How to improve the safety of your home

House model in person’s hand with greenery background.

Summer is prime time for home improvement projects—and a great opportunity to make your home safer, too. But you don’t have to knock down any walls or pour any concrete to make some very meaningful changes.

WellTuned spoke to Dr. Chris Andershock, a corporate medical director with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, to learn more about some key home improvements that you can do this summer.

“I think it’s helpful to think about prioritizing your home safety improvements by considering the people who live in and visit your home,” says Dr. Andershock. “Here are three categories that might help you as you compile your ‘to-do’ list.”

General home safety improvements

Dr. Andershock: Here are some safety upgrades that are important for every home:

Replace smoke detectors. You might think that you’re safe because your home already has smoke detectors. But consider this: the life expectancy of a smoke detector is only about 10 years. So, if more than a decade has passed since you installed them, it may be time to replace them.

Install carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless. But if it builds up in your home, it can cause a number of health problems—even death at high concentrations. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that every home have carbon monoxide detector.

Test for radon. Radon is another colorless, odorless gas. It can seep into your home without your knowledge and increase your risk of developing lung cancer.  You can buy an inexpensive test kit online or contact the Tennessee Radon Program for a list of qualified testers who can come to your home.

Safety improvements for homes with young children

Dr. Andershock: When you think about childproofing your home, you may think of using electrical outlet plugs and baby gates. And those are important devices to use. Here are a few other ways to make your home safer for your children:

Secure your windows. It’s scary to think about your child falling through an open window, but 3,300 are injured each year from just that. You may want to consider installing window guards on the lower part of windows or stops that only allow windows to open a few inches. Another window danger is the presence of cords from window coverings, which can lead to strangulation of young children. Cordless options exist.

Create safe storage places for medications, cleaners and other household products. If you don’t have a safe storage place where you can lock away medications and vitamins, you should create one. Similarly, make sure you safely store household cleaners, insecticides, and other products away from children.

Secure all firearms and weapons. Lock away any weapons or similar items that are potentially harmful from curious children.

Consider alarms on doors. You might want to install alarms on your external doors if you have children prone to wandering at night.  (You can also install window alarms.) Typically, they’ll sound a loud alarm when the sensors are triggered. Many have remote accessibility so you can control them even when you’re not home.

Making your home safer for older adults

Dr. Andershock: Mitigating fall risks is a key component of making your home safer for older adults.

Senior Health Spotlight: fall prevention guide

Improve your lighting. Are there dark shadows around the outside of your home, near your driveway or garage? You may want to install new lights. You might also consider upgrading the lighting inside around stairwells and hallways to reduce the potential for slips, trips, and falls.

Address loose carpets and rugs. A walker can easily get caught on the edge of an area rug or carpet. That loose edge is also easy to stumble or trip over if you’re a little unsteady on your feet. Use rug grippers to secure rugs and carpets to the floor to eliminate that hazard or remove them altogether.

Install grab bars. Installing grab bars in bathrooms by the toilet and inside the shower stall can provide important support and make life a lot easier and safer for seniors.

Use a home monitoring system. A home monitoring system or motion-activated security camera can provide great peace of mind. You can even use your smartphone or tablet to keep an eye on things when you’re not at home.

“When it comes to injuries that occur in the home, children and older adults are usually at the greatest risk,” says Dr. Andershock. “But everyone, regardless of their age, can benefit from many of these safety upgrades.”

More from Dr. Andershock on WellTuned.

Jennifer Larson

Jennifer Larson is Nashville-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years of experience. She specializes in health care and family issues.

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