Residential Safety

Residential Safety

Residential Safety Checklist: Ozark Border wants to make sure you are careful so print this checklist and make sure your home is electrically safe.

  • Outlets — Check for outlets that have loose-fitting plugs, which can overheat and lead to fire. Replace any missing or broken wall plates. Make sure there are safety covers on all unused outlets that are accessible to children. CORDS
  • Cords — Make sure cords are in good condition - not frayed or cracked. Make sure they are placed out of traffic areas. Cord should never be nailed or stapled to the wall, baseboard or to another object. Do not place cords under carpets or rugs or rest any furniture on them.
  • Extension Cords — Check to see that the cords are not overloaded. Additionally, extension cords should only be used on a temporary basis; they are not intended as permanent household wiring. Make sure extension cords have safety closures to help prevent young children from shock hazards and mouth burn injuries.
  • Plugs — Make sure your plugs fit your outlets. Never remove the ground pin (the third prong) to make a three-prong plug fit a two-conductor outlet; this could lead to an electrical shock. NEVER FORCE A PLUG INTO AN OUTLET IF IT DOESN'T FIT. Plugs should fit securely into outlets. Avoid overloading outlets with too many appliances.
  • Ground FAult Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) — GFCIs can help prevent electrocution. They should be used in any area where water and electricity may come into contact. When a GFCI senses current leakage in an electrical circuit, it assumes a ground fault has occurred. It then interrupts power fast enough to help prevent serious injury from electrical shock. Test GFCIs regularly according to the manufacturer's instructions to make sure they are working properly.
  • Light Bulbs — Check the wattage of all bulbs in light fixtures to make sure they are the correct wattage for the size of the fixture. Replace bulbs that have higher wattage than recommended; if you don't know the correct wattage, check with the manufacturer of the fixture. Make sure bulbs are screwed in securely; loose bulbs may overheat.
  • Circuit Breakers/Fuses — Circuit breakers and fuses should be the correct size current rating for their circuit. If you do not know the correct size, have an electrician identify and label the size to be used. Always replace a fuse with the same size fuse.
  • Water and Electricity Don't Mix — Don't leave plugged in appliances where they might come into contact with water. If a plugged in appliance falls into water, NEVER reach in to pull it out - even if it's turned off. First turn off the power source at the panel board and then unplug the appliance. If you have an appliance that has gotten wet, don't use it until it has been checked by a qualified repair person.

  • Appliances — If an appliance repeatedly blows a fuse, trips a circuit breaker, or if it has given you a shock, unplug it and have it repaired or replaced.
  • Entertainment/Computer Equipment — Check to see that the equipment is in good condition and working properly; look for cracks or damage in wiring, plugs, and connectors. Use a surge protector bearing the seal of a nationally recognized certification agency.
  • Outdoor Safety — Electric-powered mowers and other tools should not be used in the rain, on wet grass or in wet conditions. Inspect power tools and electric lawn mowers before each use for frayed power cords, broken plugs, and cracked or broken housings. If damaged, stop using it immediately. Repair it or replace it. Always use an extension cord marked for outdoor use and rated for the power needs of your tools. Remember to unplug all portable power tools when not in use. Since metal ladders conduct electricity, watch out for overhead wires and power lines.
  • Lightning — During an electrical storm, do not use appliances (i.e. hairdryers, toasters, radios) or telephones (except in an emergency); do not take a bath or shower, keep batteries on hand for flashlights and radios in case of a power outage; and use surge protectors on electronic devices and appliances.
  • Space Heaters — Space heaters are meant to supply supplemental heat. Keep space heaters at least three feet away from any combustible materials such as bedding, clothing, draperies, furniture and rugs. Don't use in rooms where children are unsupervised and remember to turn off and unplug when not in use.
  • Halogen Floor Lamps — Halogen floor lamps operate at much higher temperatures than a standard incandescent light bulb. Never place a halogen floor lamp where it could come in contact with draperies, clothing or other combustible materials. Be sure to turn the lamp off whenever you leave the room for an extended period of time and never use torchiere lamps in children's bedrooms or playrooms.
  • Trees — Planning on planting a tree? Look up! Don't dig that hole under a power line, or even near it. Remember that little seedlings will someday have big branches that can tangle in power lines. And if branches break in a windstorm or bend down in an ice storm, they can interrupt service for you and others on the line. Ozark Border spends thousands of dollars every year just trimming trees which threaten service. So plan ahead when you plant trees. With a little foresight, we can enjoy them without risk.
  • Air Leaks — Caulking and weather stripping work well for stopping drafts that you feel near your windows and doors during winter. Caulking is for any stationary joint and weather stripping is for the moving joints of doors and windows.

For air-tightening, you want to caulk from your home's interior. Standard acrylic latex caulking or siliconized acrylic latex are good choices for interior caulking. Before caulking around window or door casing or baseboard, make sure that these trim boards aren't loose. If they are loose, re nail them with finish nails. A cleverly placed finish nail may be the best way to close a large crack.

The caulking of cracks in unseen areas is just as important as caulking around baseboards and trim. Look for cracks and holes in closets and thoroughly inspect under cabinets, behind furniture and at the floor-wall junction under the baseboard.

Caulk your home's exterior only for stopping rain. The areas most needing caulking are the door and window frames where these trim boards meet the siding. You don't want to seal joints in the siding itself because it needs to move and breathe.

Weather stripping doors can slow drafts if you take the time to do a good job. Before weather stripping, make sure that the door latches properly and that all the hardware is firmly attached. Look first at the hinges to see if there are any loose screws. Then check the doorknob and latch. Does the door move back and forth while latched? If so, you may need to move the strike plate – the latch attached to the doorjamb – to prevent the door from moving while closed.

Choose a high-quality door weather strip that will allow some movement because doors expand and contract with seasonal changes in temperature and humidity. Cut the pieces carefully so they meet at the corners. Install a sweep or door shoe at the bottom of the door where it meets the threshold. A good weather stripping job will also keep dust from blowing into the home.

  • Moisture, A Cause for Health/Home Problems — Too much moisture in a home can lead to mold, mildew and other biological growth. This in turn can lead to a variety of health problems ranging from more common allergic reactions, to asthma attacks and hypersensitivity pneumonitits, for example. Excess moisture can be caused by humidity generated by people and their activities such as showers, cooking or drying clothes. Water can also come from plumbing leaks, wet boots and clothing or splashing around sinks. Moisture can travel with infiltrating outdoor air through walls or the foundation. In addition to health problems, high relative humidity or water that enters building cavities that is not allowed to dry quickly can lead to rot, structural damage and premature paint failure.

Methods to control moisture include building an energy-efficient home with proper air sealing, proper use of vapor barriers and good ventilation. The entire building envelope, from the foundation to the roof, should be designed to not only prevent moisture entry, but also to allow any moisture which does enter to escape. People and their activities in a home are big sources of moisture and proper ventilation is important.

There are a variety of ways to control moisture in the home. Here are a few strategies:

  • Manage water outside the foundation

The ground around the home's foundation should be graded to slope down and away from the house at a rate of 1/2 inch to 1 inch per linear foot to drain surface water away from the house. Water from down spouts should be directed away from the house and test any underground drains with a hose to make sure they are working properly. Check that driveways, sidewalks and patios slope down and away from foundation walls. In extreme cases, you may have to dig out around the foundation and replace the fill with an exterior drain tile and with a good draining material like clean gravel. Because this can be very expensive in existing homes, you should get a few opinions as to whether this is necessary. In some areas, there may not be enough room outside the dwelling to provide proper drainage - in these cases, it is often recommended that interior drain tile and a sump pump be installed to remove water from basements and crawlspaces. This also can be very expensive.

  • Manage water inside basements or crawl spaces
    If the basement or crawl space has a dirt floor, cover it with 6 mil poly, overlapping edges by at least 12 inches. Seal any cracks or joints in the foundation wall or slab with an electrometric caulk.
  • Use good construction techniques to control water, air movement, vapor diffusion and condensation.
    Reduce the likelihood that warm, moist air will come in contact with cold surfaces, leading to condensation, mold growth and rot. This includes controlling air movement and using vapor barriers on the warm side of walls and roofs. Proper flashing and drainage should be used to keep rainwater out. There are different ways to achieve this depending on the climate.
  • Roofs
    It is important that the roof and flashing effectively keep water out of the house. It is also important that the roof and attic design avoid condensation buildup in spaces in the house. There is no single strategy that will work for all houses in all climate conditions. The important considerations are preventing movement of moisture from the warm side to the cold side of the house and managing moisture which does pass through the building envelope to prevent condensation.
  • Ensure the home is properly ventilated with at least exhaust fans in the bathroom and kitchen and preferably a mechanical system designed to ventilate the entire house.
    High relative humidity can lead to problems with mold, dust mites and other biological pollutants. Using exhaust fans in the bathrooms and kitchen can remove much of the moisture that builds up from everyday activities and help to keep humidity below 50 percent. There are exhaust fans on the market that produce little noise, an important consideration for some people. Another benefit to using kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans is that they can also exhaust odors and pollutants from these rooms.
  • Size Air-Conditioning Equipment correctly More is not always better.
    Incorrectly sized equipment can lead to operational problems and higher costs. Oversized air conditioning systems can “short-cycle” leading to rapid cooling without reducing indoor humidity levels. This can lead to a variety of problems associated with high relative humidity. Heat gain and heat loss should be determined for each house. Correct refrigerant charge and proper maintenance are also necessary for optimum performance of air conditioners.
  • Low Relative Humidity
    Below 30 percent relative humidity, people can be uncomfortable and can suffer from dry mucus membranes that can lead to nosebleeds and infections. In general, low relative humidity is only a problem during the winter months, when the outside air contains very little moisture. It is this dry outside air entering the home through cracks and openings in the building shell that causes the inside air to become dry. The greater the amount of outside air which leaks into the house, the dryer the indoor air becomes.