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General Home Safety

Smoke Detectors

Purchase smoke detectors if you don't have them. Smoke detectors should be installed in each bedroom hallway, on each level and in each bedroom. Smoke detectors are inexpensive and are required by law. Check local codes and regulations before you buy your smoke detector because some municipalities require specific types of detectors. Smoke detectors provide an early warning which is critical because the longer the delay, the deadlier the consequences. Follow manufacturers instructions for installation of the smoke detectors. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper maintenance. Never disconnect a detector. Smoke detector batteries should be replaced annually, or when a "chirping" sound is heard.

Chimney & Stovepipes

Be sure that the chimney and stovepipes were installed correctly according to the manufacturer's recommendations and local codes. If there is any doubt, a Building Inspector can determine whether the system is properly installed.

Minimize creosote build-up by using proper stove size and avoiding use of low damper settings for extended periods of time.

Have the chimney checked and cleaned routinely by a "Chimney Sweep" at least once a year. Inspect it frequently, as often as twice a month if necessary, and clean when creosote buildup is noted.

Never use charcoal to cook or provide heat inside enclosed areas such as tents, campers, vans, cars, trucks, homes,garages, or mobile homes because the carbon monoxide can kill you.

Escape Routes

Plan and establish escape routes with your family advance. It is an important partner with smoke detectors and it will prepare you and your family for a fire emergency.

Emergency Contact Numbers

Keep Emergency Telephone numbers for:

  • Police
  • Fire Department
  • Local Poison Control Center
  • A Neighbor

Readily available in large print, taped to the phone, or near the phone where they can be seen easily.

Have at least one telephone located where it would be accessible in the event of an accident which leaves you unable to stand.

Extension Cords

Arrange furniture so that outlets are available for lamps and appliances without the use of extension cords. If you must use an extension cord, place it on the floor against a wall where it does not become a trip hazard. Remove cords from under furniture or carpeting. Replace damaged or frayed cords. Do not exceed the manufacturers rating on the cord.

Unusually warm or hot outlets or switches may indicate an unsafe wiring condition. Unplug cords from outlets and do not use the switches. Have an electrician check the wiring as soon as possible.


Unvented heaters should be used with room doors open or window slightly open to provide adequate ventilation. The correct fuel, as recommended by the manufacturer, should always be used. Vented heaters should have proper venting, and the venting system should be checked frequently. Improper venting is the most frequent cause of carbon monoxide poisoning, and older consumers are at special risk.

Operate portable electric heaters away from combustible materials. Do not place heaters where towels or the like could fall on the appliance and trigger a fire.

Avoid using extension cords with electric heaters unless absolutely necessary. If you must use an extension cord with your electric heater, make sure it is marked with a power rating at least as high as that of the heater itself. Keep the cord stretched out. Do not permit the cord to become buried under carpeting or rugs. Do not place anything on top of the cord. Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture or the like. Never use heaters to dry wearing apparel or shoes.


If you don't have a step stool, consider buying one. Choose one with a handrail that you can hold onto while standing on the top step. Before climbing on any step stool or ladder, make sure it is fully opened and stable. Tighten screws and braces on the step stool. Discard step stools with broken parts.

For all stairways, check lighting, handrails, and the condition of the steps and coverings. Stairs should be lighted so that each step, particularly the step edges, can be clearly seen while going up and down stairs. Consider refinishing or replacing worn treads, or replacing worn carpeting. Worn or torn coverings or nails sticking out from coverings could snag your foot or cause you to trip. The lighting should not produce glare or shadows along the stairway. You should be able to turn on the lights before you use the stairway from either end. If no other light is available, keep an operating flashlight in a convenient location at the top and bottom of the stairs.

Lead-based paint is a major source of lead poisoning for children and can also affect adults. In children, lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and can impair mental functioning. In adults, it can cause irritability, poor muscle coordination, and nerve damage to the sense organs and nerves controlling the body. If you have lead-based paint, you should take steps to reduce your exposure to lead. Avoid activities that will disturb or damage lead-based paint and create dust. Contact your state and local health departments' lead poisoning prevention programs and housing authorities for information about testing labs and contractors who can safely remove lead-based paint.

Your home might have plumbing with lead or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell, or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it, use only cold water for drinking and cooking. Run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.

If possible, change the water in your room humidifier daily. Empty the tank before you fill it. Clean your room humidifier well and often during the heating season. Be sure to unplug the humidifier before cleaning. Follow the manufacturer's suggested cleaning methods. If chlorine bleach or other cleaning product or disinfectant is used, make sure to rinse the tank well to avoid breathing harmful chemicals.

Use paint strippers outdoors if possible. If you must use them indoors, cross-ventilate by opening all doors and windows. Make sure there is fresh air movement throughout the room. Ventilate the area before, during, and after applying and stripping. Never use any paint stripper in a poorly ventilated area. If work must be done indoors under low ventilation conditions, consider having the work done professionally instead of attempting it yourself.

(NOTE: All information courtesy of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207)