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7 Quick Home Inspections That Could Save Your Life

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Jessica
04.05.15

We bet that you lock your doors at night and keep your kids away from the medicine cabinet, but if you haven’t inspected your house in a while (or ever), you could be sitting on a dangerous time bomb. Yikes!

While a few of these inspections are better left to a licensed professional, you can cross some off your list right away.

Prevent injury (and even death) by inspecting the following:

1. Got Stairs? Check Your Banisters

Up and down, up and down, how bad can they be, right? Your stairs may look innocent enough, but they’re basically an accident waiting to happen. According to the National Safety Council, over one million injuries occur each year as a result of stairway falls, making staircase accidents the second leading cause of accidental injury second only to motor vehicles. It gets worse: every year, there are 12,000 accidental deaths in the U.S. on account of stairways.

Fortunately, you can do a stair inspection yourself. Give your stairs a mean stink-eye, and take the time to check for cracks or loose materials on the stairs themselves. Fix any potential issues. Then, check the banisters. Grab a tennis ball, and hold the ball in between the balusters. If the tennis ball can be pushed through the balusters, they may be dangerous for a kid and should be looked at by a professional handyman. For more stair-safety ideas, read this detailed to-do.

2. Test the Smoke Detectors

There’s a reason elementary schools visit fire stations as field trips: over 1,240,000 home fires occur in America each year, with over 3,000 fatalities according to the National Fire Protection Association. Basically, fires are a real risk, and almost two-thirds of reported deaths caused by home fires resulted from homes that lacked working smoke alarms. You can prevent disaster at home by teaching the art of testing your smoke detectors. For full instructions, read Test Smoke and CO Detectors.

3. Prevent Natural Gas Leaks

For the most part, natural gas is a safe energy source. The gas itself isn’t poisonous or dangerous. The danger lies in what it does to the oxygen within your home. Natural gas displaces the levels of oxygen within your home, basically decreasing the amount of oxygen you have to breathe. (That’s why you may feel dizzy if you leave the stove on too long.) To prevent a problem, contact a licensed professional to inspect your gas line and ensure safety.

4. Give GFCIs a Test

GFCI is a fancy term for a simple, life-saving tool. In your bathroom, have you ever seen a little “test” button on your outlet? What about in the kitchen? Those “test” buttons are part of your ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), which is an outlet typically located in kitchens and bathrooms – often within six feet of a water source – that prevents people from being electrocuted by cutting off the current if it gets too high.

That little guy is pretty important, because each year the Electrical Safety Foundation estimates there are an average of 60 electrocutions associated with consumer products. Keep your family from becoming a statistic by taking 15 minutes to test yours. All you need is a small appliance, like a hair dryer. Plug the device into the GFCI outlet and make sure it turns on. Push the “test” button on the GFCI and the device should turn off immediately. Push the “reset” button on the GFCI to turn the device back on. If the device doesn’t turn off when you push the “test” button, call a licensed electrician immediately to fix the problem.

5. Test (or Buy!) Fire Extinguishers

First comes smoke alarm, then comes fire extinguishers. Quick, how many do you own? If you don’t know, it’s time to reevaluate how safe your home really is from fire. There was a civilian fire death every 2 hours and 42 minutes, and a civilian fire injury every 33 minutes in 2013. Home fires caused 85% of these civilian fire deaths and an estimated $11.5 billion in direct property loss. That’s the bad news. The good news is that a working fire extinguisher can save your family’s life and protect your home. Follow this rule of thumb: One fire extinguisher for every floor of your house and one in the garage. If you don’t have enough, purchase fire extinguishers today.

If you do have fire extinguishers at home, take at a look at your extinguishers’ pressure gauges and handle. If the pressure gauge is green, you’re ready to roll in an emergency. If the gauge falls anywhere else, please service or replace the extinguisher immediately. Make sure the handle is secure and not wobbly. If there are any issues, replace the device. Also, check for an expiration date on the fire extinguisher label. Most fire extinguishers last for 5 to 15 years. If the extinguisher has ever been used, even for a short blast, it’s best practice to replace it rather than risk it.

6. Check for Water Quality

Water isn’t always so pure. If your water source is unsafe, you could be drinking contaminants, chemicals and bacteria that can cause serious health problems. This may not happen immediately. Effects may occur if contaminants are ingested at unsafe levels over many years, making this an unseen issue. If you’d like to learn more, check out the EPA’s Drinking Water Standards & Health Effects.

Many of these contaminants are colorless, tasteless and odorless, so the only way to really know if your water is a problem is to have it tested. You can test it at home with a Drinking Water Test-Kit, but if you are drinking water from a well, we recommend hiring a professional to test the safety of your water source.

7. Test for Radon

Radon, an invisible, odorless and tasteless gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in the ground, is the second leading cause of lung cancer. In fact, radon problems affect an estimated one out of every 15 homes in the U.S., and causes more than 20,000 deaths annually.

To protect your family from this unseen killer, test for the gas at home. There are two types of DIY radon tests: short-term and long-term. Short-term tests remain in your home for 2-90 days, while long-term tests remain in the house for more than 90 days. Long-term tests are more likely to tell you your home’s year-round average radon level, while short-term tests will tell you what is happening right now. Follow the directions that come with the radon test kit so that the results are accurate. If you’d rather not test radon yourself, hire a qualified professional to ensure that your home is safe.

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