A Home Safety Handbook

Thinking of making some improvements to your home? Then it’s the perfect time to make sure your home is safe for your family and guests. We’ve put together some ideas for safety upgrades to get you started.

Fire safety

Smoke alarms should be installed outside bedrooms and on every level of your home. You can choose a battery-powered detector or the more dependable and safer hard-wired smoke detector with back-up batteries in case of a power failure. Test your smoke detectors monthly, replace them every ten years and change back-up batteries twice a year to ensure your alarms will work when needed.

Fire extinguishers

It’s recommended to keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and garage, and on each level of your home. Some extinguishers can be refilled or recharged by a certified fire extinguisher technician or, in some cases, by your local fire department.

Carbon monoxide detectors

Carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are life-saving devices you need in your home to detect this odorless, tasteless, and invisible gas. Install a CO detector on each level of your home. If your garage is attached to your house, be sure to install your detector near but not inside the garage.

You can also purchase combination smoke and CO detectors that have smart features, making them more effective at detecting smoke and CO. Some combination and stand-alone alarms send alerts to your smartphone as soon as the alarm goes off. Others can tell you which alarm in your home was triggered. Talking alarms tell you what the threat is and where in your home it is. You’ll also find alarms that you can turn off with your voice.

You can keep on top of the weather and air quality with CO alarms that monitor and alert you to indoor and outdoor air quality, weather, pollen counts, volatile organic compounds (VOC) levels, CO2 levels, and tornado warnings, all on your smartphone.

Air quality - test for radon

While you’re renovating, take time to investigate whether or not the level of radon in your home is in the safe range of less than 200 Bq/m3, as per Health Canada guidelines. In the USA it’s recommended to repair it if the levels are between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L. Radon is a naturally occurring invisible and odorless gas, a danger when it enters air-tight homes at high levels. Typical entry points are through sump pumps, unfinished floors, cracks in the foundation and gaps around pipes.

You can purchase a do-it-yourself radon test kit or contact an expert to get a test and remediation if needed, to prevent the chance of illness such as lung cancer.

Electrical

While you’re planning your home improvements, check the condition of your electrical system, especially if you will be installing any additional appliances or a new room. It may be a good time to upgrade your wiring and circuit breaker. It’s always best to contact an electrician, especially if there are warning signs or you have outdated wiring.

Install an alarm system

It is now easier than ever to monitor and control everything in your home with your smartphone. Look into systems that help you control your thermostat, door locks, as well as property surveillance, video doorbell, smoke and CO detection and more. Choose a self-monitored system or pay a fee for 24/7 monitoring services. Some families are adding an extra level of safety by installing an alarm at the doorway, garage and driveway to help keep children and pets safer.

Locks for windows and doors

It’s always advisable to invest in strong quality locks for your windows and doors. Traditional deadbolts on your doors are the best way to keep intruders out. There are many innovative smart locks with helpful features. Some operate with fingerprint readers, have remote-control capability or work with Bluetooth on your smartphone.

Window safety for children

If you have young children, safety around windows will be high on your list of priorities. You can child-proof your windows by using a window stop that allows the window to open only four inches. Buy a window stop that can be opened by an adult in case of fire or another emergency.

To keep your children and pets safe from getting tangled in blind cords, switch to cordless blinds.

Smart shades and automated blinds

Smart shades and automated blinds give you many options for convenience and are safer to operate than traditional blinds with cords. Some can be opened and lowered to the schedule you set with Bluetooth. There are also shades you can manage with remote control from outside your home, and some that can be activated with voice commands if you use a voice service like Alexa.

Lighting

Each time a light bulb needs replacing, gradually upgrade to energy-saving LED bulbs. Choose light bulbs based on the number of lumens for greater brightness and safety where needed.

Increase safety in your hallways with motion-sensor lighting, and switches and outlets that light up.

When you’re away, use timers and smart home devices to program indoor lights to turn on and off at different times.

Install motion-sensor lights outside your home for safety and to deter would-be intruders.

Railings

An important safety upgrade for your home is sturdy railings for all your stairways, indoors and outdoors.

Slip-proof floors

Replace slippery floors with non-slip tiles, anti-slip vinyl or hardwood, and install non-slip carpeting on stairs.

Avoid using area rugs that can slide or turn up at the corners, and use a rug gripper or rug tape underneath to keep rugs from shifting.

Bathroom

If you want to make your bathroom floor safer, rubber flooring is a good option. It’s not slippery when wet so it helps prevent falls, 80% of which happen in the bathroom. There are fewer chances of injury should a fall occur because of the extra cushioning. Other safer bathroom flooring solutions are cork and vinyl.

Walk-in and barrier-free showers are important safety upgrades for seniors and anyone with mobility concerns, because they only need to step over a low curb. The barrier-free shower allows easy access for people who rely on wheelchairs.

Accessories to make the bathing experience safer include a built-in seat, grab bars, hand-held shower head, shampoo caddy, and scald guard.

Comfort height toilet

Comfort height toilets are best for tall people or anyone who has difficulty sitting down, but they are not ideal for shorter people and children. If you have small children in the household, it’s best to have a standard height toilet.

A grab bar beside the toilet will be a big help to those who rely on mobility aids.

Kitchen

We spend so much time in the kitchen – why not make it easier on your back and feet? Upgrade your cabinets and drawers with pull-out organizers, pull-down shelving, a lazy susan, and replace cabinet knobs with larger handles.

Making sure your home is safe and comfortable takes a little planning, but will give you peace of mind and enjoyment for years to come.