Safety is an important consideration in the home for everyone. Your home should be your safe haven. Safety concerns are a main reason many choose to remodel when they approach their active retirement or are choosing to age in place.
Primary considerations include the ability to get out of the home during a fire, minimizing the chances for falling, and preventing burns. There are several things that can be done to help increase safety through good planning and educated choices. These are just a few of the suggestions and a CAPS (Certified Aging In Place Specialist) can help you further evaluate your own circumstances. For a listing of CAPS in your area, check out: http://www.aarp.org/home-garden/home-improvement/info-03-2004/caps.html.
The most important thing to consider is how everyone will get out of the home if there should be a fire. While there is a building code for bedroom exiting, it is the minimum standard and further preparation should be done to provide escape without assistance.
- The exit path should be wide enough for everyone to get through, preferably a full 36” wide and if possible, connected to an exterior of the home.
- Ideally, the room should connect to the outside and if not, a balcony or deck.
- If these types of exits are not possible there needs to be a large enough window with a low sill height that will allow exit or for entry by emergency personnel.
- The ground must be level and solid enough to support a ladder for access.
- Notify the fire department if someone in the home is challenged in some way and may require special assistance in the case of a fire or emergency.
A Knox Box should also be considered as this will permit entry into the home by emergency personnel.
A Knox Box is a box located on the home that the fire department has access to that holds keys to the home and will allow faster entry.
The website for Knox Boxes is: http://www.knoxbox.com/store.
The local fire department should be consulted for location and type suggested.
The fire department will lock the box
There is not a key to the box when it is shipped.
Knox padlocks and switches are also available for gates.
A map should be included in the Knox Box of the house and where anyone with special needs and where oxygen bottles or flammables are stored
Stickers on a window identifying the bedrooms create a possible security hazard.
The map with the information is available only to emergency personnel.
Consider placing a medic alert bracelet in the box so that emergency responders know who they are looking for and what the conditions are for that person.
Falls are particularly dangerous for individuals as they get older. There are some ways to minimize chances of falling:
- Install better lighting at fall prone areas like the kitchen, the bathroom and around stairways at both top and bottom.
- Install non-slip flooring that includes laminates and carpeting.
- Have handrails on both sides of stairways.
- Install grab bars in dangerous areas like the bathroom.
- Make sure carpets are securely attached to the floor with no wrinkles or gaps.
- Make sure the transition strips between rooms are lower than a ½” high and are beveled.
Burns are dangerous, especially for those with reduced ability for sensing temperature extremes. There are a few ways to prevent burns:
- Install anti-scald valves at shower and tubs that sense the water temperature and prevent scalding
- Install insulating covers over exposed drains and supply valves under sinks
- Intelligent range and cook top choices can help reduce the chance of getting burned:
- Make sure the cook top has a prominent indicator for hot cook tops.
- Consider an induction cook top that stays cool to the touch.
- Make sure there is a short distance between cooking appliances and landing spot.
Home safety is an important subject for homeowners, not just those with young families but for those who are aging in place. The house should be a haven, a secure and safe place, because it is not just a house, it is a home.
My personal thanks to Art Dunn for helping me with the Knox Box information for this article. Art Dunn has worked in various areas of electronics and electricity for over twenty-three years, and has been both a license holder and a qualified individual for California burglar alarm and electrical contractor licenses. His employer, NANLOW-DUNN incorporated www.yourhomeservesyou.com, is an authorized dealer for products such as GrandCare and Home Automation Incorporated and is associated with Connect Home. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.