In Part l, we began the analysis of your home from the outside, looking in. Before we went any deeper into the subject, I thought it would be good to first make sure you can get in and out of your home safely, and reduce or eliminate any obvious hazards to yourself, your visitors and the home itself. In this segment, now that you’ve made it safely to your front door, we’re going to actually take a look inside.
Starting at your front door, take a look inside the door jamb at the metal catch for the door knob and/or deadbolt. Is it secure? Loose? Missing a screw? All your door hardware should be fully attached and secure. Also, do you have any secondary locks aside from the deadbolt? Simple flip over latches are inexpensive, easy to install and while not foolproof, are difficult to bypass and can certainly slow someone down trying to gain entrance. Again, door security is a very in-depth subject that I will address in a separate article; these are the easy to spot, easy to fix things.
How about a peep hole? Everyone should have one as I discussed in the first part of this series, but take a good look through yours and really observe what you see. How far to the left and right can you see? Is it dirty, causing a blurred view? Is it at a height that is usable for you and everyone that resides with you? If not, consider adding one either higher or lower, depending on your needs. Are their plants or trees limiting its view? If so, trim them back until your view is unimpeded.
Now, standing at your threshold and looking into your home, what do you see? In this instance we’re looking for anything of value that would entice someone to pay you another visit when the home is (hopefully) unoccupied so they can steal it. TVs, video game consoles, computers, stereo equipment, gun cabinets, personal safes, purses or wallets left on a table near your front door, cell phones and tablets, etc. While it’s true you can’t hide everything, you should at the very least try to make high value items a little less obvious to the casual observer standing at your front door. There have been numerous stories of ne’er-do-wells posing as door-to-door sales people or handymen looking for work when what they’ve really been doing is casing your home, looking for easy pickings. You don’t want to be on that list.
The same can be said for garages. I see people that leave their garage door open all day, every day. Everything is on display – bicycles, tools, sporting equipment, electronics and instruments, all sorts of things. In my opinion, this is an extremely bad practice. If your garage is easily seen from the street, don’t keep your door open any more than you absolutely need to. And if your garage is connected directly to your home, you absolutely do not want to keep that big door open. That is an easy invitation to trouble. As an example, not 2 miles from where I work – which is a very upscale town, with an extremely low crime rate – a family had left their garage door open AND the door from the garage into the house unlocked, which proved to be the perfect entrance for 3 armed criminals to sneak in, pistol-whip and tie up the family and make off with an undisclosed amount of cash and jewelry. Fortunately the family lived to tell the tale, but it could have gone much, much worse. A closed garage door could have prevented the entire episode. Think about that and let it sink in a minute.
In general criminals are opportunists. They are looking for an easy payday. By making things hard on them, there is a good chance they will move on to a softer target.
OK, now that we’ve looked at things “through the eyes of a criminal”, let’s take a look around at the more basic safety issues.
First, check your flooring. Transitions from one type of surface onto another are a common place for trips and falls. Make sure you’ve got the lowest threshold between the two as you possibly can and that any transition pieces are solidly in place. Next are “area rugs”. These things are notorious for tripping people up. Take precautions if using these in your home. There are a few different items you can use depending on what type of floor the rug is on. I’ve seen double-sided tapes that are made specifically for this purpose as well as rubber underlayment mats that are very thin but have a surprising grip and keep your rugs from moving under you. I’ve also seen discreet clips that work for securing an area rug on top of carpet. Take a look around and see what best fits your situation.
Next up on the list, look for other tripping hazards. Things like interior extension cords, lamp cords and charging cords for phones are easily tripped over because they are usually a neutral color (unlike exterior extension cords which are primarily bright orange or yellow). Make sure you don’t have cords hanging down in the primary path of travel. Other simple things that can ruin your day are toys on the floor (whether from the kids or the pets) or misplaced furniture that encroaches on the path of travel. While you may be used to taking the one odd step to avoid it because it’s been there so long, a guest might not notice something that only slightly protrudes into their path. However it only takes a slight protrusion to cause a fall.
Another thing to be aware of is open cabinet drawers or doors. Leaving a low drawer open is an invitation to a serious fall and/or injury. Likewise, I have seen someone stand up right into the corner of an open upper kitchen cabinet door and open their scalp bad enough to need stiches. It seems ridiculous I know, but these kinds of accidents happen all the time and more often than not, they are completely avoidable.
One last thing to consider for this part of your Prepared Home Analysis is what you have on any shelves or bookcases throughout your home or things in general hanging from your walls. If you are the proud recipient of your bowling league’s Bowler of the Year trophy, consisting of a custom engraved bowling ball and other goodies, don’t place this on a high shelf. This is especially true if you have young children or pets in the home. When deciding where to put things on your shelves, ask yourself “what would happen if this thing fell on someone’s head?” If the answer is that it could possibly crush said persons head, then don’t place it high enough to do damage should it fall off. Likewise, if you wish to hang Aunt Edna’s prized commemorative plate collection on your wall, make sure to use the appropriate hardware to do so. There is a whole world out there of anchors and specialty screws and hangars for such things and it pays to use them. You don’t want to trust your safety to just some scrawny nail poked into the drywall. If you are hanging a poster or a lightweight decoration, such as a paper lantern or something I wouldn’t worry too much about it, but if there is glass involved and/or any substantial weight, you owe it to yourself and those you care about, to hand these things safely, with the correct hardware.
Alright folks, there are a few more Baby Steps for you to follow to help get yourself better prepared. Next time I’ll focus on fire safety – a BIG topic.
As always, thanks for reading!