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From fire to radon to lead, it’s important to keep your family safe from common household hazards around the home. Here are some of the main areas of concern, and what you can do about them.

Fire Safety

Smoke Alarms

Types of smoke alarms:

    • Optical: Less prone to false alarms and react faster to smoldering fires.
    • Ionization: Better at sensing hot, flaming fires, but prone to false alarms.
  • Combination: Both optical and ionization sensors in the same unit to provide protection from both types of fires.

Installing smoke alarms:

  • Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home.
  • Locate one or more alarms near bedrooms.
  • Position alarms on or near the ceiling and away from corners.
  • Change batteries as needed or every six to 12 months.
  • Clean alarms once a year by gently vacuuming or blowing out with canned air.
  • Replace alarms every 10 years.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon Monoxide is a poisonous gas that is generated by combustion from:

  • Natural gas and propane appliances such as stoves, water heaters, space heaters, and furnaces.
  • Gasoline and diesel engines used on cars, boats, and generators.
  • Gas and wood fireplaces.
  • House fires.

Since carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, the only way to know if you are being exposed is with a carbon monoxide detector. These can be either battery powered or plug directly into a wall outlet. Combination units are also available that contain both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in one unit. As with smoke alarms, change the batteries and clean regularly.

Fire Extinguishers

A multipurpose (ABC) fire extinguisher should be easily accessible all times in your home. ABC rated fire extinguishers can be used on:

  • A: Combustible materials such as wood, cloth, and paper.
  • B: Flammable liquids such as oil and gasoline.
  • C: Electrical fires from wiring and electrical equipment.

When using a fire extinguisher, think PASS, which stands for:

  • Pull the pin on the extinguisher.
  • Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the handle to discharge the chemical agent.
  • Sweep the extinguisher from side to side across the fire.

Two-story homes should have an escape ladder stored on the upper story that is easily accessible. To use an escape ladder, lock it in place, secure it over the edge of the window sill, pull the tab to release the ladder, and descend down it.

Hazardous Household Contaminants

Test kits for lead, radon, mold, and water are available from First Alert

Radon Gas

Radon is an invisible, radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the environment. In certain parts of the country, it can seep up from the ground into your home and pose a health risk.

For detailed state maps, go to the EPA Radon Zone Maps. If your area is at risk, test the air in your house with a radon test kit, and take measures to correct the problem if necessary. Granite countertops do not emit enough radon to raise the level significantly in your home.

Drinking Water

While water from municipal utilities is considered safe, if you live in an older home, it can pick up lead from solder used in joining copper pipes. Water testing kits are available that allow you to find out if contaminants such as lead are present in your water. If they are, install a water filter designed to remove them, and change it regularly following the manufacturer’s instructions.

Lead in Paint

The paint in houses built before 1978 may contain lead. While this may not pose a significant hazard if the original paint is intact and has been painted over, it can become a health concern if the paint is peeling or being removed for renovation. You can find out if the paint in your home contains lead with a lead test kit.

Testing paint for lead.


The crawlspace under your home can become a breeding ground for mold. Take the following steps to prevent this from happening:

  • Be sure there is plenty of ventilation.
  • Fill in any low spots with sand.
  • Cover the ground under entire crawlspace with a layer of 6 mil or thicker plastic.
  • Put a thin layer of sand on top of the plastic.

Child Safety

If you have young children in your home, take these steps to make sure they’re safe:

  • Install childproof latches on cabinets.
  • Add a latch on the top of your refrigerator.
  • Install an anti-tip bracket on stoves.
  • Pad sharp edges with strips of rubber.
  • Install childproof plastic inserts or Swivel Outlet Covers on electrical plugs.
  • Turn hot water heater down to 120° F to prevent scalding.
  • If you have a pool, make sure it is fenced, has a gate that locks, and has a pool alarm.

See also: Tips for Baby-Proofing Your Windows

Anti-tip bracket for stoves.

Other Tips from This Episode

Trunk Storage Solution

Simple Solutions with Joe Truini:
Trunk Storage Solution

To keep the items stored in the trunk of your car from sliding around while driving, attach 2” wide strips of the hook side of a self-adhesive hook and loop fastener to the bottom of a storage bin, then press the container down to the carpet in the truck.

Heat Seeker Infrared Thermometer

Best New Products with Jodi Marks:
Heat Seeker Infrared Thermometer

The Heat Seeker Infrared Thermometer from General Tools is great for conducting a home energy audit or checking your HVAC system. Simply train the laser pointer on an object to obtain an accurate temperature reading on the LCD screen. The Heat Seeker is available at The Home Depot.

Save Energy with CFLs

Thinking Green with Danny Lipford:
Save Energy with CFLs

Compact Fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) cost more than regular bulbs, but they make it up in energy savings. Since CFLs contain mercury, be sure to dispose of old bulbs properly. To learn more, check out our article CFL: A Bright Idea for Going Green.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Danny Lipford

Danny Lipford


Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and television personality who started his remodeling business, Lipford Construction, at the age of 21 in Mobile, Alabama. He gained national recognition as the host of the nationally syndicated television show, Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford, which started as a small cable show in Mobile. Danny's expertise in home improvement has also led him to be a contributor to popular magazines and websites and the go-to source for advice on everything related to the home. He has made over 200 national television appearances and served as the home improvement expert for CBS's The Early Show and The Weather Channel for over a decade. Danny is also the founder of 3 Echoes Content Studio,, and Checking In With Chelsea, a décor and lifestyle blog.

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