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6 Must-Have Safety Items for Every Home

6 Must-Have Safety Items for Every Home

By: Amy Roberts

It's shocking but true: according to a 2011 Columbia University survey, respondents not only failed to have a plan for home emergencies but they also didn't have basic items, like flashlights and water, set aside. Yet house fires, power outages, and extreme weather are all real threats for many Americans. We don't always think about what we need to do to prepare for emergencies until it's too late. To make sure you're prepared with an emergency response plan, take inventory of your home and be sure you have these necessary supplies to keep your loved ones safe and sound in the face of common home hazards:

1. Risk detectors.
Risk detectors should be installed to alert for both smoke and carbon monoxide. Interconnected detectors are a good idea, so if one is triggered on the first floor, you'll hear the alarm upstairs. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) advises changing batteries every six months and sounding the alert monthly to test it and so that everyone will recognize it. Many detectors themselves also lose their sensitivity over time, and should therefore be replaced every decade, or as directed by a marked expiration date.

2. Fire extinguishers.
Store multi-purpose A-B-C extinguishers in accessible locations in case a small, contained fire breaks out. More importantly, the USFA stresses that you take the time to learn how to use them, and especially where to aim at the base of the flames. Keep an eye on the extinguishers expiration dates and pressure gauges and replace as indicated.

3. A first aid kit.
A first aid kit will include basic wound-dressing supplies and the like, but you should add extra essential medications required by any family members. The American Red Cross has guidelines on the items to include and quantities based on how large your family is. Restock as supplies are used or expire, and include emergency phone numbers where you store the kit to be prepared. It's also smart for at least one adult in the house get first aid- and CPR-certified through a respected agency such as the Red Cross, American Heart Association, or your local fire or police department.

4. Battery-powered flashlights and a radio.
In case of a power outage, make sure you have battery-powered light sources (at least one for every member of the family) and a way to get updates from news sources and government officials. Keep extra batteries on hand as well, or consider crank-powered wind-up devices.

5. Food and water supplies.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that you have enough bottled water (one gallon per person per day) and canned or other nonperishable food items for all household members for at least three days. If you have pets make sure to keep a supply of their food as well. Keep your stash in a cool, dry place, and check it every six months (when you change your smoke detector batteries) to replace anything that's expired. And don't forget to include a manual can opener with your supplies.

6. An emergency game plan.
While not technically a supply, its essential that all family members know what to do if you need to leave your home because of fire, flood, or other emergency. But, more than half of U.S. households lack an emergency preparedness plan. Plan an escape route with a meeting spot outdoors, and discuss with family and friends where you will go in the event of an evacuation. You should also make sure everyone in the family is knowledgeable about where your home emergency supplies are stored.

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