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Ten Things

10 Items to Safeguard Your Home

By Eileen McDonald
Eileen McDonald, Injury Prevention Specialist
Eileen McDonald, co-creator of the Johns Hopkins Children's Safety Center, is an Injury Prevention Specialist.

Unintentional home injuries have been a persistent public health problem for decades. In 2012, more than 19 million medically attended injuries and poisonings occurred in the home. Accidents come in the form of slips, falls, burns, poisonings (notably from drugs and household cleaners), drownings, and accidental suffocation, particularly in the case of infants and seniors. The right home modifications and safety devices—provided they are properly installed, maintained, and understood—can protect you and loved ones from harm, according to Eileen McDonald, co-creator of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Safety Center. She focuses on interventions to reduce unintentional injuries among children and older adults. “Many people think that injury prevention is just common sense, but it can’t be when safety recommendations are not common knowledge,” McDonald says.

1 / Residential sprinklers

Required in some new construction, but homes can be retrofitted. Costs are coming down each year, and insurance discounts are offered. You want sprinkler buds in every living space.

2 / Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms

Gold standard for each is hardwired, interconnected alarms—with battery backup. Device location is important, so follow manufacturer’s instructions.

3 / Surge protectors

Buy whole-house protectors (connected to the electrical panel) and devices with the “UL Listed” mark.

4 / Handrails

Falls are the most common household accident. Rails on both sides of stairs increase safety.

5 / Shower grab bar

Attach to studs, not drywall. Diagonally placed bars suit multiple heights.

6 / Nonslip mats or decals

Mats with suction cups are OK, but rubber-backed surfaces are best.

7 / Furniture/appliance tie-downs

Anything top-heavy (bookcases, TV) should be secured to the wall with metal L-brackets or furniture straps.

8 / Adequate lighting

Inside and outside. Place lighting fixture anywhere you need to see placement of feet.

9 / Locks

With kids, lock boxes/cabinets with items like guns, prescriptions, and chemicals. Lock windows starting at the second level to prevent falls.

10 / Anti-scald faucets/shower heads

Thermostatic mixing valves keep water in the safe 120 to 140 degree range. Cooler water risks Legionella bacteria; hotter water can scald.

Ten items to safeguard your home.
Illustration by David Sparshott

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