Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

How to Keep Your Home Safe from Fire and Other Hazards

By: Danny Lipford

Watch this video for information on how to make your home safer, including:

  • Smoke Detectors: Types of smoke alarms and tips on installation.
  • Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Placement of carbon monoxide (CO) alarms.
  • Fire Extinguishers: Three types of fire extinguishers and how to use them.
  • Hazardous Materials: How to test your home for radon gas, lead in paint and drinking water, and preventing mold.
  • Child Safety: Installing childproof latches, anti-tip stove brackets, protective electrical outlets, turning down hot water heaters, and pool alarms.

Read episode article to find out more.

Print   Video Transcript

This week on Today’s Homeowner we are working on making your home a safer place for the whole family. Stay with us, we’ll have some great solutions for the dangers you already know about, and the ones you may not even see coming.

All right, thanks for the ride! No, we’re not changing the format of the show to one of those that features a lot of disaster videos that you see on TV all the time. We’re sticking to what we always do—helping you make your home a better place.

Now, obviously this week we are talking a little bit about fire safety and different tips that you have to, you need to pay attentions to. It’s your home, but also we’ll look at some less obvious dangers in your home, and show you how to protect yourself and your family.

Now, we’ll be talking to these guys in just a little bit about fighting fires. But before we do that let’s talk about your first line of defense—the smoke detector. Now, if you own a home you should know that you should have one of these. But you may not know what kind to have, or where exactly to locate it in your home. So here’s the deal. For residential use there are two basic types—optical sensors and ionization sensors.

Now, the optical units are less prone to false alarms from kitchen steam and that sort of thing but tend to react more quickly to smoldering smoke and fires. The ionization sensors are a little less expensive, but are better at catching flaming or hot fires. Which to choose? The answer may be both. Now, although they cost a little more, some manufactures now offer detectors that include both types of sensors in one unit for even better protection.

Now, for in order for them to do their job, they have to be in the right location, which means at least one on every level of your home, preferably close to the bedrooms so they can detect smoke quickly and alert your family to the danger. Now, how to do that is another matter.

Some, like this one, have the option of a voice alarm, instead of the traditional beeping sound. Of course this one uses a wireless signal to communicate with other units in other parts in your home, so when one alarm sounds, they all sound. The voice alarm even identifies the area where the smoke is detected. That is a great idea for a larger or a more multi leveled house, because early detection is the best defense against fire.

So once you know there is a problem, what do you do next?

Well, I think that question is best left to the professionals, Dan Pose has been fighting fires for many years. Dan, what do you do next?

When in doubt, get out. If you do not feel comfortable, leave it to the professionals. Anything larger than a small kitchen garbage can is too big for the average homeowner.

Typically, what is the most common? Kitchen fire, I would assume?

Kitchen fires are the most common, they start with a pot on the stove.

Okay, let’s talk about fire extinguishers then. Because we’ve talked about many times, you’ve got to have one in the home, but you don’t want to hide it away. Tell us about what we need to look for.

At any home center you can get what is called an ABC fire extinguisher. “A” meaning it puts out trash, wood, and paper; “B” liquid; and “C,” electrical equipment.

Now, as far as where it should be placed.

I like them close to an exit, somewhere where on your way out. You can try if you want to or leave it if you want to, and get out and let the professionals handle it.

Okay. Well, we’ve got a fire going here. Certainly we don’t want to start when in a home, but we want to put it outside here. Tell us the procedure as far as the putting one of these out, and Terry, a firefighter here, who is actually going to demonstrate this for us.

It’s called the PASS method. It’s pull, aim, squeeze, sweep. Pull the trigger, aim the extinguisher, squeeze the nozzle, and sweep it from right to left on the fire.

Just like the firemen said your best protection of course is to get out. But what if you are above the ground floor and the stairwell is blocked. Well, take a look at this. This right here is a collapsible escape ladder.

And what you want to do is this. Lock it into place, secure it over the edge, and then pulled the tab. What’s that going to do is release the latter down 13 feet, which will safely get you to the ground floor. Now again, this is only going to work and be safe if all your family members know where it is, and how to work it.

Another thing you’ll want to protect your family from its carbon monoxide, which is a byproduct of fire. Gas burning appliances like water heaters, stoves, furnaces, and fireplaces give off carbon monoxide, which is supposed to be vented completely out of the home.

Now this gas is a deadly poison, so when it builds up in a home the results are tragic. And because it’s colorless and odorless, a carbon monoxide detector is the only way to know if you have a problem.

Now you can find these as stand-alone units that can just plug right in to the wall or just sit on a tabletop. But most manufacturers also offer them an in a combination device that detects smoke as well as carbon monoxide. That way there is one less battery to remember to replace.

Now, speaking of that. All of these devices need batteries, either as a backup or as a primary power. But they won’t protect you if the battery is dead. So change them every six months.

Now, the detectors won’t last forever either. So write the date when you buy the unit on the back. That way you will see exactly how old they are, and when you need to replace the unit every time you change the batteries.

We all drive around with stuff in the trunk of our car or minivan, but the challenge is how do you keep it organized and prevent it from sliding around as you are driving. One solution is to buy a bin or a milk crate, and put the items in there. But the problem is that does not keep the bin itself sliding around.

So, I was looking at the trunk, and noticed it was lined with a material sort of like a fabric or carpeting. And I wondered if a hook and loop fastener would stick to that, and sure enough it does.

So I went to a hardware store and bought a two-inch wide strip of hook and loop fastener, peeled off the backing, and stuck it to the bottom of this bin. Now when you set it in the trunk and press it down, it actually sticks to this liner. And it doesn’t slide around too much.

Now this comes with a lid that that you can snap on, but I preferred to keep it off. This way you can put grocery bags in it. When you see a trunk this size, you actually have room for two bins. And the nice thing is you can always just pulled them out of the way and use it from if you want the full open space.

So you can try this trick if you got some junk in your trunk

After the break, we will uncover some of the dangers that might be hiding in your home along with the solutions to take care of them.

This week we are looking at ways to make your home more safe. And we’ve already looked at a number of obvious ones, like how to fight a fire and how to escape that fire. Now, we’ve also look at some other things, like carbon monoxide, which is a very dangerous situation in your home, but not readily apparent.

And that’s what you’ll find with lots of contaminants around your home. They’re dangerous, but just not that easy to identify. I hate to ask what’s going on now!

Danny, don’t you realize that you could be in imminent danger right now? Radon gas is shooting out from the granite.

What Allen is talking about is the things that you are hearing so much about these days. Is the radon that is emitted into your home from granite countertops? And you know radon is an invisible gas and some parts of the country, depending on the geological makeup of a home, it can seep up into your home in such concentrated fashion it can be a problem. In those cases you need to have it tested.

Radon is all throughout the interior and exterior of your home because of the natural materials that your home is made of. But, rarely is it a concern, particularly with granite.

In fact there are actually some tests that determined that if you had a house that had the worst ventilation and the highest concentration of radon in granite, even then it would still be six times less than the levels that are outside.

And there is a lot of information on our website about radon in case you want to check it out to see if you’d like to have your house tested. Well, Allen, do you feel a little better about this?

I do. But what about the water?

OK, well Allen might be overreacting just a little bit again. But you know what you do need to make sure the quality of the water in your house is good. Now we all know how hazardous lead can be. Especially if you live in an older home.

Now some older homes when they were built, when the copper piping was joined together with the solder, the solder contained lead, so that lead can leach into the water. Nowadays, of course, solder is lead free, so you don’t have to worry so much about it now. But in older homes, it is a good idea to test your water, even if you get that annual report from your county telling you that your water is good.

All you have to do to test your water is just to go down to the hardware store and pick up one of these. It tells you everything that it tests for. Once you determine what’s in your water, you can now filter that out.

Now, I got here on the floor a filtration system. This tells you everything it will filter for on the back, it really gets into the percentages in which it filters everything out. Now, it’s very easy to install, but again it’s really important that you change your filters when the manufacturer tells you to, to ensure the safety of your water.

Water is not the only area of your home that you should have to be concerned about lead. Especially if you live in a home built before 1978, the paint on the outside and inside of your home could contain lead.

Now over the years it’s probably painted over, but if you’re doing a little renovation, or you might be sanding or scraping, or removing sections of trim or baseboard, that lead dust could become airborne. So it’s a good idea to have it tested before you start any renovation in your home.

Now you can hire a professional or do-it-yourself with a lead test kit. You may need to scratch or scrape the surface to get down to the paint layers below, before you swab the surface with the test solution. In this case the swap changes to the black, yellow, or brown if lead is present.

It looks like we have some lead paint to deal with on this renovation, but we’re going to be following some very specific guidelines from the EPA on exactly how to take care of this paint, and keep it nice and safe. If you want to see those guidelines you can find them on our website at todayshomeowner.com. And type in “lead removal” in the search box.

Danny insisted that I crawl under this house and talk about another potential hazard. Thanks a lot, Danny. Aside from all the bugs and other varmints, a crawlspace can be a breeding ground for mold.

Now here’s the bad news, it’s not always that easy to solve. First and foremost, you’ve got to have adequate ventilation, plenty of moving air to keep that moisture away. And that’s what mold needs to grow.

Now, in the case of torrential rainfall or even flooding, water can come under the house. Make sure it doesn’t have a place to stay, by getting out of all those low spots, filling them up with sand.

Then you want to take a layer of plastic no less than six millimeters thick, and put it over the entire crawlspace. Take it one step further and put another layer of sand on top of the plastic. It’s an awful lot of work, but it will do the trick.

Did I mention I’m claustrophobic?

I came across this new Heat Seeker tool from General the other day. And to be honest, at first I thought it was strictly for professional use. But I think I’m ready to eat my own words.

First of all it’s really affordable, at less than 70 bucks. Second, there are a ton of things you can do with this. You can conduct your own energy audit by pointing it at walls or ceilings to find gaps in your insulation, and check around doors and windows to detect energy loss.

Aim the laser pointer at what you want to scan, and you get an instant temperature reading and a range of minus 4 degrees up to 605 degrees Fahrenheit. You can even use it to find potential fire hazard, like overloaded circuit breakers, before they cause any damage.

But the last reason I like it is because it’s just plain fun. On top of all these things, I just found out you can use when you go fishing to find the best spots in the pond. Guess I could have picked up three more for Danny, Allen, and Joe.

Stay put which got more safety solutions for every room in the house coming right up.

We’re looking at ways to make your home safer this week, and that’s particularly important if you have small kids around your home. You know there’s some very obvious things you can do, like adding childproof locks to all your cabinet doors or maybe a childproof lock on your refrigerator, because refrigerators are big enough a small child could actually crawl inside and get trapped.

There’s another hazard a lot of people aren’t even aware of. It has to do with your stove, particularly a freestanding model like this one, that millions and millions of homes across America have one just like this. The problem is if you open the door like this, I’ve even seen kids use this as a little step to get up to the counter, which can become very front heavy and actually tip over. It’s big enough that it can trap a child or even an adult.

But even if it doesn’t fall all the way over and you have boiling liquid on top, that can spill out and injure anybody that standing around. So very simple thing you can do to keep it from tipping over by installing an anti-tip bracket. Since 1991, manufacturers have provided these to be installed, unfortunately a lot of people just don’t get them installed. So when you buy a stove, make sure that when it’s being installed that this is installed right along with it.

Whether you do-it-yourself or the service person from the company that you buy it from. But it’s very important that this be installed. Basically, it just hooks into the leg on the back of the stove. It may be mounted on the floor or the wall, it’ll just prevent this from tipping over. If you don’t have one of these, you can buy one at an appliance store or home center. That way you’ll be sure that this is not a hazard in your kitchen.

The kitchen is not the only place in the house you need to protect your kids or your grandkids. And here in the living room about right down here on the hearth of the fireplace is another place that you can ensure their safety. Now, we just simply attached these bumpers here, so that there are no sharp edges for them to get injured on.

Over here on the wall, is a pretty common sight if you have toddlers, because these little plugs that protect the kids from putting sharp objects in the receptacle are great. But the only problem with these is that you may forget to put them back in when you’re done using the receptacle.

Well, here is a great solution to that problem. Right over here we’ve installed a new faceplate. This is a child safety faceplate, and what to do if you go to plug something in, this swivels like that, so that opens up the receptacle. And as soon as you pull it back out, it snaps back into place to cover up the openings of the receptacle, making sure that none of the kids can put anything in there to hurt themselves. This does cost a little bit more than the average faceplate. But you know what, in the long run, it’s well worth it.

Another area of the home where you have to be very careful about children’s safety is the bathroom. Many serious burns occur in and around the home, and a large percentage of them are a result of scalding. Think about it this way. You work so hard to get that kid finally in the bathtub to take a bath, then when we look away a second, he reaches up and turns the hot water on full blast.

Now it only takes six seconds for scalding to occur, if the temperature on your water heater is set to hundred and fort five degrees, which is the way most of them are. Here’s all you have to do. Turn that water heater down to one hundred and twenty degrees. That way it takes ten minutes before scalding will occur. And, you save a few energy dollars along the way. So a very simple little adjustment can make this room a lot safer for your family.

Hot water’s not the only water where safety should be a concern. Millions of homes have swimming pools. And unfortunately they are the sight of far too many tragedies across our country. You should definitely have a fence surrounding the pool. But to really protect your family, you’ve got to have a guard standing watch 24 seven. You’ll get that with a pool alarm.

But as for talking about the safety of your family, make sure you really research these things before you buy one. A good quality pool alarm, like this one, will be easy to install. It knows the difference between a twig or child falling in the water. It activates almost immediately, and when it does it communicates with the unit inside the house to give off a high decibel alarm. Because when toddlers fall in a swimming pool, every second counts.

The modern compact fluorescent bulb has been on the market for over 20 years. So it’s no surprise that they’re one of the simplest things that you can do to make a green impact in your home. In fact, if every home in the U.S. were to replace just one bulb with a CFL, it would be equal to eliminating the omission of one million cars.

Of course you have to be prepared to pay just a little bit more for CFLs. But what I like to tell people is that green living starts with little baby steps. Replace just one bulb every other week or so until all of your bulbs are CFLs.

Of course even the long lasting bulbs will burn out one day, so keep in mind that they do contain small amounts of mercury, so don’t throw them in the trash can. Use a household hazardous waste collections service in your area to dispose of these bulbs.

Keeping our family safe is a priority for all of us, and that requires a little thought and effort to protect them. Some dangers, they’re obvious, like a fire or unprotected pool. But other things, like household contaminants, scalding water, and carbon monoxide poisoning are just as dangerous. But it takes a little more of our attention to identify and prevent them.

I realize what we talked about this week would be considered glamorous home improvement, but it’s so important. And really part of having a family and having a safe home. Now nothing we talked about will cost a lot of money, take a lot of time, or require a lot of skill, but it’s so worth it.

So there’s a lot of other ways you can keep your family safe. We have those listed on our website attodayshomeowner.com.

Hey, thanks for being with us here on Today’s Homeowner. We’ll see you next week.



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