home: install solid core entry doors with sturdy deadbolt locks; properly light entries; install metal grates over basement windows; and trim bushes so there are fewer places to hide. But you’ll enjoy extra piece of mind by storing your most valuable possessions in a safe (consider one that’s both waterproof and fireproof to keep items safe from the elements too).