21 Tips to Keep You and Your Family Safe

Your home is your haven. But it can also hold some unexpected dangers. Fires, thefts, falls, poisonings, and natural disasters are just a few of the perils that can threaten your wellbeing, both at home at when you’re out and about. That’s why we pooled an array of experts to get their best recommendations to help you and your loved ones stay safe.

Prevent Fires

  1. Keep these kitchen tools away from the flames. It’s all too easy for a misplaced dishtowel, potholder, paper towel roll, or even a wooden spoon to catch fire while you’re cooking. That’s why Safe Kids Worldwide, located in Washington, D.C., stresses the importance of storing these and other items far away from your stovetop.
  2. Keep a fire extinguisher within arm’s reach while you cook, and make sure you know how to use it properly. If there is a fire, you don’t want to waste precious time searching for—and figuring out how to use—this must-have item, says Safe Kids Worldwide.
  3. Place fire alarms on every floor, paying careful attention to the areas where you sleep. It’s also important to test the batteries every six months, and to replace the devices every 10 years or so to ensure proper functioning, according to Peter Duncanson, Director of Disaster Restoration Training and Operations for ServiceMaster Restore, headquartered in in Memphis, Tennessee.
  4. Create a full-scale safety plan. This should "incorporate every imaginable scenario and involve the entire family—with everyone clear on their roles," says William Barnes, Jr., president, Interstate Fire & Safety Equipment Company Inc., in Harrison, NY. The plan should include information on how you will exit your home during a fire, and how and where to get help, for instance.

Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

  1. Place a carbon monoxide alarm on every floor of your home; on the floors where family members sleep, alarms should be located near bedrooms. Safe Kids Worldwide also suggests testing alarms periodically (most alarms have a button just for this) to make sure the alarm is working properly—and that you’ll recognize the sound.
  2. When warming up your car in the winter, always check your exhaust pipe to make sure it is not blocked before you enter your vehicle. In a snowstorm, it’s crucial to always clear snow from the exhaust pipe before stepping inside a running car.
  3. Be sure to remove your vehicle from your garage as soon as you turn the car on. Even if the garage doors are open, running a vehicle in the enclosed space poses a serious risk.

Prevent Poisoning

  1. Always follow directions when taking medications. It may sound obvious, but ignoring dosing directions can alter a medication’s effectiveness and even cause ill effects. When dispensing liquid medication, always use a proper medication-measuring device, Safe Kids Worldwide warns. It’s easy to make a potentially dangerous mistake when using a kitchen spoon or other utensil.
  2. Never store cleaning products in food or drink containers. It’s all too easy to pour cleaning products into empty two-liter soda bottles, but if you don’t mark them as hazardous, others—including your children—could ingest them.

Prevent Falls

  1. Use gates to help prevent babies, toddlers, and pets from falling down the stairs or from getting into areas that aren’t safe. But since not all gates are created equal, and an ill-fitting or improperly installed gate can pose its own risks, Safe Kids Worldwide recommends that you check the manufacturer’s information and directions, or consult with a safety expert.
  2. Fall-proof your bathroom. Adults—especially older ones—can also be prone to falls in the home. "To make it safer, remove rugs that could cause slips or trips and replace them with non-slip mats, especially around the shower or bathtub," advises Richard Frank, MD, medical director for Medicare programs at Anthem, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky. "Similarly, place non-skid suction mats, strips, and decals to the floor of the shower or bathtub."
  3. "Keep the porch, deck, walkways, and driveway free of leaves, snow, trash, or clutter and in good repair, and use non-slip paint on outdoor steps." This can reduce falls, Frank says. As a spokesperson for Edgar Snyder & Associates, a personal injury law firm based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania points out, "Careless oversights made by property owners can quickly turn into dangerous situations for guests. By protecting guests from injury, homeowners are also protecting themselves from liability and possible legal consequences."

Prevent Theft

  1. Don’t advertise your out-of-town trip to strangers. Keep your curtains open and use a timer for your lights to mislead anyone who might be casing your home, says Elli Bishop, safety and security expert at SafeWise.com, a home safety system information website based in Salt Lake City. Note that there is one group who should be informed of your plans: Your neighbors. Let them know you will be away, so they can be on the lookout for any suspicious activity in your yard. For extended absences, you might also let the local police or neighborhood yard watch know your home will be vacant.
  2. "Never post your location in real time on social media." As Jennifer Cassetta, CN, CPT, a safety and self-defense expert in Los Angeles explains, "If you’re heading on vacation, wait until you come back to post all of your pictures, so potential criminals won't know your schedule."
  3. Don’t share your daily schedule online. This puts you at risk of robbery, Cassetta points out. And "If you have kids, be sure to monitor their social media accounts, too—or at the very least, instill some safety tips in them," she adds.

Prepare for Natural Disasters

  1. Get ready. When there’s the risk of a snowstorm, hurricane, or other weather-related danger, take simple steps, "such as fastening the roof to the home frame, boarding up windows, turning off electric and gas appliances, and ensuring rain gutters are clear to drain the water in order to prevent costly damage to property," advises Duncanson.
  2. Make note of the essentials. Duncanson recommends taking pictures and making lists of your most important possessions. This will be invaluable if you have to submit an insurance claim later.
  3. Stay on top of documents. "Review insurance policies and important homeowner documents every year, saving electronic copies in your email files so you can easily access them if the originals or hard copies are destroyed," Duncanson adds.
  4. Stock up on the basics. "When preparing for something that could likely uproot your family, be sure to have at least one week’s worth of the basics: water, non-perishable food, medicine and clothing," he says.

Safeguard Yourself in Public Places

  1. Take a snapshot. "When you enter a new office building or sizable complex like a mall, use your phone to get a picture of the mall's store guide and the fire escape," says Paul Purcell, a terrorism and natural disaster preparedness trainer located in Atlanta, and the author of Disaster Prep 101. "If something happens, you'll want to know how to get where you need to go."
  2. Take note of the exits. Purcell points out that when in such locations, you should also "make it a habit to notice the location of emergency items or assets such as the security office, fire extinguishers, AEDs [automated external defibrillators], emergency exits, etc.," so you can make your escape quickly and safely.

Jennifer Cassetta, CN, CPT, reviewed this article.


Barnes, William Jr. Interstate Fire & Safety Equipment Company, Inc. Email interview, June 15, 2015.

Bishop, Elli. Safewise.com. Email interview, June 15, 2015.

Frank, Richard, MD. Anthem. Email interview, June 15, 2015.

Purcell, Paul. Email interview, June 15, 2015.

Edgar Snyder & Associates. Email interview, June 15, 2015.

Cassetta, Jennifer CN, CPT. Email interview, June 15, 2015.

Duncanson, Peter. ServiceMaster Restore. Email interview, June 15, 2015.

"Home Safety Tips." Safe Kids Worldwide. Accessed online June 13, 2015.