Disasters are dangerous (duh!). Don’t make matters worse by allowing a hazardous environment in your home before disaster strikes. Get a head start on the disaster by securing your home, identifying and removing or minimizing hazards, and adding safety features to make your house not only your home, but your safe haven.

Your task: Survey your home, identify and remove/minimize hazards.

Hazards – big and small – lurk in every home. Some are obvious; you see them every day and have learned to ignore them. Some are hiding and will take a little snooping to find them. Among your highest risks are fires, electrical failures, carbon monoxide poisoning, and injuries from falling objects. It’s time to go hunting...

Electrical Hazards

How many extension cords are in use in your home? How many power strips? Multi outlet adapters? Are you aware how much power your various electrical devices require, and do they exceed the ratings for your extension cords and power strips? Electrical fires and electrocution are the highest risks found in most homes. Exceeding the power rating of an extension cord or power strip can overheat the wiring, leading to fire or risk of electrocution. Before using an extension cord or power strip, understand how much power you can run through them. Then identify how much power each device you intend to plug in uses and add it up. They’re all labeled – it’s the law. Also, be sure to avoid placing electrical devices near water sources or areas at risk of flooding, pooling or spills. Play it safe – avoid using extension cords, power strips or multi outlets whenever possible. When it’s unavoidable, use them wisely.

Fire Hazards

Besides electrical fires, your home may be vulnerable to fires due to gas leaks or improperly stored flammable materials. Natural gas is naturally odorless, but gas utility companies add an odorant to help us detect leaks. But sometimes this odor may be masked by other stronger odors in your home, or a gas leak may be trapped in a contained area and you won’t detect it until it’s too late. Exposure of natural gas to a flame or spark can lead to fire or explosion. Inspect natural gas lines for damage or defects. If you detect a leak, shut off your gas supply line. When in doubt, or if you need assistance, contact your gas utility. You can also purchase gas leak detectors at a reasonable cost online or your local home improvement store. In the event of an earthquake, fire or other disaster, it’s always wise to shut off your natural gas to avoid the risk of fires.

Improperly stored flammable materials can also lead to fires. Be sure to store flammable/combustible materials in cool, shady, well-ventilated areas, and away from sources of flame or sparks. Quickly wash or dispose of rags soiled with flammable materials, such as gasoline, kerosene or other fuels. Even properly-stored soiled rags can spontaneously combust and spread fire to nearby flammable materials.

And finally, ensure that your smoke detectors are functioning properly. Change batteries every six months and test them monthly.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas produced when fuel is burned. It can enter the home from sources as seemingly innocent as a gas stove, furnace, or woodstove, usually due to leakage, backdrafting, or poor venting. Under current California law, all homes must have a carbon monoxide detector and alarm. Does yours? You can also minimize the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning by inspecting all ventilation from your furnaces, fire places and stoves – ensure they are unobstructed and void of damage or leaks.

Falling Objects

Most injuries and fatalities during an earthquake result from falling objects. Maximize the safety of your home by storing heavy objects as low as possible, and securing high shelving, cabinets and furniture. Avoid hanging heavy mirrors or artwork over your beds. Be sure your water heater is properly secured. You can find inexpensive braces, straps, cabinet latches and other earthquake safety supplies online or at your local home improvement store.

Happy Hunting

You can’t prevent an earthquake, a storm, wilderness fires, or many other disasters. The world can be a dangerous place, but your home doesn’t have to be. Make it your safe haven. Go hunting, find your house- hold hazards, and get rid of them. Good luck.