Home safety guide: How to stop accidents before they occur

Mon Feb 19 2024

Husband and wife with their two children relax together at home smiling and hugging

We’re in the business of home insurance, which means we’re ready to help when something goes wrong at your house. But it also means we’re big fans of home safety. When homeowners put safety first, they usually end up filing fewer insurance claims. That’s good for us and them!

We’ve put together this list of common household hazards and home safety tips to help you reduce accidents and avoid some of the most common claims. It’s important for homeowners to have home insurance that covers these incidents, but it’s even better to avoid claims in the first place.

House fires

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the US saw an estimated average of 350,800 home fires per year in one five year period. The main causes for these fires were:

  • Cooking, 49% of home fires.

  • Heating equipment, 13%

  • Electrical distribution and lighting equipment, 9%

  • Intentional acts, 9%

  • Smoking materials, 5%

Whatever the cause of a home fire, the results can be devastating, leading to damage to both your dwelling and personal property as well as injuries, and sadly, even death. That makes fire prevention an important part of home safety. 

These fire safety tips can help you protect your home and family: 

  • Never leave the kitchen unattended while cooking. 

  • Keep flammable items like oven mitts, curtains, and food packaging away from your stovetop.

  • Save extension cords for temporary use and plug electric devices directly into wall outlets.

  • Remove power cords from doorways and from underneath carpets.

  • Store matches and lighters out of children’s reach.

  • Service your furnace annually to keep it clean and working properly to avoid potential fires. 

  • Replace old or recalled electrical panels

  • Always be careful when burning candles or smoking in the home.

Finally, be sure you have smoke detectors on every floor of your house and test them every month.  

Swimming pool injuries

While backyard pools are a great way to entertain family and friends, they also present some serious hazards for homeowners and guests alike. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the US sees 4,000 fatal drownings every year. This risk is one of the reasons swimming pools are often considered an attractive nuisance that may impact your homeowners insurance.

You can do a lot to increase pool safety, such as:

  • Building a fence around your pool to limit access.

  • Monitoring children and pets whenever they’re in or near the pool.

  • Enrolling your children in water safety and swimming lessons.

  • Installing a safety vacuum release system and anti-entrapment drain covers.

Falls

While just about anyone may experience a fall, the people most likely to be injured from one are young children and the elderly. The annual count of adults age 65 and older reporting falls is north of 14 million, according to the CDC. On the other end of the spectrum, Stanford’s Children’s Health claims more than 2.2 million children under the age of 14 visit hospital emergency rooms for fall injuries each year.

A big part of fall prevention is to be on the lookout for tripping hazards. Toys, pet gear, loose rugs, and electrical cords can all cause someone to trip. But you might also want to:

  • Place furniture so there is plenty of space to walk around a room. 

  • Put grab bars and non-slip rubber mats in your bathrooms. 

  • Add railings to your staircases, both inside and out.

  • Upgrade your lighting.

  • Install window guards.

  • Use a sturdy step stool to reach higher shelves.

  • Put soft materials under play equipment.

Poisoning

The most recent data available shows that poison control centers across the US guided more than 2 million people after poison exposures in 2021. According to the National Capital Poison Center, that’s one poison exposure reported to a poison control center every 15 seconds.

Here are some home safety tips to reduce the chances of poisoning:

  • Keep poisonous substances including medications, cleaners, and detergents on a high shelf or behind a locked cabinet door.

  • Avoid mixing household chemicals.

  • Get all medications in childproof packaging.

  • Keep cleaners, chemicals, and medications in their original containers.

  • Avoid eating or drinking when around poisonous substances, including art supplies.

  • Avoid using pesticides around children and pets.

  • Stay vigilant when handling any chemicals or medicines when you have young children around. If you’re suddenly called away﹘even for a minute﹘secure what your using to keep your children safe.

There’s another set of poisons in addition to those that someone might ingest. Substances like carbon monoxide, radon, mold, asbestos, and lead paint may be even more hazardous because they can exist in your home without you even knowing about it.

Home safety tips to protect your family from these harmful toxins usually involves hiring a professional, but you may also want to:

  • Familiarize yourself with when and where asbestos and lead paint were commonly used.

  • Install carbon monoxide alarms.

  • Avoid idling your car in your garage.

  • Make sure your rooms and any fuel-burning appliances are well ventilated.

  • Buy a radon test kit.

  • Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels below 50%.

Before doing any work in the house, check with an expert to make sure you aren’t exposing your family to these hazardous substances. 

Natural disasters

Natural disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods, present a serious risk for homeowners. The National Center for Environmental Information has confirmed that the US saw 28 weather events that cost over $1 billion in 2023. The overall cost? $92.2 billion.*

You can’t prevent natural disasters, but you can minimize their impact on your home. The first step is to figure out what sort of perils you face. A good way to do that is with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Risk Index that identifies the degree of risk communities have for 18 natural disasters. 

Once you know what your exposures are, you can shore up your protection with these home safety tips for:

  • Flood. Easy steps to minimize flood damage include cleaning your gutters regularly, using mulch in your garden, and installing a backflow valve.

  • Hurricane. Maintaining your roof is key to preparing your home for a hurricane. You may also want to invest in hurricane shutters

  • Tornado. Storm shutters can protect your home in a tornado too. Additionally, you want to keep your trees trimmed to reduce the chance of a limb crashing on your home.

The last step? Make sure you have quality home insurance. While a homeowners policy can’t keep trouble at bay, it can help you recover from a catastrophe. That’s a different kind of home safety tip, but it’s one that you’ll benefit from for a long time.


*Source: NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2024). https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/billions/, DOI: 10.25921/stkw-7w73.

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