Accidental deaths have been rising in recent years, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Unfortunately, many of these unintended deaths occur in the home – especially for children and the elderly. Leading causes of these deaths include poisoning; falling; suffocation; drowning; and fire – which you all have an increased risk of if you have not taken home security seriously.
The good news is that improving home security is not complicated. Once you know the most common causes of accidental injury and accidental death, it is easy to make a few changes and improvements to reduce the dangers you face and ensure you and your loved ones are safe. Here are the biggest security risks you need to take care of in your home and steps you can take to prevent them from causing harm to you and your family.
According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of both fatal and non-fatal injuries to older Americans. As many as one in four adults aged 65 and over fall annually, and older adults are treated in the emergency room every 11 seconds as a result of a fall. Fall is also common among young children, and falls result in more than 2.8 million ER visits each year in the United States.
To ensure that your home is free of fall hazards:
- Use security gates on stairs with small children. Consider a baby gate, e.g. Regalo Easy Walk Step Through Gate, which adults can easily open and close even when holding an infant.
- Provide adequate lighting. Stairs and walkways should be well lit to reduce the risk of falls and falls at night.
- Make your shower or bath more secure. Non-slip stickers and handles can reduce the risk of injury during bathing.
- Choose flooring material carefully. Avoid tiles that get slippery when wet, and make sure carpets are secure and flat.
- Maintain your home in good condition. Make sure that stair railings are solid, that your stairs are stable, and that you do not have cracked or broken tiles.
- Keep toys contained. Stumbling on toys can be dangerous for children and adults.
Fire hazard and burns
In the United States, firefighters respond to a house fire on average every 88 seconds – and seven people die daily from home fires. How to reduce the risk:
- Has lots of working smoke alarms. Make sure you have a smoke alarm in every bedroom or at least on every floor of the house. Check the batteries regularly. And if you have children, pets or elderly relatives who are alone at home, consider a smart smoke detector such as. Nest Protect, which alerts you in real time to problems. A monitored alarm system can also ensure that the fire department is quickly notified of a problem in your home.
- Keep a fire extinguisher available. You should have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, near fireplaces or in other accessible areas of your home. Check the fire extinguisher regularly to make sure it is in order.
- Have an escape plan. Only one in three American households has an escape plan in the event of a fire. Talk to your children about what to do if a fire breaks out.
- Consider installing sprinklers if you are building a new home. Fire sprinklers reduce the risk of death in a home fire by as much as 80%.
Poison control centers in the United States provided assistance in 2.12 million cases of potential human poisoning in 2017. Younger children under the age of six are most at risk for poisoning. To reduce the likelihood that your child or someone in your home will be poisoned, consider these tips for home safety.
- Keep chemicals, medicines and other dangerous products out of reach. Detergents, detergents, medications, paints, antifreeze and other potentially hazardous chemicals should be stored safely out of the reach of children. If there are older adults in your home who suffer from cognitive decline, you may want to consider unlocking these dangerous items.
- Use security locks. Security locks can prevent children and pets from accessing closets containing cleaning products, personal care items and other potentially dangerous items.
Cut and sharp objects
Research has shown that the average person gets 9,672 minor injuries during his or her lifetime, including cuts and bruises. Unfortunately, some injuries due to cuts or encounters with sharp objects are not only minor – blood loss can be severe, and scarring can be permanent and disfiguring. How to reduce the risk:
- Keep your waste safe. Lids and cans thrown in the trash can have sharp edges, so consider a locking trash can to keep these items out of the reach of children.
- Store sharp objects securely. From knives to kitchen utensils to razors to yard tools, there are plenty of sharp objects in your home that can lead to cuts. Store these items in hard-to-reach places or behind lockers so that they are not accessible to children or the elderly who could injure themselves.
Choking is the fourth leading cause of death due to accidental injury, and more than 5,000 people die each year from suffocation. More than half of the deaths in recent years have occurred in the elderly 74 and over. Children are also at greater risk. By following these tips, you can reduce the risk:
- Keep small items out of reach. Dangerous toys, small objects or even small hard pieces of food can pose a choking hazard. Keep these items away from children and older adults who are experiencing cognitive decline.
- Check out the products your kids use. Make sure that all objects used by children – including toys, clothes and furniture – are free of small parts that can be suffocated. You should also sign up for recall warnings for children’s products in your home.
Choking at home is a big risk, especially for children. In fact, the majority of children are suffocated by window wires in places where parents believe they are safe, e.g. In their crib. To reduce the risk of suffocation:
- By being careful with all cords. Blind cords, extension cords, or other available cords are dangerous for children.
- Baby proof appropriate. Do not assume that children cannot reach wires that you think are inaccessible. Baby protection products, including Dreambaby blind cords, can help your children stay safe.
Carbon monoxide poisoning
According to the CDC, 2,244 people died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from 2010 to 2015. Winter was the most dangerous time. How to reduce the risk for you and your family:
- Install a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide detectors can be wired or plugged into an electrical outlet in your home. Kidde Hawk Alarm, for example, connects and is easy to install. These detectors can instantly alert you to a problem so you can bring your family to safety. (Read our guide on how carbon monoxide detectors work.)
- Maintain your home properly. By maintaining your HVAC system, water heater, oven, fireplaces and other household appliances, you can reduce the risk of carbon monoxide.
In the United States, about 10 people die a day due to a non-sailing drowning accident. Drowning is a particularly high risk for children. Even when it is not fatal, drowning can cause permanent brain damage and disability. To reduce the risk of drowning, consider taking some important home safety precautions, including the following:
- Make sure swimming pools and hot tubs are secured. Follow fence code requirements and consider a pool alarm if you have young children or pets. (More on pool safety here.)
- Use touch controls when children are near water. This means you need to be close enough to touch your children when they are in the bath or pool.
- Beware of sources of standing water. Children can drown in even small amounts of water, such as a bucket or a children’s pool.
In 2017, approximately 900 children died due to accidental suffocation in bed. To reduce the risk of suffocation:
- Put children to sleep on their backs. The Back to Sleep campaign has saved many children from fatal suffocation, as children cannot easily lift their heads.
- Avoid using blankets or soft material in cribs or crawl spaces. Children can be put to sleep in swaddlers or sleeping bags to keep warm, and cribs and crawl spaces must be free of any blankets, pillows, soft bedding or crib pump.
- Do not place children on soft surfaces. This includes duvets and water beds.
Take home security seriously
There are lots of everyday dangers that exist in the home. But if you get serious about home security and take a few simple steps to minimize the dangers that exist in your home, you can reduce the chances of accidents. It only takes a little time and effort to make sure your loved ones are as safe as possible, so get started today.
This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.
Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. Officer Banta has been a member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years and reviews all articles before giving his stamp of approval. Click here for more information about Officer Banta and the rest of our team.