Home Safety: How to Prevent Environmental Hazards
Environmental hazards (e.g. flooding, carbon monoxide poisoning, etc.) strike suddenly, resulting in loss of possessions, costly repairs and health risks. That’s why homeowners must prepare for the unexpected when it comes to safeguarding their families and property.
Fortunately, security solutions can help homeowners accurately detect environmental threats so they can prevent or mitigate damages.
This guide is designed to help homeowners identify and reduce environmental hazards. Below, we discuss common environmental hazards and methods for creating a safer home.
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Home safety begins with awareness. Below, we overview some of the most common environmental hazards and highlight the seriousness of these risks with real-life examples.
Residential house fires are both dangerous and costly. According to the most recent data collected by the U.S. Fire Administration, there were an estimated 371,500 home fires in 2017. These fires resulted in:
- 2,695 deaths.
- 10,825 injuries.
- $7.8 billion in damages.
While cooking, heating, carelessness and electrical malfunction are some of the leading causes of residential fires, natural disasters like lightning can also be a cause for concern. For example, officials believe lightning from a storm caused a fire that destroyed a Missouri home.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
The “silent killer,” carbon monoxide (CO), is a deadly poison that has no odor, color or taste. As a result, it often takes victims by surprise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- At least 430 people die in the U.S. as a result of unintentional consumption of the gas each year.
- Nearly 50,000 people visit the emergency room due to accidental CO poisoning.
- More than 4,000 people are hospitalized after CO exposure.
CO is found in the fumes from burning fuel in appliances like furnaces, stoves and portable generators, or by burning charcoal and wood. CO becomes poisonous and sometimes deadly when the gas builds up in enclosed spaces.
For example, Michigan police found two people dead after CO from a generator and portable heater filled the house they were sleeping in. In another instance, an Ohio family died from CO poisoning after a tankless water heater began leaking the gas at high levels.
Floods are extremely dangerous and costly. Drying a flooded basement can cost $500-$10,000 or more, depending on the size of the space, the depth of the flooding and the type of water (clean, gray wastewater or toxic).
Floods are most often caused by heavy rainfall. For example, around two to three inches of heavy rain flooded streets and neighborhoods in Starkville, Mississippi. In another example, heavy rainfall broke the windows of this North Dakota man’s home, filling his basement with six feet of water.
Pipe bursts are another major environmental hazard threatening homeowners. A little water can cause some heavy damage. Even small drips can destroy your home’s foundation and lead to bigger problems.
There are four primary causes of pipe bursts in homes:
- Frozen Pipes
- Moving Pipes
- Water Pressure
Damage from a burst water pipe can cost $5,000-$70,000 or more, with an average insurance claim costing $15,000. In fact, 250 gallons of water can leak from a ?-inch pipe crack in a day.
But, it’s not just your pipes you need to worry about. City water mains and drainage pipes are also a cause for concern. For example, several Pennsylvania homes flooded after a break in the water main. According to the article, one homeowner said there were two to three inches of water on their first floor and two to three feet of water in their basement.
According to a report, nearly 27 million people were affected by 3,526 blackouts lasting an average of 81 minutes per power outage in 2017. There are several circumstances that cause power outages, including:
- Lightning: Utility poles, wires, transformers and other electrical equipment are easy targets for lightning strikes, causing severe damage and loss of power. Lightning also frequently strikes trees, causing tree limbs or even large trees to fall onto utility lines.
- Rain and flooding: Heavy rain and melting snow can cause flooding in some areas. Flooding can damage both overhead and underground electrical equipment.
- Snow and ice: Winter storms are a threat to electrical equipment when snow and ice build up on power lines and cause wires to break. Tree limbs also become heavy with snow and ice, causing them to break and fall into power lines.
- Wind: High winds may cause power lines to swing together, resulting in a fault or short circuit that interrupts service.
For example, an Alabama power company said more than 180,000 of its customers lost power due to the line of deadly storms that passed through the state. This poses a severe threat to homeowners because it can cause system downtime and lapses in communication for emergency services.
Fires, floods, gas leaks, freezes and power outages can be costly for those who are unequipped. Smart homeowners should protect their loved ones while also safeguarding their property with the appropriate environmental hazards equipment.
Here are four critical items homeowners need for optimal protection against environmental hazards.
1. Monitored Fire Protection Solutions
To save precious seconds during an emergency, install a monitored fire protection solution.
In the event of a fire, a monitored solution will:
- Sound an audible alarm at the first sign of smoke or fire so you can evacuate quickly.
- Send a signal to a monitoring center, where operators are available 24/7.
- Help the operator verify the alarm and contact your local fire department within moments.
In addition to professional monitoring through a central station, you can also receive alerts straight to your smartphones, tablets or computers. This way, you are connected to your home even when you’re away.
2. Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Choose a detector that notifies not only you, but also a professional monitoring center. Monitored carbon monoxide detectors connect directly to your control panel and operate 24/7, whether your system is armed or not. This extra protection ensures emergency services are notified and your family receives help should your home be affected by carbon monoxide.
3. Water Leak Sensors
While flooding is extremely costly, about 93 percent of all water damage is preventable with equipment like water leak sensors. These sensors help limit damage by alerting you to flooding in your home.
If you have a basement, a water leak sensor is a must. Consider installing water sensors in other flood-prone areas, too, such as kitchens and bathrooms.
The key to protecting your home is to detect water damage early. The earlier you catch accumulated water from leaking pipes or heavy rainfall, the less damage is caused. Ensure your water sensors send alerts to your phone so you’re immediately notified of a hazardous situation. This way, you can quickly address the leak and call a professional to fix the problem.
4. Low Temperature Sensors
Frozen pipes are an expensive mess for homeowners.
To avoid costly repairs, install low temperature sensors in bathrooms, basements and any other areas with exposed water pipes. This way, you’re notified if temperatures fall to an unsafe level.
For even more protection, consider incorporating a smart thermostat in your program. This device sends you low temperature threshold alerts when your home has become too cold and pipes are at risk.
Environmental emergency situations can occur with little-to-no warning. Don’t get caught off guard. Follow these tips to stay safe during an emergency.
Choose a Security System with Battery Backup
When evaluating home security systems, select one that has a backup battery. In the event of a power outage, the system will simply switch over to battery mode until electricity kicks back in, keeping it fully operational. Then, once the power is restored, your system will recharge and function as usual.
Keep in mind that backup batteries won't work forever; most will run out in 24 hours. Ask your provider what the expected battery life is for your system, and plan accordingly. You may want to purchase an additional battery to have around the house should you experience a prolonged outage. You may also select an alarm system that uses backup cellular, radio or Internet service. This way, your monitoring service is uninterrupted in the event of a phone line outage.
Is Your Security System Beeping?
With the loss and gain of power, some systems may start beeping. While the shrill sound of a continuously beeping alarm is extremely annoying, it could be warning you of a faulty system—which is a significant danger to your home.
If your security system is beeping, view this article to learn some troubleshooting tips for appropriately silencing your alarm system.
Build an Emergency Kit
Natural disasters threaten your home’s foundation. While you can’t fight nature, you can decrease the likelihood of damage.
Compile basic items you may need in an emergency so they’re easily accessible. It will be too late to do so once you receive a warning of a natural disaster.
Include the following in your emergency kit:
- Water (one gallon per person per day).
- Non-perishable food (packaged or canned, and a non-electric can opener).
- Battery powered radio, flashlights and batteries.
- A list of emergency contacts.
- Change of clothing.
- First aid kit.
- Dust mask.
- Phone charger.
- Food and extra water for your pet.
Natural disasters and emergency situations can materialize with little-to-no warning. Don’t be unprepared when the unexpected happens. The right emergency supplies can make all the difference.
Assist First Responders During Emergencies
Emergency personnel, like your local firemen and police officers, work 24/7 to protect you, your home and your community. Make their jobs easier with the following tips:
- Clearly display your home’s address. A clearly displayed house number helps emergency personnel find your home when you’re in need. Walk across the street, and drive by your home in both directions to confirm your house number is visible.
- Warn emergency personnel of pets. Provide ample warning of pets on the premises with signs and decals so first responders can prepare and enter your home accordingly. Proper signage alerts personnel to look for your pets during emergencies to bring them to safety. It also leads to a safer situation for responders. While your pets may be friendly and well-behaved to you, they can threaten the work of emergency personnel.
- Have an In Case of Emergency (ICE) number. ICE numbers help emergency responders notify a designated contact of your situation in the event you are unable to do so yourself. Add a new contact to your phone and label it “ICE.” Put this same person’s contact information in your wallet close to your identification.
Proactively addressing these three items will help emergency personnel respond to your situation.
Fires, gas leaks, floods and power outages can destroy your property, while also threatening the safety of your family. Our environmental hazard monitoring solutions detect threats and alert you immediately so you can quickly take action.
Contact us today to learn more about our environmental hazard monitoring solutions.