It never ceases to amaze me at how reckless some people can be with their lives or even their Family's lives. All it takes is a second to change your world.
As a home inspector, I get to see how people live when they are in what should be the most secure place of their life, their home.
I see people carelessly putting their Family's safety at risk all the time. The reasons vary but the outcome is the same, they are gambling with their Family's safety.
Here are just a few tips that will increase the safety of your home.
Have gas or oil furnaces checked each fall before using them. Carbon Monoxide is odorless, tasteless and colorless and kills many people, sometimes whole family's, each year. A thorough check up by a qualified and licensed HVAC contractor will keep the units functioning safely.
Store combustible items such as gas, oil, cloth, wood, etc. , away from gas or oil appliances in the Garage or Attic. Gas or Oil products should be stored a far away from Gas appliances in the Garage as they can (this includes gas clothes dryers). Preferrably in a storage building outside the home. It doesn't take a lot of gas fumes to cause a fire.
Check your smoke alarms twice a year Replace the batteries in them once a year. The Spring and Fall Daylight Savings Time change are both good times to change your batteries and test the smoke alarms. I can't tell you how many times I go into a home and see missing and nonfunctioning smoke detectors. My family's life is worth the 10 bucks a new detector cost. Also, if you have gas or an oil burning appliances, you should have carbon monoxide detectors and gas detectors. They're cheap folks!
Install GFCI circuit breakers If your home does not have GFCI circuit breakers in the Kitchen, bathrooms and at outside outlets, have a qualified and licensed Electrician install them. They're between 10 and 15 bucks a piece and well worth it. GFCI's are the outlets with two little buttons. They sense an imbalance of current and will trip off in a milisecond (like someone getting electrocuted).
Check the temperature of your hot water If you have children or very old Family members living with you, you should check the temperature of the water heater. The temperature of the water shouldn't be over 120 degrees. So what if it's 130? What's 10 degrees? 120 degree water takes quite a bit of time to cause damage according to many water heater manufacturers. However, let it heat up just 10 degrees to 130 and a scald can take place in around 10 seconds. At 140 degrees, the time falls to between 5 to 8 seconds. I see homes with little children living in them with water temperatures at 140 to 160 degrees on a regular basis. That's just plain stupid in my book!
Check you windows regularly Ensure that the window locks are in good working condition. Also, raise and lower the windows on a regular basis. It can be done when you change the batteries in your smoke detectors. Some windows will stick over time. Some will refuse to open. In case of an emergency such as a fire, that can spell disaster.
Have a safety plan for your Family In case of a house fire, you should have a plan on where to meet such as a neighbors house our out my the mailbox. Make sure all members have such a plan and practice it regularly.
You should also have a plan on where to meet in the event of a natural disaster and the Family is not at home. Let's say there was a tornadoe and mom is at home, Dad is at work and the kids are at two different schools. Have a plan on where to meet or who to call. Choose someone in another state if you can as a local contact may be unable to help you in case of a natural or man made disaster.
It's also a wise idea to have some emegency gear on hand plus a week or more of food and water stored at your home. All it takes is one good ice or snow storm to put you out of power for a week or more.
With a little planning and common sense, you can have your Family prepared for the worse and give them an edge in case of an emergency.
Donald Lawson is a Professional Real Estate Inspector licensed in Texas (#5824) and Oklahoma (#454). He currently owns and operates V. I. P. Home Inspections, a multi-inspector firm in Houston Texas. You can find out more about Houston Real Estate and home inspections by visiting his website here. Houston Home Inspections