Safety Around Gas & Electric
Each year countless accidents take place within the home. These range from minor cuts and bruises to death. The sad fact is that many of these unfortunate incidents could likely have been prevented by paying close attention to home danger areas.
The American home is, by any standard, one of the most comfortable and convenient environments in the world. It can also be one of the most dangerous due to it’s many mechanical components. Now we aren’t suggesting that society go back to the days of caves. We do, however, recommend that people be aware of the potential safety hazards in a home and take steps necessary to prevent personal injury.
Aside from indoor plumbing, electricity is the single greatest comfort feature in a home. It provides light, dries our hair, cooks our food, washes and dries our clothing, runs our televisions and radios and even powers the computer with which this column is written. It also ranks as one of the leading causes of accidents in the home. The most common accidents associated with electricity are electrical shock and electrical fires.
There are several preventative measures which can be taken to prevent electrical shock. The most obvious is often the most overlooked. Never work on the electrical system with the power on. Most residential electrical systems have a central power distribution center called a sub panel, breaker box or fuse box. In some homes this is located at the main electrical service or service disconnect. Flipping a breaker or removing a fuse will cut power to a given circuit making it safe to work on. Even though power has been turned off, always use an approved electrical tester to verify that the power is indeed off.
Frayed electrical cords, flickering lights and a frequently tripped breaker or burned fuse are sure signs of a problem which can lead to disaster. Damaged or worn electrical cords for lamps, small appliances and other devices should be replaced. The device should be immediately taken out of service until the repair has been made.
Flickering lights can be caused by several factors. Among the most common are loose electrical connections, a short in the system or an overloaded electrical circuit. In any case, the condition should be checked out by a qualified electrician. It should be noted that a majority of house fires result from one of the above conditions.
Gas appliances can present two distinct safety hazards – fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. The former can generally occur when the appliance is operating and left unattended as with a pot on the stove. In all cases a gas appliance should only be used when in peak operating condition. Gas burners should be clean and in proper adjustment to produce the most efficient and safest combustion. Poor combustion and exhaust can allow carbon monoxide to enter the home. At best, exposure to carbon monoxide can result in flu-like symptoms and can even be fatal.
Periodic maintenance by a qualified heating or plumbing professional or the local utility company can ensure that all gas appliances are operating safely and at maximum efficiency. Also, a carbon monoxide detector should be installed at each level of the home (including the basement).
Another significant source of carbon monoxide poisoning is a wood burning stove or fireplace. A properly ventilated stove or fireplace is not only safer, it will burn hotter providing a more efficient source of heat.
The flue or chimney should be periodically checked and cleaned by a qualified chimney sweep. A crack in the flue or a buildup of creosote can result in a chimney fire that can level a house in a matter of minutes. A spark arrestor placed atop the chimney will prevent flying embers from igniting the roof. Also, fire guard at the hearth will prevent sparks and embers from igniting flooring or furniture located near the fireplace or wood stove.
It is said that cigarette smoking can be hazardous to one’s health. This is especially true when smoking in bed. Not a good idea. Cigarettes left unattended in an ashtray can quickly lead to a raging fire. Hence, a lit cigarette should not be left unattended even if it is in an ashtray. Moreover, a cigarette should be completely extinguished in an ashtray. Never throw a cigarette into a waste basket or garbage can.
The kitchen takes the cake when it comes to potential safety hazards. Therefore, the small children should have limited access to the kitchen and should be present only in the company of an adult. Installing child proof locks on door and drawers will prevent access to dangers such as knives and other sharp utensil and hazardous chemicals and cleaning products. While this is an important and necessary step it isn’t often enough, leaving access to other potentially dangerous areas in the kitchen. A removable (by an adult) safety gate placed in a door opening is a great way to limit access to virtually any area in the home. Aside from the kitchen, other locations where safety gates make great sense are in a hallway where a wall or floor furnace exists, a bathroom where a child can drown in a toilet and at the top or bottom of stairs to prevent a nasty fall.
Knives are especially dangerous and should be stored on a rack positioned high on a wall well out of the reach of little ones, especially those that like to climb on chairs.
Cleaning products, hazardous chemicals and bottles and cans should all be kept on an upper shelf well out of the reach of children.
When cooking position pots and pans with their handles turned inward. This will prevent a curious little one from innocently pulling a pot over on himself.
In addition to doing your best to make your home more safe, it’s a good idea to have a family emergency plan. This plan can include everything from the location of the first aid kit and fire extinguisher to an escape plan in the event of a fire. A little planning can truly be the difference between life and death.