The Home Safety Checks You’re Likely Not Doing

05 Sep 2022

Clean Refrigerator Coils

Your refrigerator’s condenser coils can usually be found in the back or bottom of your fridge. They’re key to keeping your food cool. If dust or debris build up, it can make your fridge overheat. With a soft brush and vacuum cleaner, clear dust and other debris around the coils. Be sure to unplug the fridge or cut the power first.

How often: Once a month

Dust All the Lights

Extra dust can become flammable — a fire risk. When you clean, don’t forget your light fixtures, including ceiling lights, areas with recessed lighting, and floor and table lamps. Check for burned-out or poorly fitting light bulbs as you go along.

How often: Once a month

Check Doors and Locks

Even heavy-duty door locks can wear out. Test both knob and bolt-style locks to make sure they’re in good working order. Try your keys for proper fit. Replace anything not working right away. While you’re at it, check your doors. Make sure each door hangs well on its hinges and that hardware and lock features are securely attached.

How often: Once a month

Scan Trees and Shrubs

Sturdy-looking trees might not be as strong as they look. Weather events such as floods, drought, wind, and ice can weaken them. So can disease, poor nutrition, and insects. As you study your trees, peek at your shrubbery too. Some roots can harm your home’s foundation. And too-tall shrubs can make sneaky spots for crooks. Call a certified arborist if you think a weakened tree or a root system could be a problem.

How often: Once a month

Toss Standing Water

Stagnant, or standing, water lurks in more places than you might think. Buckets, trash cans, vases, pet water bowls, flowerpot saucers, and birdbaths are just a few. Studies show some female mosquitoes choose to lay eggs in manmade containers. Tour your home to turn over, empty, and wash, cover, or throw out vessels that hold water. Keep an eye out for rainwater pools in your yard and sweep them away.

How often: Once a week

Freshen Filters

Having lots of filters in your home is a good thing. Clean the lint filter on your dryer after every load. 27% of house fires are caused by the accumulation of lint. Choked-up filters also can keep your appliances from working like they should. Start with your HVAC units — your heating and A/C. Then check your air purifiers, furnaces, clothes dryer, or anything else with a filter that collects debris and dust.

How often: Once a month

Drop by Your Breaker Box

You likely visit your circuit breaker panel when you think something’s blown a fuse. But your breaker box needs frequent temperature checks, too. If it feels warm or is blowing fuses a lot, call an electrician. Don’t try to fix it on your own. Keep the area around your circuit breaker free of debris or other materials.

How often: Once a week

Mind Your AFCIs and GFCIs

AFCIs (arc fault circuit interrupters) detect stressed or overheated wiring or dangerous devices for extra protection from electrical fires. GFCIs guard against ground faults, which can shock or electrocute you. You can find instruction for testing your circuit interrupters at www.esfi.org.

How often: Once a month

Watch for Wall-Outlet Overload

One high-wattage appliance — an iron, large toaster, or hair dryer — and a lower-wattage item is enough for one wall outlet. If you have a multi-outlet wall tap, make sure units plugged in are low-power and key for that area. If an outlet feels warm or you see dark spots near it, it means it’s overheated, or sparks were made – a major fire hazard. Call an electrician right away.

How often: Once a month

Assess Extension Cords

More than 3,000 fires in the U.S. each year are caused by overheated and incorrectly used extension cords. Plug items directly into sockets whenever possible. When you do use extension cords, make sure they’re not overloaded and that the ground prong is connected. Look for frayed or cracked sockets or loose wires. Never daisy-chain them or run them through walls or other covered places where heat can’t escape.

How often: Once a month

Check Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon monoxide alarms pick up on this invisible, deadly gas, which forms when fuels that you use to heat, and cook don’t burn completely. Make sure that you can identify the sounds of both your carbon monoxide and fire alarms. When you test your units, clean out the grilles. Dust that collects can block sensors and keep them from working properly.

How often: Once a month

Size Up Smoke Detectors

Smoke alarms are crucial to prevent deaths and injuries from household fires. They not only alert you to a fire in your home, but they also buy you time to escape. Alarms should be placed on every floor, near each bedroom. Some also have multi-sensory features that alert for carbon monoxide, too. Clean units as you test them. Never disable.

How often: Once a month. Change batteries every year.

Examine Fire Extinguishers

Your home models should be small enough to manage but big enough to douse a small fire. They should also be multi-purpose. Check the class rating: An “ABC” unit handles burning paper or wood, flammable liquids, and electrical fires. The labels should show they were tested by independent labs. When you make sure they’re filled and working, note the gauges to see if they’re fully charged. If not, replace them.

How often: Once a month

Review Fire and Evacuation Plans

Once a smoke alarm goes off, every second counts. Gather your household and make an escape plan together. Search your home for all possible exits and escape routes.

  • Draw a floor plan and mark two ways out of every room. Don’t forget windows.
  • Pick a place to meet away from your home, such as a mailbox or stop sign. Mark it on your plan.
  • Practice. Make your drills seem as realistic as you can.

How often: Twice a year

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