Obviously, there are countless things you should know about your home. The more you know about how your home operates, the better prepared you will be for upcoming maintenance or replacement, and the better you will be able to deal with emergencies.
Here are a few of the basic things every homeowner absolutely should know to prevent everyday hazards and keep everyone safe.
Know Your Exit Plan
One of the most important things you should know about your home is how to get out of it. In case of a fire or another emergency, how are you going to get to safety? Be sure that every bedroom has at least one exit identified that leads directly outside. If you live in a 2-story home, invest in a fire safety ladder for each bedroom, and take the time to learn to use it so you can quickly react in an emergency.
You should also have a family plan to stay safe in any type of disaster. Ready.gov is a great resource to help you make plans for all types of emergencies as well as how to educate your children to stay safe.
Be Sure Your Smoke Detectors Are Working
According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly three of five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.
Smoke detectors don't last forever. Most will sound an alarm when they need batteries, or when they need to be replaced; however, you should not count on that happening. You should check each smoke alarm once a month to be sure it's working properly. Experts also recommend that you replace smoke detectors at least every 10 years.
How to test your smoke detector? Either push the “test” button on your alarm, or light and blow out a match just below the alarm to test it.
If you just moved into your new home, it's a good idea to start fresh with new smoke detectors.
Be Sure Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors Work
Carbon monoxide can be produced by any fuel-burning device. Three main sources are your home’s furnace, dryer vent in a drying machine, and fireplace or chimney. It is important to have these sources regularly serviced and cleaned by a professional to help prevent any issues.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a silent killer. You can't smell it or see it, so it's really important to ensure your CO detectors are working properly. While you’re checking your smoke detectors monthly, give your CO detectors a good press too. Many devices will have an end-of-life alarm, but experts recommend replacing them after five years.
Again, if you just moved into your new home, replacement is in order.
Know How To Use Your Fire Extinguisher
Read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher and become familiar with its parts and operation before a fire breaks out. The National Fire Protection Association provides easy instructions for how to operate a fire extinguisher as well as when to use and when to get out of the house.
Know How To Shut Off Your Main Electricity Flow
You, and all adult family members, should know how to turn off your home’s electricity flow for maintenance and safety reasons. During a natural disaster or a gas leak, shutting off your home's electricity can avoid further damage to your property and keep your family safe.
To shut off the electrical power to your entire house, locate the main electrical panel (it pays to know where this is before you need it!) and flip the main circuit breakers at the top (usually a pair) to OFF. For your safety, always shut off all the individual circuits before shutting off the main circuit.
Know How To Shut Off Your Main Water Flow
As real estate professionals we know that water causes more damage in homes than anything else. It's amazing how quickly a cracked pipe or running toilet can cause major damage to your home. Quickly turning off the water in a plumbing emergency is the key to minimizing the damage.
Your main water shut-off valve is most likely located close to your water heater and may have a bright red handle, but it could be in other locations and not as obvious, so it's important for all family members to know where it is and how to shut it off prior to having an emergency.
Know What To Do If You Smell Gas
If you smell gas or hear a blowing or hissing noise, open a window and get everyone out quickly. Turn off the gas, using the outside main valve, if you can, and then call the gas company from outside the home to report the problem.
Because there are different gas shut-off procedures for different gas meter configurations, it is important to contact your local gas company for the proper shut-off procedure for your meter. If you turn off the gas for any reason, a qualified professional must turn it back on. NEVER attempt to turn the gas back on yourself.
These are very important safety precautions and procedures everyone in your family should know about. Get together with your family members and walk through each of these procedures so that in an emergency everyone can react quickly and knows what to do to stay safe.