Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Be Safer At Home

Home should be a place where you feel the most comfortable and the most secure.  Along with practicing safe habits, be sure that your home is as safe as it can be for every possible scenario.  

Safe From Intruders

It's a safe bet to assume that most people lock their doors and windows when they aren't home and at night, and if you're not doing that, get into the habit.  But we urge you to lock everything when you're home during the day as well.  And by all means, keep that garage door closed while you're home as well.  Here are a few other key tips for keeping your home safe from intruders:

Inside your home:

  • Install a security system or at least put up a fake decal in your window
  • If you have a security system, make sure the keypad is in a spot not visible from a window or glass door
  • Place a deadbolt on your doors.  Don't forget sliding glass doors - these should have a bolt that drives into the framing at the top or bottom of the door.

Outside your home:

  • Join a neighborhood watch program and have signs installed throughout the neighborhood
  • Plant thorny bushes directly below first floor windows.
  • Don't stack wood next to the house where intruders can use them as leverage to gain access to higher windows.
  • Install motion detection lights around all sides of your house.
  • If you live in the country, consider a motion activated signal at the beginning of your driveway.  It will sound a signal when someone approaches your house.

Safe Habits

  • Find clever ways to store your air intake vents, a hole in the top of your door, or even in your kids' drawers where burglars are less likely to look.
  • Keep your car keys on your bedside table and hit the panic button if you hear suspicious activity
  • Let your dog bark...barking dogs are great deterrents to intruders
  • Check your windows after the handyman has been in your house.  They may have unlocked a window for easy access in the middle of the night.
  • Keep your phone's ringer on low so it's harder to hear when it goes to voicemail when you aren't at home.
On Vacation

  • Don't pack your car the night before, wait and do it quickly in the morning.  This is a dead giveaway that you're leaving.
  • Have a neighbor take in your mail, pull back your garbage cans, and shovel your driveway while you're gone.  Crafty burglars have been known to leave pizza ads in doorways to see how long it takes people to get them.
  • Put your lights and TV on a timer so that they will go on and off at the normal times.

Safe From Disasters

We always think that bad things won't happen to us...but they do.  Be smart about mitigating how much damage a disaster can do to you and your home.

Fire Safety

Teach your kids about how to be safe with fire and in the kitchen and keep matches and firestarters out of reach of small children.  Here are a few other tips:
  • Have a plan.  Make sure you have a family meeting to discuss what to do, how to exit, and where to meet up in the event of a fire.
  • Install fire extinguishers on every floor of your home.  But teach your family when it's safest to leave the house instead of fighting the fire.
  • Consider upgrading your smoke detector.  Most people have a simple ionization detector which can take a long time to go off while the smoke increases and the fire spreads.  Consider a dual sensor which contains a photo-thermal sensor that can detect smoldering burns that cause a lot of smoke as well as a heat sensor to determine if there is an actual fire.
  • Make a way to exit a second floor safely using rope ladders or other devices.  Be sure everyone knows how to use it.

Weather-related Safety

Here in Minnesota our biggest concerns when it comes to weather are tornadoes in the summer and blizzards/cold weather in the winter.  Here are a few tips regarding weather related emergencies:

  • Invest in a weather radio to alert you about severe weather in your area.
  • When the threat of a tornado is present, go to the basement or a small interior room in the house that doesn't have any or has very few windows. If possible take cover under something sturdy like a strong table. 
  • Teach your kids the signs of frostbite.  Dress appropriately for severely cold temperatures and always bring hats and mittens, even if your just going to practice.  You never know when your car might slide into a ditch and you'll have to walk somewhere or wait in a cold car.
  • Have a warm blanket, water and a some non-perishable food in your car in case you go off the road in a winter storm and get stuck.  Stock your car with flashing lights or flares.  
  • Always leave the house with a fully charged cell phone and consider purchasing an emergency charger. 
  • Consider purchasing a gas generator for power outages.
  • Be sensible about snow removal.  Many people die each year from heart attacks while shoveling snow.
  • Be extra vigilant about fire safety during cold weather.  This is when many people use fireplaces and electric heaters.
  • Don't leave your pets out in the cold.  Bring them in after they do their business.

Know Your Neighbors

Probably one of the most important but overlooked aspects of home safety is to know your neighbors.  When you don't know your neighbors you are immediately more suspect of everything they do and you're more fearful about approaching them.  You also won't know if someone is supposed to be in your neighborhood or not.

If you know your neighbors, you will be more aware of when something isn't quite right in the neighborhood and they will understand you and your habits as well.  Your kids will know who is safe so that they can run to a neighbor's house in the event of an emergency.

So plan a block party and form a neighborhood watch program, stop and chat when you take a walk down your street, invite neighbors over when you're barbecuing or for a beer after work.  Be interruptable.  You'll feel safer and enjoy your neighborhood more.

Teach Your Kids and Have a Plan

I can't think of anything worse than being in an emergency situation and not knowing how my kids are doing and if they know how to get back to me.

  • Be sure everyone in your house knows how to dial 911 and how to stay on the line and impart the necessary information.  
  • Kids should know your address and home phone number as well as mom and dad's cell phone numbers.  Then if they end up in the custody of the police or emergency personnel they will know how to contact you or at least get them home.  Make up a tune, write it on a card that they keep in their backpack, program it into their electronic devices.  Just make sure they know it or have access to it.
  • Have emergency people lined up to care for your kids in the event you cannot be located.  Make sure it's someone your kids know and trust.
  • Periodically go over emergency plans in your home.  Where do they go, what do they do, who can they call, and how will they get back to you or you to them.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

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