Prepare in a Year: December – Home Hazard Hunt

The holidays are upon us. That means cooler temperatures, festive holiday decorations, and the need to save money for just the right gift for that special someone. It is also the perfect time to stay indoors and spend time with the family performing a home hazard hunt and it does not have to cost a thing!

Gather the family and spend your disaster preparedness hour this month walking through your home. Anything in your home that can move, fall, break or cause a fire during an emergency is a home hazard.  Below is a checklist to help you locate and minimize potential hazards in your home. Check off each box as it is completed.

  • Secure large furniture, pictures, mirror and hanging light fixtures to avoid having them fall during an earthquake
  • Ensure all carpets and area rugs are secured to the floor to avoid tripping hazards
  • Keep blind and curtain draw strings out of the reach of small children to avoid the potential for strangulation
  • Move breakable or heavy objects to lower shelves
  • Keep beds away from windows to avoid the potential for injury from broken glass
  • Avoid the “electrical octopus” by having only the minimum number of items and surge protectors plugged directly into wall outlets
  • Have GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupt) outlets installed in the kitchen and bathrooms
  • Do not have electrical cords running under the carpet and ensure that cords are not bent, frayed or damager to avoid a fire potential
  • Ensure surge protectors are plugged directly into the wall and not overloaded
  • Do not run electrical cords under carpet or rugs to avoid a potential fire hazard from the cord getting hot and setting the carpet or rug on fire
  • Secure all electronic equipment to prevent it from falling. If electronic equipment is malfunctioning, repair or replace it to avoid a potential fire.
  • Ensure gas appliances are working properly to avoid a fire potential
  • Have your house and dryer vents inspected and cleaned on a routine basis to avoid a potential fire hazard. If your dryer does not dry as well as it used to, or there is a burning smell near the dryer, it is time to have a professional come and clean the vents. Always empty the lint trap in your dryer after each use.
  • Secure cabinet doors to keep them from opening and contents coming out
  • Make sure that entry and exit ways out of all rooms are free from obstruction
  • Have the appropriate number of smoke detectors and a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home
  • Store hazardous liquids on bottom shelves using the L.I.E.S method (Limit, Isolate, Eliminate, Separate) to avoid a fire potential
  • Have a fire extinguisher readily available in the kitchen, garage, and any other areas for quick access should you need to extinguish a small fire. Review September’s post in our Prepare in a Year series for a refresher on fire safety.
  • When cooking, do not wear loose clothing and do not leave cooking item unattended. Keep pan handles turned in to the back of the stove and have a pan lid nearby in case you need to extinguish a small pan fire.
  • Ensure your water heater is secured to the wall and connections are flexible. Securing the water heater is a requirement by law for all new installations.
  • Ensure reinforcements are in place, as needed, for the house and chimney
  • Have your chimney inspected and cleaned routinely
  • Review the location of your electrical panel and gas meter. Review July’s post in our Prepare in a Year series for a refresher on utility management.

Winter-specific home hazard hunt items:

  • Ensure outdoor faucets and pipes are protected from freezing temperatures.
  • Keep walkways clear and salt/sand them as necessary to avoid slipping hazards.
  • Ensure space heaters are plugged directly into the wall and NOT surge protectors. Unplug space heaters when they are not in use. Keep a three-foot area around a space heater clear to avoid the potential for a fire.
  • Ensure fire places are vented and that the flue is open during use. Your chimney should be inspected and cleaned routinely.
  • Do not use grills or portable flameless chemical heaters indoors for heat, as this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you have a live Christmas tree, water it every day to keep it from drying out.
  • Ensure lights going on the tree are working properly and that the strands are not damaged.
  • Do not leave any of those festive holiday candles unattended or near anything that could catch on fire. Consider using battery-operated flameless candles.

Congratulations! You have made it to the final month of our “Prepare in a Year” series! If you have been following along this year you have taken the time and effort to:

  • Make a plan
  • Identify an out-of-area contact
  • Store water
  • Build a three-day and beyond kit, which includes your important documents
  • Located and know how to manage your utilities
  • Stored important items under your bed
  • Be prepared in the event of a fire
  • Be prepared in the event of an earthquake
  • Know how to shelter-in-place
  • And…made your home a safer place

Take time to review all you have done over the year and share it with friends, family and loved ones. Giving a gift of preparedness is a unique and potentially life-saving and sustaining gift.

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