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Home Safety

How can I make my home a safer place?

Many people are accidently hurt or killed in their homes every year. Problems with vision, hearing, or walking can increase a person's risk of having an accident in their home. Being on certain medications, recovering from an illness, or being elderly may also increase this risk. The following are some ways you can make your home a safer place.

  • Electrical safety:
    • Cover unused electric outlets with safety plugs, especially if children visit or live in your home.
    • Do not use outlet adapters to plug in extra electric devices. This may overload your outlet and cause a fire.
    • Never use a three-pronged plug in a two-hole outlet. Do not use an adapter or break a prong off the plug to make it fit. Doing this may damage your electrical device, cause a fire, or give you a shock.
    • Make sure all electrical cords are in good condition. Unplug and do not use cords that are cracked, torn, or frayed.
    • Keep all electrical cords, including telephone cords, out of the way of foot traffic. Never run cords or wires under carpets or across areas where people walk.
    • Follow the directions that come with extension cords. Try not to use them on a regular basis.
    • Unplug electric devices when you are not using them.
    • If an electrical device is making unusual noises, sparking, or has a funny smell, unplug it immediately. Do not use devices that do not work properly.
  • Fire and Burn Safety:
    • Make sure that you have enough smoke detectors. There should be at least one on every floor of your home, including the basement. Smoke detectors should be placed on your ceiling, or on the wall six to eight inches below the ceiling. It is also a good idea to put an extra smoke detector in each bedroom.
    • Test your smoke detectors every month. Make sure they are free of dust. Replace the batteries with brand-new ones twice a year. Replace your smoke detector if it is over ten years old.
    • Practice a way to escape from each room of your home in case of a fire. During a fire it is cooler near the floor, so practice crawling to safety. Smoke makes it very hard to see during a fire, so practice with your eyes closed. Practice opening locked or barred doors or windows as well.
    • Install a fire escape or portable ladder in bedrooms on the second floor or higher.
    • Have fireplaces, chimneys, and furnaces checked and cleaned each year.
    • Set the temperature of your water heater no higher than 120° F (48.8° C). This can help prevent accidental burns.
    • If you are able to see any heating pipes and radiators in your home, cover them to prevent burns. Only use a covering that is specially made for heating pipes and radiators. Using other material to cover pipes may start a fire.
    • Keep flammable products (products that catch fire easily) in approved, labeled containers. These products include things like gasoline, kerosene, and paint thinner. Store these items in a garage, shed, or another shelter outside of your house. Keep flammable products away from open flames, devices with pilot lights, or anything that may spark. Gas-powered appliances, such as furnaces or hot water heaters, are examples of things that have pilot lights. Also, keep them away from paper, rags, and other things that burn easily. Never put clothes or rags that are soiled with flammable liquid in a washing machine or clothes dryer. Even this may start a fire.
    • Be sure your address can be easily seen from the street by rescue workers.
    • If you have special needs, contact your local fire department. They may help you by checking your home and suggesting special fire and safety equipment.
  • Lighting:
    • Make sure all rooms and hallways are well-lit.
    • Place bright night lights in hallways and rooms to help if you need to get up at night.
    • Use light switch covers that glow in the dark so that you can see them at night.
    • Check lamps to make sure you are using the right type of light bulb. The lamp shade can burn if the bulb is too bright for the lamp.
  • Stairways:
    • Have loose or damaged stairs fixed as soon as possible.
    • Do not use carpeting on your stairs that is patterned or dark. Solid, lighter carpeting makes it easier to see the edges of the steps.
    • If your stairs are not carpeted, paint the tip of each stair with an easy-to-see color. Paint the first and last step a different color. Put nonslip treads on each step.
    • Install sturdy handrails on both sides of the stairs. Make sure the handrails stay tightly attached. Hold on to the handrails every time you use the stairs.
    • Never leave objects on the stairs. Do not use area rugs at the top or bottom of a staircase.
    • Place light switches at both the top and bottom of a staircase. Leave a flashlight by the stairs in case the power goes out.
    • Have ramps put in if a household member has trouble using stairs or uses a wheelchair.
  • Floors:
    • Thick carpeting can make movement difficult if you use a walker or wheelchair. You may need to replace thick carpeting with a thin carpet or wood floors.
    • Have any holes and uneven areas in your floors, steps, or sidewalks fixed.
    • Keep your floors free of clutter.
    • If you spill something, wipe it up as soon as possible to prevent falls.
    • Create color contrasts between walls and floors. Lighter colored floors are easier to see. It is also easier to see objects that may have fallen in your path on a lighter-colored floor.
    • Have carpet installed in the bathroom instead of linoleum or tiles. Linoleum and tiles are slippery when they get wet.
    • Secure carpeting to the floor around all of its edges. Remove throw rugs, or secure them with double-sided tape or special backing.
    • Place carpeting over concrete and other hard floors. If you fall on carpet, you may be less likely to get a broken bone or another serious injury.
  • Furniture:
    • Arrange chairs, couches, tables, and other furniture so you can move around them easily. Footstools and ottomans can cause falls. When you are not using them, move them out of your path.
    • Select chairs that are easy for you to get in and out of. Chairs with arms may help you sit down and get up. Always put footrests for recliners into the closed position before getting into or out of the chair.
    • Add extra cushions to raise the height of low chairs or couches. This will make it easier for you to stand up and sit down.
    • Put a phone where you can easily get to it.
  • Bathroom:
    • Put grab bars on bathtub and shower walls. Also put grab bars on the wall next to the toilet.
    • Place nonskid strips or a tub mat on the floor of the bathtub or shower. Place a nonskid rug outside of the tub or shower.
    • Remove bars of soap from showers. Use a liquid soap dispenser attached to the tub or shower wall instead1. A bar of soap may be dropped, make the floor slippery, and cause falls.
    • If you have trouble getting into or out of the bathtub, try placing a shower chair in the bathtub. A plastic chair can be put in the shower so you can sit while showering. Make sure the chair is sturdy and has nonskid feet.
    • Install a hand-held shower head. This will make it easier to rinse while sitting on a chair in the bathtub or shower.
    • Have easy-to-turn handles put on your shower, bathtub, and sink faucets.
    • Use a high-rise toilet seat if you have problems getting up or down from the toilet.
    • Place another chair with nonskid feet by the sink. You can then sit down if you get tired or become faint while working at the sink.
    • Replace glass shower doors with non-breakable doors.
    • Keep all electrical appliances away from water, and unplug them when they are not being used.
  • Bedroom:
    • Make sure the bed cannot move when you sit down. Do this by taking off the wheels if it has any. Also, make sure that it is high enough for you to get into and out of easily.
    • Put a phone, bell, or whistle by your bed so that you can call someone if you need help.
    • Make sure you can easily reach a bedside lamp. If you get up at night, always turn the bedside lamp on first. This will help prevent falls. Keep a flashlight with good batteries on your bedside table if you cannot put a lamp by your bed.
    • It is a good habit to sit on the side of your bed for a minute or two after you wake up. Getting out of bed too fast may cause you to get dizzy and fall.
    • Keep a commode chair (wheeled toilet chair), urinal, or bedpan close to the bed if needed.
    • A hospital bed may be needed for a household member who is weak or confused. An overhead trapeze can be hooked to the bed frame to help the person move in bed. Keep the side rails of the hospital bed up to prevent falls. Make sure the wheels of the bed are locked at all times.
  • Kitchen:
    • Put a small fire extinguisher within easy reach of the stove. Teach all household members how to use it. Have the fire extinguisher checked as often as suggested by the company that made it. Make sure the fire extinguisher can be used on both grease and electrical fires.
    • You may need to rearrange things in your kitchen. Put the cooking supplies, food, dishes, and pans that you use the most where you can easily reach them.
    • You may need to have your kitchen counters lowered if you are in a wheelchair.
    • Keep knives and other sharp objects away from children.
    • Keep pot handles turned in. This will keep someone from hitting the handle as they walk by and causing the pot to fall.
    • Keep medicines, plants, and chemicals out of reach of children and pets.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.