Emergency Planning for your New Home: Staying Safe in a Disaster

You just moved into your dream home and have plenty on your mind.  You need to figure out where to place the couch, which color to paint the kitchen, and whether or not you’re going to replace the living room carpet.  But don’t let these tasks distract you from what is really important – keeping you and your family safe.

Getting yourself prepared for an emergency is something most people figure they’ll get around to sooner or later.  But why wait?  You want your new home, and those in it, to be protected from day one.  Taking care of disaster preparedness early means you can focus your time and energy on all of your other move-in tasks with peace of mind.  In honor of June being National Home Safety Month, here are a few items to take care of as soon as you’re settled in your new house:

  • Smoke out fire hazards. First thing’s first – check the batteries in all the smoke detectors in the home.  You don’t know if the previous owners were diligent about changing them, or let them die over the years.  Change the batteries and replace any detectors that aren’t working properly.  The Home Safety Council recommends placing smoke detectors on every floor of the home, including the basement and near sleeping areas.  Test them monthly and change the batteries twice a year – the changing of the clocks is a good reminder.  Also, keep a fire extinguisher, one that works on any type of fire, handy in the kitchen, which is the most common site for home fires.  If you have more than one level of your home, or live above the main level of a condominium complex, consider purchasing a fire escape ladder.  They are available at most home improvement stores and come in a variety of lengths.
  • Chemical matters. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas that we can’t see or smell, so CO detectors are best positioned near bedrooms and the furnace to warn when the gas collects in high levels.  The state of Utah requires homes to have CO detectors on each habitable level of the house that has fuel burning appliances.  If you have children in your home, find a secure place for medicines and household cleaners, and install safety locks on cabinets and drawers to keep dangerous substances out of reach.
  • Road map. Create safety plans for your new home and make sure every member of the family is on board.  Outline escape routes from bedrooms, be sure everyone knows how to unlock doors and windows, and designate a meeting area outside of the home in case of a fire, earthquake, or other disaster.  Also, familiarize yourself with your new neighborhood and drive the routes to the nearest hospital, fire and police stations.
  • By the numbers. If you’ve moved to a new city or state, there will be a new set of emergency telephone numbers that you’ll need to know.  Make note of how to contact the local police and fire departments, as well as poison control.  Keep the numbers by the home telephone and program them into the mobile phones of each member of the household.
  • Let everyone know your name. One of the best security systems can be found right next door.  Neighbors look out for each other, and each other’s homes, and can provide much needed assistance in an emergency.  Introduce yourself and your family to everyone on the block and consider swapping phone numbers.  When you’re in need of help, they could be at your door faster than emergency workers.

The Home Safety Council, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing home related injuries, offers additional safety tips and potentially dangerous items to look out for in your home.  You can visit them online at www.homesafetycouncil.org.  Whether you’re just moving into your home or you’ve lived there for years, the safety of you and your family is most important.  After all, the sooner you prepare yourself and your home for a disaster, the sooner you can live in your home feeling safe and sound.

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