Personal safety in the home falls into two categories – preventing accidents and security of the home – and both are equally important. Some five million people suffer accidents in their homes every year, and the possibility of that rises with age. At the same time that you make your house a safer place, you need to be able to keep intruders out.
Falls are one of the major causes of accident and death in the home. Whilst they can’t be entirely prevented, the following measures can minimise the possibility of an accident.
- Arrange your furniture and your other possessions so there’s plenty of space to move around. Be especially careful with small items so you don’t trip over them.
- Don’t have trailing wires and electrical cords on the floor. If you have no alternative, keep them against the wall and secure them on the skirting board with strong tape.
- It’s vital that you keep the stairs clear, and if you have a rug on them, ensure it’s tight, with no areas to trip you. Passageways should also be easily negotiable.
Be careful with electric blankets. They can be wonderful in winter, but older blankets can become a fire hazard. Have yours checked annually, or replace it regularly. If the flex is damaged, or the plug is loose, replace it. The same applies if the wires are displaced (you can check by holding it up), there’s any scorching, or the material is frayed. If your blanket carries a BEAB safety mark it’s more than 10 years old and should be replaced.
The elderly can join the Priority Service Register run by electric and gas suppliers. It costs nothing, and they’ll check the appliances in your house to be certain they’re working properly and not emitting a dangerous level of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide can’t be detected by the nose, and can be deadly.
In the bathroom, support rails are a good idea, for ease of getting into and out of the bath and the loo. Installing a seat or bath board also makes it easier to get into and out of the tub. Have a non-slip mat in the bottom of the bath, both for bathing and for showers. Also, if your bathroom floor is linoleum or ceramic tile, make sure you use a no-slip wax, and that your bathmat is also non-slip and water absorbent.
Buy a portable phone and programme in emergency numbers (or have someone do it for you and show you how to use it). Memorise them, or put a note on the back of the handset) and get in the habit of carrying it everywhere in the house with you.
The first rule of home security is to keep your front and back doors locked at all times. If you pop out for something, make sure you lock it behind you. Make sure you also remember to close all the windows when you go. If you decide to hide a spare key somewhere, make sure it’s not somewhere obvious, such as under a garden decoration or plant pot.
If possible keep your possessions, such as the TV, in a position where they’re not easily visible from outside. Mark them with your name and address, using a UV pen or etching. That way, if they are stolen and recovered, they can be returned to you.
Keep all important documents carefully locked away and out of sight. Never make it easy for potential burglars!
If someone comes to your door, always put the chain on before you open it. If the person claims to be an employee of an organisation, ask to see a picture ID and study it before letting them in, even if they have an appointment. If the caller is a salesman, don’t allow him to enter. Should the person at the door claim to be in trouble of some kind and ask to be let in to make a phone call, don’t allow them in. Offer to make the call for them.
You might also want to take a look at our Home Safety site www.SaferHouses.co.uk where the whole site is dedicated to this subject.