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HOME SAFETY : Plan Ahead to Prevent Accidents

March 19, 1994| From Associated Press

Every year, thousands of people die or suffer serious injuries at home from accidents that could easily be prevented.

Preventing Falls

Nearly one-third of the fatalities are from falls, most of which involve the elderly, although all ages are susceptible. Here are some tips for fall-proofing a home:

* Loose throw rugs on slippery floors are an invitation to disaster. Remove them, nail them down or secure them with double-face carpet tape.

* Move low furniture out of the way, especially if it may obstruct foot traffic.

* Never leave debris on the floor or stairs.

* Stairways can especially be a problem. Make sure that they are well lighted with easy-to-find light switches at both the top and bottom of the stairs.

* If stair riser heights vary, mark the edges of the steps clearly.

* Replace worn stair treads. If the stairs are carpeted, secure the carpeting to all steps. Replace worn carpeting and avoid deep-pile or dark-colored carpeting that makes it difficult to see the edges of the steps.

* Stairs should have handrails. Make sure they are sturdy, are at a comfortable height and run the entire length of the stairs.

* Paint the edges of outdoor steps white. Make certain that they, too, are well lighted.

* Install anti-skid strips in the bathtub and grab bars on the walls.

Fire Survival

The second leading cause of accidental death in the home is fire.

* Install smoke detectors at the top of stairways, in the bedroom hallway and in other places where heat and smoke would be a hazard. Don't put one by a stove or fireplace where it will sound off frequently.

* Place rechargeable, all-purpose fire extinguishers (rated ABC) in clear view away from--but convenient to--the range, furnace, fireplace and other possibly hazardous locations.

Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers should carry an Underwriters' Laboratory (UL) or Factory Mutual (FM) seal of approval.

* With your family, plan what to do in case of fire. Don't try to fight a large fire by yourself. Get everyone out and call the fire department from a neighbor's house.

* Map out an escape plan in advance. Determine escape routes from each room and a safe outdoor meeting place where you can take a family head count.

* Make sure exit windows open easily and note garage or porch roofs that can aid in escape from a window.


Poisoning is the third largest cause of death in household accidents. Keep two essentials on hand: ipecac syrup, the most reliable, safe and effective vomiting inducer, and the telephone number of the nearest poison control center.

* Keep drugs in their original containers and throw away any leftovers.

* Keep medicines locked up. Don't store them in bathroom cabinets.

* Never leave medicine by the bedside. Small children may think it's candy. It is also unexpectedly easy to take a medication while drowsy without realizing it.

* Gases, especially odorless carbon monoxide, also cause many poisoning deaths. Don't leave a car motor running in a garage. Be sure there is ample ventilation for indoor fires and when using cleaning compounds and agents. Keep space heaters in good repair.

Electrical Safety

* Avoid using electrical appliances, such as heaters, hair dryers or radios, near water. Install GFI (ground fault interrupter)-protected outlets in the kitchen and bath.

* Never allow lamp or extension cords to cross foot-traffic areas.

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