How to Keep Your Home Safe for the Holidays
There are so many dangers when we're out and about, especially during the continuing Coronavirus outbreak, which is spiking once again. We want and need to feel safe in our own homes.
Although this post is made during the holiday season, these tips are not only to help you keep your visitors to stay safe (if you have visitors this year), but to keep you and your family safe throughout the year. Here are 12 tips to keep your home healthy this holiday season and all year long:
1. Home Lighting
This is something I'm guilty of. We have plenty of lights in our house, but as a night owl, I'm up late and tend to walk around in the dark. Since I've broken my hip (not because of the dark), I always tell myself not to trip over anything.
Make sure you have good lighting both inside and outside of your home. I love our motion sensor exterior lights. I need to get some new nightlights, especially for our large hallway to the bedrooms.
Exterior lights can keep you safe in more ways than helping you to personally see your way in the dark. Motion lights can scare off a person up to no good. Even if it doesn't scare them, it might help to identify them if a neighbor sees them when the lights go on.
2. Home Security Measures
Just having a Nest has been shown to keep your home, and yourself, more secure. I love seeing the videos of how potential burglars get scared off when a voice comes over the intercom telling them to go away. There are many different kinds of security systems available, from do-it-yourself systems like the Nest, to professional systems that have monthly fees.
Even if you don't invest in any of these systems, you can upgrade locks on your doors and windows. We purchased a new home recently and have changed out the tumblers on the exterior doors, but the security screen doors have a key lock vs. a thumb lock. These can be dangerous if you have to hunt for a key in a fire. I'm placing the keys near the doors without putting them in the lock, which a burglar could easily grab if they cut the screen & reach through to the lock.
3. Stay Secure When You Leave Your Home
Although many families aren't getting together this holiday season, you might be one of those that won't pass up getting together. Many people are afraid to fly during the pandemic, but a lot of holiday travelers are driving this year.
The first item on the list would be to alert your neighbors if you're going to be away for a weekend or longer. Have them collect your mail or put a hold on mail with the post office. Give the neighbors a key if an emergency arises. If you have newspaper delivery, put a temporary stop on it. Have your neighbors pick up any deliveries that might be arriving during your absence.
One of the best things to do is to put one or more interior lights on a timer. It looks like someone is home if there are different lights going on and off at multiple times in the evening. Keep your exterior front lights on during your absence. It's even better if they go on automatically when it's dark, or if you have at least one exterior light on a timer.
If you have an alarm system, make sure it's manned. If you are entrusting your neighbor with a key, make sure they know the code.
4. Make Sure All Detectors are in Working Condition
All homes should have smoke detectors, and if you have gas (we're all-electric, which many Scottsdale and Arizona homes are), you'll need a carbon monoxide detector. Not only should the proper detectors be located in the correct areas, you need to make sure they are working. Usually, if a battery is needed, the detector will definitely let you know.
5. Keep Things Clean Around the House
Make sure there are no tripping hazards in or outside of the house. Remove any branches or other tripping hazards in a walkway. If you have children or pets, make sure their toys are put away if you have people over. For the kid's toys, keep them in one area if possible.
Make sure your appliances, especially gas appliances, are clean. One of the most dangerous gas appliance is a dryer with backed-up lint. We've already covered having a working carbon monoxide detector for a gas furnace.
We're hiring a chimney sweep to do a check-up on the fireplace chimney in our new place. We were already alerted that there isn't a flue since the prior owner switched to a propane system, which we've never used. We had a wood-burning fireplace in our prior place in Scottsdale.
6. Make Sure Your Electrical System is Updated and Working Properly
Arizona is a place where people from out-of-state come to visit family - holiday or not. You don't want to have issues with your electrical service when having guests, which will increase usage.
If you know there is an issue with a specific light switch or a flickering lamp, you need to find the problem and get it fixed. Make sure all extension cords are used properly and there aren't any frayed cords. You should always have GFCI's near any water sources - kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room, exterior and garage outlets.
7. Get Those Needed Repairs Taken Care of
It's nice to have visible issues fixed when having guests visiting. But there are hidden items that should also be taken seriously, like electrical issues mentioned above.
My husband Jimmy is a fix-it guy, but sometimes I'll ask him to hire someone if I feel there's a chance it could be too dangerous or complicated. It's not worth taking the risk that you or a family member gets injured making a household repair.
Another hazard could be sidewalks that are tripping hazards. Make sure who is responsible for the sidewalk that is running adjacent to the street. Is it a public sidewalk that would be fixed by the city or is it your responsibility? You could be sued by strangers if they're out walking and someone trips on a bad sidewalk and suffers an injury.
8. Heavy Objects Around the House
Do you know that a good home inspector will make sure certain heavy objects, like dishwashers and stoves, are properly secured? These appliances can really hurt a child by falling on them.
The same can be said about televisions, art, and heavy furniture. This is especially true of a bookcase or something a child could possibly climb and have the object fall on them.
9. Asbestos, Lead Paint, Mold, and Radon
The two properties I've owned in Scottsdale and Cave Creek, AZ were both built after 1978. There are older homes in the Phoenix area that were built prior to 1978 and could have lead-based paint on walls and ceilings. If the paint chips or produces dust, it can be a real hazard for children if they eat or inhale it. Make sure the walls are properly painted or wallpapered if you have a home built in 1978 or prior.
You probably don't know if your home has asbestos unless a contractor or inspector has alerted you. If you have it, you'll need to hire a professional to abate it.
Certain molds can cause issues with people of all ages. If you suspect mold or want to make sure you don't have it, call a mold company to have the place inspected and abated if necessary.
Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that comes up from the ground, and is more prevalent in homes with basements and sump pumps. Basements are rare in Arizona but I've also seen high levels of radon in Illinois with houses built on crawlspaces.
Radon levels are low in most of Arizona, but high levels have been found in some areas. It doesn't matter the age of a house, if you're afraid of radon, or just want to be sure, you should have it tested. You can order home radon kits but I'm not sure I trust them.
10. Think of Your Visitors
We're used to our own homes. But if you have visitors, especially if they're staying for longer than a quick visit, and sleeping in your home, you need to understand that they're not used to potential hazards.
I always have night lights in the bathrooms, and I'll be purchasing them for our large hallway. A visitor can wake up in the dark and forget your floor plan. Some might want to sleep with a night light on.
If you don't have children living with you but are having young visitors, make sure your house is safe for them. You might need to temporarily childproof your house by removing decorative items that could be broken and cause injury and sharp objects or furniture.
You'll also want to make sure there are no carpets that slide or cause a tripping hazard. That's for visitors of all ages. My mother broke her hip years ago because she slipped on her own area rug in her kitchen as she was leaving to go to dinner. Thank goodness my brother checked in on her when she didn't show up.
11. Cars and Company
If you're having a party with multiple guests in different cars, make sure they can park safely. We can't tell our guests how to drive, but make sure they back-up out of your driveway carefully if there are children in the area. At my prior house in IL, we lived in a cul de sac full of kids. We always had to be extra vigilant when backing out of our garage.
Of course, if your guests get inebriated don't let them drive. If you don't want them to spend the night, call them an Uber or Lyft.
12. Make Sure You Know Your Homeowner's Insurance Coverage
Find out what your current policy covers and get additional coverage if necessary. Most insurance will not cover natural disasters.
If you have a specific pet, make sure your insurance company will insure you with that particular pet in your house. I know there is a list of dogs that insurance companies will not insure against.
Pets can be a safety issue on its own. If you have a biter, no matter the size, keep that pet away from guests. Even if your pet is docile and friendly and doesn't bite, make sure to monitor them with children.
Pets can also knock an elderly person down, so keep that in mind. Big dogs that jump on people can hurt anyone at any age. Small dogs and cats can be trip hazards.
Pools usually require additional insurance. They can be especially dangerous to toddlers and small children. If you're outside with little ones, be sure to keep an eye on them, especially if you don't have a fence around the pool.
Most all of these items are things that can hurt a visitor in your home that would make them need to file against your homeowner's insurance, especially if their medical insurance doesn't cover everything or they have a high deductible. Keep that in mind when there are hazards in your house. If you have to file any claims, you can pretty much be guaranteed that your rates will rise.
Special Precautions for Little Ones
These are general tips, and children have been mentioned. But there are additional issues that can harm a child. That includes open windows on an upper level (or any level). Sometimes, the kids go upstairs to play in a bedroom, so you need to make sure windows are shut and locked.
Stairs can be another hazard to little ones. If you don't want them to get on stairs, use a gate, and make sure it's affixed properly so they can't pull it down on top of them.
Make sure they can't reach or get tangled in the cords of blinds or curtains. Same with electrical cords and electrical sockets. If you're living with a baby or toddler, you probably have your house babyproofed with socket covers, gates, and babyproofed cabinets. This can't be expected just to accommodate guests, but be sure someone is watching children at all times.
I've already mentioned pets and children. Another safety hazard to kids can be toys and batteries. If you have older children, make sure a younger visitor doesn't get into toys that can be harmful to them.
Don't Put Repairs Off
If you're planning on having guests over the holidays, make sure you can fix as many needed items as possible. It's not worth it to have people over and someone gets hurt.
Have happy holidays and let's hope that by next year we have Covid under control!