Home Safety Checklist: 12 Things Everyone Needs (but Many Don’t Have)

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I hate to bring up falls, poisonings, and drownings, but they happen in homes everywhere. The good news? There are steps you can take now to make the roof over your head a much safer place for you and your family.


Here are a dozen safety essentials everyone should have on hand. Check and make sure you've got them, that they're in working order, and that they're easy to find.

Working smoke detectors. A must for every home, these alarms can be a literal lifesaver if there’s a fire in your house. Install one on every level and inside and outside each bedroom, and check the batteries every month. (To help you remember, time the checkup with another monthly chore, like changing out the air conditioner filters or dusting the light fixtures.) If your smoke alarms are older than 10 years, the U.S. Fire Administration recommends swapping them out for a newer model.

Working carbon monoxide detectors. Like smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors belong on every level of your home. Check the batteries regularly and replace models every seven years.

Fire extinguishers. When dinner is en fuego, the last thing you want to do is scramble around in a panic. Keep a fire extinguisher in an easily accessible spot on every level of your home, advises the National Fire Protection Association. Look for one that’s labeled A:B:C -- it can tamp down fires sparked by combustibles, electricity, or flammable liquids. Check the gauge monthly; if the needle is within the green area, it’s still safe to use.

More from The Stir: 6 Things Firefighters Wish Everyone Did at Home

First aid kit. Be prepared for all varieties of bumps and cuts with a fully stocked first aid kit in your home and in your car. The Red Cross recommends drug store basics such as adhesive bandages and cloth tape, antibiotic ointment, antiseptic wipes, hydrocortisone, aspirin, non-latex gloves, a blanket, thermometer, gauze pads, scissors, and tweezers. (Get the full list here.)

Go bag. Prep for a natural disaster long before one strikes. The Department of Homeland Security suggests pulling together an emergency supply kit including non-perishable food and water for at least three days; a battery-powered or hand-crank radio with extra batteries; flashlight and extra batteries; a stocked first aid kit; a wrench or pliers; a can opener; and moist towelettes and garbage bags.

Childproofing supplies. Perhaps the easiest way to cut down your family’s risk of accidents is to have precautions in place. Enter childproofing MVPs like safety gates stationed at the bottom and top of stairs and in between rooms; window guards to prevent falls; cabinet locks to safely store chemicals and medications; and electrical outlet covers to keep curious fingers safe.

More from The Stir: 12 DIY Childproofing Hacks to Keep Kids Safe

Brackets and braces. Technically, this counts as childproofing, but it's worth calling out on its own because of this scary fact: One child dies every two weeks when a TV or heavy piece of furniture falls on them, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Prevent tip-over accidents by securing televisions and top-heavy furniture to the wall using anchoring devices, available at most hardware or home improvement stores.

Emergency lighting. Don’t be stuck in the dark during your next power outage. Stash a flashlight in each room of the house, and keep a few extra batteries handy just in case.

Night lights. Middle-of-the-night bathroom runs can be made much safer if you can actually see where you’re going. Plug in a nightlight to illuminate the way.

More from The Stir: 11 Ideas for Creating a Family Emergency Plan (Without Scaring Your Kids)

Power strips. Swap out extension cords with ground-fault circuit interrupter power strips, which can help prevent injury or death from electrocution.

Food thermometer. Small and inexpensive, the humble food thermometer just might be one of the most important tools in your kitchen. It’s the only way to accurately tell when meats are done (i.e., they’ve reached a high-enough temperature to kill off harmful microorganisms).

List of emergency numbers and important contacts. Jot down the names, phone numbers, and addresses of your family’s health care providers, any information about allergies and medications you or your family are taking, emergency phone numbers for your local hospital and police and fire departments, and any other must-know information. Make it easily accessible for babysitters, visitors, and family members.


Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City–based writer and editor who swapped her BlackBerry and MetroCard for playdates and PB&J sandwiches -- and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up.

Image via iStock.com/JPSchrage

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