“Safe at home.” It’s how we feel when we close the door behind us at the end of a long day. But how often do we take a moment to make sure we truly are as safe as we feel in our own homes? Preventable injuries — including home fires and burns, household poisons, drowning and falls — are the leading cause of death for children, teens and young adults (you’ll be glad to know “young” means up to age 44). They’re one of the leading causes of death for older adults too. Let’s say you’re not afraid of dying. Why take the time to be safer?
- You have better places to spend time than the emergency department. Injuries account for more than a third of all emergency department visits. The average wait time in EDs across the country is four hours and seven minutes, according to the engrossing reading of a recent Emergency Department Pulse Report. What would you rather do with those four hours?
- Safer is cheaper. Injuries cost the nation $80 billion every year in medical costs alone. The estimated lifetime cost of injuries occurring in a single year in the U.S is more than $406 billion. No matter how good your health insurance is, an injury can take hundreds or thousands of dollars straight out of your pocket.
- You want to get on with your life. A broken hip from a fall that could have been prevented may keep you from enjoying your normal activities for months. And do you really want to spend Rochester’s brief summer in the rehab center?
You say you just don’t have time to prevent injuries? If you’ve got less than one minute to devote to safety, use it to:
- Wipe up a spill right away. Falls are the leading causeof nonfatal unintentional injuries for every age group, except 10 to 24 year olds—and for them it’s the second leading cause! Wiping up spills is one of several simple ways to prevent falls.
- Not leave a child alone near water (yes, even for less than a minute). Kids don’t drown only in pools. Bathtubs, buckets, toilets, and hot tubs can be drowning dangers as well.
- Test your smoke alarm to make sure it’s still working, and everyone in your household can hear it. Even alarms that are hard-wired or have long-life batteries need to be checked. You should have at least one working smoke alarm on each floor, and one inside every sleeping area is best. Consider having both ionization and photoelectric alarms, or dual alarms that incorporate both technologies. Ionization smoke alarms respond best to flaming fires, and photoelectric to smoldering fires.
- Put away matches or lighters in a high cabinet or locked drawer, out of sight and reach of children. Children playing with fire is a leading cause of fire deaths for children under age 5.
- Turn off portable space heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep. Space heaters are involved in 32% of heating fires but cause 82% of associated deaths and 64% of injuries.
- Adjust the thermostat on your water heater to keep hot water less than 120°F, to prevent scalds.
- Turn off the stove if you have to leave the kitchen while cooking. Unattended equipment is the #1 contributing factor in cooking fire deaths.
- Put on your glasses and read the fine print on that medicine bottle. Unintentional poisonings have risen steadily since 1992, and for people 35 to 54 years old, they’re causing more deaths than motor vehicle crashes. Know how much, and how often, you can safely take any medication whether prescription or over-the-counter, as well as possible interactions with other drugs.
- Keep the metal mesh screen of your fireplace closed, but leave glass doors open while burning a fire. The U.S. Fire Administration says leaving the doors open gives the fire enough air and keeps creosote from building up in the chimney. The screen helps keep embers from getting out of the fireplace. Close the glass doors when the fire is out to keep air from the chimney from getting into the room.
If you can find just a few minutes use them to:
- Put away household cleaners and medications in a place that’s out of sight and reach of children.
- Clear clutter from hallways and exits to prevent tripping.
- Install handrails on stairs and adequate lighting at the top and bottom of the stairs. Leading causes of adult injuries include falls from stairs, steps and ladders.
- Use this fire safety checklist to check your home for hazards.
- Call to schedule an annual chimney cleaning.
- Play Help Mikey Make It Out with your kids. This fun, interactive game at www.homefiredrill.org teaches life-saving home escape lessons.
- Plan and practice your home escape. Working smoke alarms and CO detectors save lives, but does everyone in your home know what to do when they sound–especially in the middle of the night? Does everyone know your meeting place outside, where you can find each other and firefighters can find you? Visit www.homefiredrill.org.
- Check the manufacturers instructions to see if you should replace your CO detector. New York State law requires CO detectors to be installed in all new and existing homes having any fuel-burning appliance or attached garage. But you need a new detector every two to 10 years, depending on the model. Carbon monoxide kills in minutes, and unlike smoke from a fire it’s colorless, tasteless and odorless. It can be created by open flames, space heaters, water heaters, blocked chimneys or running a car inside a garage (even with the door open). If you have only one carbon monoxide detector, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends it be located near the sleeping area, where it can wake you.