How to Prevent Home Accidents

Five Parts:Addressing Electrical IssuesUsing Caution in the KitchenPreventing FiresStoring Medicines & Cleaning SuppliesTaking Additional Precautionary Measures

More than 11,000 people die at home each year as a result of preventable injuries such as falls, fires, drownings and poisonings, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).[1] By addressing a few, key issues around your home and taking the proper, precautionary measures, you can prevent yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to household injuries.

Part 1
Addressing Electrical Issues

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    Don’t overload sockets. Many older homes contain electrical systems, which aren't properly equipped to handle the modern power demands.[2] Don’t tempt fate by plugging too many devices into the same socket.
    • Never plug more than two appliances into an outlet at once. Using extension cords to plug multiple appliances into one outlet, is also strongly discouraged.[3]
    • Large appliances such as your refrigerator should have an outlet to themselves.
    • Contact a professional if you hear a sound coming from the outlet or smell something burning.
    • Cover unused sockets with a socket plug. This is particularly important if there are small children in the home.
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    Have your electrical wiring checked. Dangers from electrical shock and fire are so concerning that when it comes to the construction industry, electrical wiring is very closely monitored.[4] Even still, things can deteriorate over time. This is particularly true in older homes, but is applicable to newer homes as well.
    • It may be a good idea to have a licensed electrician inspect your home if you've never had your wiring inspected.[5]
    • If the lights are flickering or some of the outlets don’t function properly, this could be a sign of an electrical issue. Contact a professional to come in and inspect the house.
    • Though it is not advisable, should you decide to inspect the wiring yourself, make sure to turn off the circuit on your breaker panel!
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    Stop using appliances with frayed power cords. You may not realize it, but power cords have several layers. Visible damage at the outer layer of a power cable, whether that’s pinching, tearing or frays, is probably a good indication of damage to the inner layers as well.[6] Do yourself a favor and stop using the appliance if this happens.
    • If the appliance needs to be used until a replacement is found, you can temporarily fix the cord with electrical tape. However, it is not advisable to do this, as fires and short circuits could still occur.
    • If you can’t bear to part with the appliance, have the power cord replaced as soon as possible.
    • Most importantly, if you suspect damage has been done to the middle layer of a power cable, you need to stop using it immediately.[7]

Part 2
Using Caution in the Kitchen

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    Don’t leave pots or pans unattended. Regardless of whether you have small children in your home, pots and pans should never be left unattended. Grease fires are often the culprit of kitchen fires, so never leave a pan unattended when you're frying fat.[8]
    • If you need to leave the kitchen, turn off the stove and remove pots and pans from the hot burners.
    • Treat the microwave the same as a stove. Don’t leave items unattended while they are heating up.
    • When you are cooking, children should not be left unattended in the kitchen either.
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    Turn handles in when cooking. Children and adults alike could fall victim to burns and other related injuries if handles aren’t turned in while cooking.
    • If the handles have plastic on them, be sure they are not placed above another hot burner.
    • Handle pots and pans, without plastic guards, with care. The handles could be extremely hot and may cause burns.
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    Keep knives out of reach. Whether they are in use or not, be sure all knives are kept out of reach and are properly secured. When you are using them, make sure they are not resting on something that can easily be pulled down. Get in the habit of placing knives on a flat, clutter free surface to ensure they won’t accidentally fall.
    • Knives should be stored, blade down, in a designated container, far from the reach of children.
    • Dirty knives should not be left in the sink. Instead, immediately wash the knife after each use.
    • When carrying knives, keep the cutting edge angled away from your body and leave the tip facing your side.[9]
    • Do not attempt to carry knives while there is a lot of commotion in the kitchen.
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    Monitor children around hot objects. Whether it’s a hot stovetop, a pot of boiling water or a bowl of soup, children should always be monitored around hot objects. One idea is to establish an off-limits area, which encompasses any hot appliances such as the stove, fireplace, barbecue, heaters, etc.[10]
    • Never allow your child to carry hot items.
    • It may be wise to restrict them from playing with pots and pans when they’re not in use. This will help to avoid any confusion when they are on the stove.
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    Store heavy items close to the ground. When organizing your kitchen, place heavy items such as pots, skillets and appliances in lower cabinets. You don't want to risk having a heavy item fall on your head.[11]

Part 3
Preventing Fires

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    Install smoke alarms. One of the easiest ways to reduce fire-related injuries, is to install smoke alarms that are properly installed and maintained.[12]
    • Make sure alarms are installed in bedrooms and on every floor of your house.
    • Alarms need to be replaced every ten years, so remember to keep track of when they were installed.
    • Get in the habit of testing your alarm every month or so.
    • Do not change or alter the alarm in any way; that includes leaving it unpainted, regardless of whether it stands out!
    • Spring ahead and fall back - you may want to consider changing the batteries on your alarm every time you change your clocks.[13]
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    Have a fire extinguisher on hand. Though they have limitations, make sure you have a portable fire extinguisher in your home. It not only saves lives, but can aid in reducing property damage.[14]
    • Owning a fire extinguisher is just as important as knowing where it is located. Try to keep it in the same spot and to inform your family members of its whereabouts.
      • It may make sense to keep the fire extinguisher in your kitchen, as this is where many fires start.
    • Read the instructions after purchasing a fire extinguisher and familiarize your family members with how to work it.
    • To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:[15]
      • Pull the pin. Keeping the nozzle pointed away from your body, hold the extinguisher and release the locking mechanism.
      • Aim low. Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire, as opposed to the top.
      • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
      • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
    • It's very important that you only use a fire extinguisher if the fire is small. Do not try to manage a fire that has spread throughout your house.
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    Create a fire escape plan. In the event of a fire, you and your family should have an escape plan, as you may only have a minute or two to escape from a rapidly spreading fire.[16] One minute or two doesn't give you enough time to formulate a plan, which is why it’s so important to have one in place.
    • Prior to creating the plan, walk around the home and point out all exits.
    • Establish a meeting location outside of the home.
    • If there are children in the home, indicate which adults should get the kids.
      • If the children are older, you may want to draw a map of the house, indicating exit points.
    • Make sure everyone knows the plan and try to review it every couple of months.
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    Just say no to smoking in the house. The best way to prevent smoking related injuries and accidents is to not allow it in your home.
    • Any paraphernalia, such as matches and lighters, should be kept out of reach.
    • If someone is smoking outside, provide them with an ashtray so that they can safely extinguish the cigarette.

Part 4
Storing Medicines & Cleaning Supplies

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    Install safety locks where medicine/cleaners are kept. Have a designated spot for cleaning products, along with an additional spot for medicine. Keep the storage spaces locked, particularly if they are within reach of children.
    • Don’t forget to move medicine back to its safe storage spot after work or vacation. Medicine, which was accidentally left within reach of a child (a purse, counter, etc.), results in 67% of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning.[17]
    • Similarly, return cleaning products to their spot immediately after use. Do not leave them laying around while you’re cleaning.
    • Have a plan in place for medicine brought into the house by visitors. It may help to have a cabinet installed in the guest bathroom that is out of reach from children.
    • Don’t let your children play with medicine bottles. While it may seem like a good substitute for a rattle, this will only cause confusion.
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    Label medicine properly. In addition to being properly stored, medicine should also be labeled correctly. If possible, try to keep it in the original bottle, so as to avoid confusion. This will also help when it comes time to administer the medicine, as you will be able to follow the instructions.
    • Keep an eye on expiration dates. If you do move the medicine into a new container, be sure to note the expiration date.
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    Consider outdoor cleaning products as well. It’s not just potential hazards inside your home that you need to consider. Products such as windshield wiper fluid, pool cleaners and pesticides need to be safely stored as well.
    • If you decide to store outdoor cleaners in the garage, be sure it is kept locked and shut when children aren’t being supervised.
    • You should still purchase a secure cabinet for such materials. Even after they've been installed, get in the habit of checking to make sure all cabinets/containers are tightly secured.[18]

Part 5
Taking Additional Precautionary Measures

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    Don’t forget carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide is often referred to as the invisible killer, as it's an odorless, colorless gas.[19] For this reason, always make sure you have a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home.
    • Like fire alarms, carbon monoxide detectors should be checked frequently.
    • If you hear the signal on the detector, check the batteries first. If the batteries are still working, immediately call the fire department.
      • Wait for the fire department outside.
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    Install safety gates for small children. Choose the right type of safety gate based on the location.[20] Primarily, there are two types of gates - one that requires screws in order to be mounted and another which is held in place by pressure. It’s important to understand which type of gate should be used where.
    • Gates used at the top of stairs are often hardware-mounted, while pressure-mounted gates can be used at bottom of stairs and between rooms.[21]
    • Always follow the instructions carefully. When in doubt, ask a professional to install the gate.
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    Buy pads for area rugs. While an area rug can instantly transform a room, it can also be the source of household injuries. Always purchase a rug pad for your area rugs. In doing so, you can help to prevent children and adults, alike, from accidentally slipping.
    • If you’re concerned about a rug pad damaging your floor, consider a rubber pad, as it has a non-slip grip, is made of eco-friendly materials and is generally safe for hardwood floors.[22]
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    Keep driveways and sidewalks clean. It is important, particularly during the fall and winter months, to keep driveways and sidewalks clean. Both should be free of leaves, snow and ice, in order to prevent injuries from occurring.
    • The harsh winter months may also cause cracks and splits. Try to make the repairs as quickly as possible. If you are unable to fix the problem, seek the help of a professional.
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    Install lights at the top and bottom of stairs. One of the more common household injuries is falling down the stairs. The culprit is often dim or non-existing lighting. By adding lights to both the top and bottom of your staircase, you can help to prevent unnecessary falls.
    • The same is true for outdoor steps. Be sure there is good visibility by installing an overhead light.
    • You may want to consider installing a motion detector light for outside staircases as well, in case of unexpected visitors.
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    Fence in your pool. Thousands of American families suffer from unnecessary swimming pool tragedies on a yearly basis.[23] By fencing in your pool, you will be helping to prevent needless accidents.
    • Consider a pool cover as well. This should be used in addition to and not in lieu of the fence.
    • Ensure the fence is at least 4 feet tall, though anything above 5 feet tall is preferable.
    • Don't place chairs, tables or benches near the fence. You want to avoid having anything nearby that would assist someone in climbing over.


  • Turn off and unplug all appliances before leaving home.
  • Install nightlights in the bedrooms of elderly and children to help prevent falls during the night.
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers in a highly visible location. Include poison control, doctors, and phone numbers of friends and family.
  • Close cabinets, drawers, and doors after use.
  • Set your water heater's temperature to 120 F (50 C) to prevent scalding.

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Categories: Injury and Accidents