National Commentary

Jim Moran’s News Commentary




“How safe is my home?” It’s probably not something you consider often. If you did, it was more likely in terms of keeping the doors locked to prevent intruders. But there is another side to home safety, one that is less talked about but more likely to directly affect you or your family.

The facts are astounding: accidents at home result in more than 21 million medical visits and nearly 20,000 deaths each year. As a result, the Home Safety Council has dedicated the month of June “Home Safety Month” to educate and empower families to make their homes safer from accidents. There are six prominent home safety risk areas: falls; poisoning; fires and burns; choking and suffocation; drowning and disaster preparedness.

Falls account for 5.1 million injuries in an average year, with adults over 60 ranking highest for injuries and deaths from these types of accidents. Some ways to minimize falls in the home include having grab bars in all bathrooms and shower stalls, using slip resistant mats and flooring, providing sufficient lighting – especially near stairwells and walkways, and having handrails on both sides of the stairs and steps.

Poisoning is the second leading cause of unintentional home injury fatalities, resulting in a quarter of all home injury deaths each year. You can reduce the risk of poisoning by locking poisons, cleaners, medicines and all dangerous items in a place where children cannot reach them. Use medications only as directed and be sure to use child-resistant packaging. Check all fuel-burning appliances to make sure they function properly and do not emit carbon monoxide gas. Carbon monoxide poisoning may be prevented by installing detectors, particularly near sleeping areas. It’s a good idea to keep the Poison Control Center number (1-800-222-1222) near all phones in your house.

Home fires are the third leading cause of injury-related deaths in the home. Installing and maintaining working smoke alarms cuts your family’s risk of dying in a home fire by almost half. It’s a smart idea to hold fire drills and plan how to safely exit your home. Keep a list of emergency phone numbers by every telephone. During daily activities, remember to stay by the stove when cooking, especially when you are frying food. Only light candles when an adult is in the room and blow it out when you leave the room or go to sleep. And if you smoke, smoke outside.

Choking and suffocation is the fourth major home safety risk. Did you know that half the children who die before age one die from choking or suffocation? With this in mind, keep coins, latex balloons and hard round foods, such as peanuts and hard candy out of children’s reach. Place children on their backs and don’t put pillows, comforters, or toys in cribs. Clip the loops in window blind cords and place them up high where children can’t get them. Read the labels on all toys, especially if they have small parts. Be sure that your child is old enough to play with them. And, remind children to sit down when they eat and to take small bites.

It also pays to be smart around water. Young children can drown in as little as an inch of water in a matter of a few minutes. Stay within an arm’s length of children in and around water, including bathtubs, toilets, pools and spas – even buckets of water. Empty large buckets and wading pools after using them and keep them upside down when not in use. Make sure your children always swim with an adult and no one should ever swim alone.

The sixth and final home safety risk comes from naturally-occurring disasters, like a hurricane or earthquake. Everyone needs an emergency plan designating a safe place in your house, such as a basement or inside room, as well as escape routes, that you and your family can use in case of an emergency. Learn all the phone numbers you need to call if your family is not together, plus the phone number of a relative that lives out of state. Having ready-to-stay and ready-to-go kits with critical supplies is also an important part of your planning.

You’ve been presented with a lot of information but the larger point is that it requires a hands-on approach to reduce your home safety risk. For more home safety information, I encourage you to visit www.homesafetycouncil.org or www.mysafehome.org.

 

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