Is Your Home An Accident Waiting To Happen?

sprinkler

Carpets, power-cords and sprinklers may not be as harmless as they look.

They are among the household objects responsible for the most garden and home-related Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) claims – along with the more obvious items, such as ladders, chainsaws and hammers.

Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of dangerous objects, a sprinkler and a bit of carpet aren’t the first things that spring to mind.

But they are responsible for many trips and slips – nearly half of all home injuries are caused by falls and it’s not just those in their early and twilight years that make up those numbers.

People aged between 25 and 64 make up a large percentage of all falls in the home.

Figures released this week by the ACC show gardening was behind 56,282 claims submitted last year – worth a massive $49 million and up from 54,516 the previous year.

A sprinkler was the cause of 52 claims. One unlucky sprinkler user “tripped over the hose, missed step onto path and jarred [their] knee and hip” after just switching on a sprinkler.

Looks like the sprinkler and hose aren’t such an innocent pair after all.

We all know the old adage that more people are injured at home than anywhere else so here’s some advice* from ACC about how to reduce the risks.

*Most of the advice is just a lot of common sense, so we’ve compiled a list of a few things that could strike a cord (not literally, obviously).

How to reduce the risks…

Bathroom

About 40 per cent of homes have dangerously hot water, meaning there are more than 560,000 hot water burns waiting to happen…

The ideal temperature for water is 55°C when it comes out of the tap, and 60°C in your cylinder.

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It needs to be at least 60°C in the cylinder to keep bacteria from growing, which could make you sick.

Get your hot water checked by a registered plumber to ensure it’s at the right temperature.

Electrical cords

Never leave a cord hanging over the edge of a kitchen bench or table where a child could pull the appliance down on themselves.

Laundry

Put dirty laundry in a hamper so it’s not on the floor creating a tripping hazard.

Try not to install cupboards at head-height above the washing machine – hitting your head every time you do a load of washing can’t be good for the old noggin.

Kitchen

Take your time – so often we’re rushing around cooking meals and that’s when injuries happen. Slow down and be safe.

Keep pets and small children away from the kitchen – as much for your own sake as theirs. Pets and kids milling about on the floor are responsible for many a trip in the kitchen (in our house anyway…).

When building or redesigning a kitchen, don’t make the kitchen a travel route to other parts of the house, or the only route to the backyard – you don’t want it to be a ‘high traffic’ area.

Floors

Firmly anchor rugs so they don’t slide or bunch up and cause you to fall.

rug

Keep clutter and cords out of your way.


Go to the ACC website for more tips on home safety. 

Do you have any helpful tips for avoiding injuries in the home? Or something you wish you had or hadn’t done before you had an injury at home?

Let us know in the comments below or on our NZ and AU Facebook pages.

Burglary: Tips to protect your home

It’s a horrible feeling. Getting home and realising something’s amiss. “I’m sure I didn’t leave that stuff out all over the counter…” “Hang on where’s the laptop?!”

And then it dawns on you: you’ve been burgled.

Your home ransacked. Precious family keepsakes, jewellery passed down from relatives, photos – all snatched by thoughtless thieves.

Burglary by numbers

You can now see the number of burglaries committed in your neighbourhood in a new interactive map, created by the NZ Herald using data released by the New Zealand Police for the first time.

It’s sobering viewing.

Part of Auckland’s Takanini South holds the title of the most burgled residential neighbourhood in New Zealand. Residents there have to make sure they lock up the whole house just to nip to the loo – because burglars will rush in and grab stuff in seconds.

Learning the hard way…

As someone who’s been burgled twice, in two different areas, I know how angry these people must be feeling.

One thing I’ve learned the hard way is not to keep precious mementos, such as cards from loved ones or newborn hospital wristbands, in jewellery boxes or anything that a burglar is likely to make a beeline for. These things are worthless to a thief but they’re not going to waste time removing them.

And print out your photos or save them in a dropbox. It may sound like an obvious one but I’m willing to bet a lot of people have snaps sitting on a laptop or phone that aren’t saved anywhere else. We lost hundreds of photos because we had left them on our laptops and SD cards that burglars proceeded to pinch.

It maddens me that I should even have to consider where I’m keeping things in my own home just in case someone decides to help themselves to my stuff but I’d rather be cautious than go through that all over again.

S2QPBLPTL5
You can replace possessions but not your family and pets.

Our dog was home the second time we were burgled – we found him in the corner of the living room afterwards and it’s taken him a long time to get over it. I hate to think what happened to him but am so glad he was still there when we got home.

As upset as we were to lose precious family photos and jewellery, the relief that our dog was ok, did put it all in perspective. You can replace most possessions but not your family and pets.


The NZ Police offers this advice for keeping your home safe:

How to protect your home

  • Always lock up. Burglars often enter through unlocked doors and windows or they take advantage of weak locks.
  • Install good quality locks and use them. Check that you will be able to escape easily in a fire or other emergency.
  • Use a reputable locksmith.
  • Lock the front door if you’re in the back garden.
  • Lock your house if you are having a rest or doing something that needs a lot of concentration, such as studying or sewing.
  • Lock away tools and ladders because burglars could use them to break in.
  • Lock garden sheds and your garage if you can.
  • Sensor lights are an excellent security device because they light up automatically if somebody moves nearby.
  • Keep trees and shrubs trimmed so they don’t provide hiding places for burglars.
  • Keep windows secure.
  • Guard your keys. Don’t have personal details on your keys (such as your name, phone number or address). Don’t leave house keys with your car keys when your car is being serviced.
  • Don’t invite burglars in – never leave notes on a door stating that you are out.
  • When you go away, make sure your home looks ‘lived in’.

Home security checklists

Before you go out:

  • all doors locked
  • garage locked
  • all windows shut securely
  • tools and ladders put away securely
  • spare keys with neighbour (not ‘hidden’)
  • doors clear (no notes on them).

Before you go away:

  • tell your neighbour when and where you’re going
  • cancel mail, paper etc
  • give your neighbour a contact phone number
  • put a lamp on a timer
  • curtains open, blinds up
  • turn telephone ringer sound down
  • lock all doors, close all windows.

Ask your neighbour to:

  • clear your letterbox
  • close your curtains at night
  • use your clothesline occasionally
  • watch your home
  • use your driveway occasionally
  • report any suspicious behaviour.

Identify and mark your valuables

When claiming insurance you must be able to prove you owned any stolen items claimed for. Keep receipts, warranties, valuations and a list of serial numbers in a safe place. Take photographs or videos of jewellery, art works and other precious things. Portable items of high value are the most likely things to be stolen.

Burglars are unlikely to steal items that are permanently marked because they’re hard to sell. Engrave valuable items with your driver licence number, car registration number or phone number.

If you have engraved your valuable property or recorded the serial numbers of items, Neighbourhood Support can provide you with a warning sticker to put on a window. The sticker will discourage most criminals from taking your property because they know there is a greater risk of getting caught or traced if they handle and attempt to sell identifiable goods.

Operation SNAP

Anyone is able to record serial numbers and other unique identifying details of their valuable goods in an electronic database. For more information and to register your goods visit the Operation SNAP website.


Choosing an alarm

Alarms are only a back-up for locks, labels and lists. An alarm system can detect a burglar in action, but it can’t always keep the burglar out.

If you are considering an alarm, ask friends or colleagues to recommend a reliable company. When a security person arrives to inspect your property, ask to see their current Security Technician or Security Consultant Licence or Certificate of Approval. If they don’t have a licence, send them away. The law says they must be licensed.

Get detailed quotes and plans from several reputable alarm companies. Make sure your written contract contains a full service agreement. It must also contain normal warranties for equipment and service.

Don’t be pressured into buying something in a rush, or let a company ‘hard sell’ you an alarm system.

Fire safety campaign: a wrap up, and some important links

We’re nearing the end of the final, climatic week of our fire safety campaign, so it’s time to wrap everything up into one neat little package.

If you’re new, here’s what we’ve done so far:

So what’s the deal with our smoke alarm giveaway? Where we explain why we chose Cavius’ smoke detectors to give away as prizes. Over these past four weeks we’ve given away 36 with just four to go. Entries close Thursday 5pm; if you haven’t entered yet, just head to our Facebook page.

Fire safety in the home: Four key ingredients What four products/gizmos do you need to have in your house to minimise the risk, and effects, of a house fire? Click the link and all will be revealed.

Balloons Over Waikato gets a Chief response Not a great deal of fire safety information here, but rather an interesting interview with the pilot of a hot air balloon tribute to the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on 11 September, 2001. This was one of the star attractions at this year’s Balloons Over Waikato.

We’ll use this last post to alert you to a few more, very important, fire safety links worth reading.

Make your own escape plan

The Fire Service website has a feature where you can design and print off an escape plan for your home or office. It’s nice and easy to use: draw a map of your place, put in the walls, furniture, doors and windows, and use the arrows to point out the best escape points.

Here’s one I’ve done for my office:

Fire escape plan office

And here’s one I’ve done for Big Ted and Jemima et al:

Escape plan for Play School

Come on guys, get Firewise

firewise

You know the jingle, now check out the official website. Get Firewise contains a whole swag of free stuff for teachers, from pre-school to secondary, to help educate students about fire safety.

The website itself focuses mostly on the Year 1 and 2 programme. Topics include how to call 111, handing matches and lighters to adults, and what sound a fire alarm makes. Sounds simplistic, perhaps, but think back to when you were five and six – would you know what to do if you found a lighter on the floor, or if your toaster caught alight?

Fire Awareness and Intervention Programme (FAIP)

If you know children who have difficulty answering the above questions, this programme might be for them. FAIP is designed for people under 18 who have tendencies to inappropriately light fires.

This usually voluntary programme is delivered in the home by a trained firefighter over the course of several weeks, and it has a massive 98 percent success rate.

The last publicly available statistics on youth fire-lighting are from 2008 and they are, frankly, a little confusing. What is clear, however, is there are enough such incidents to keep the programme busy.

If you know of someone who would benefit from the programme you can download the referral form here. It’s effective, and it’s free.

Cavius Smoke Detectors

Cavius smoke alarm in hand

We gotta put in one more good word for these guys.

Cavius’ world’s smallest photoelectric smoke detectors are fantastic if you’re sick of false alarms, tired of paying for new batteries every year or you’re after an alarm that isn’t a complete eyesore.

Check out their website for more information on the detector and details of where you can buy some of your own. Thanks Cavius, especially Peter and Steve, for your support.

One more reason to take notice

Fire in Hamilton after

This recent Hamilton fire is, alas, a prime example of what we’re trying to help stamp out, as these excerpts illustrate:

A lighter left handy for child’s play sparked a fire that ripped into a Hamilton family home today and damaged the entire building.

No smoke detectors were installed and it is understood a four-year-old raised the alarm.

…”All she said she saw was a little flame on a blanket and she went to the bathroom to get a bucket of water to put it out,” Mr Aldridge said.

”By the time she got back it was up in flames. It happened that quick.”

A small fire can take hold so very quickly. Smoke detectors could have alerted the family – who were outside at the time – sooner. If the four year old had panicked, or the fire had started while people were asleep, who knows how bad the outcome might have been.

If you do nothing else, please buy and install smoke detectors. If you’re serious about both fire safety and avoiding false alarms, buy the photoelectric kind – the Fire Service recommends them and so do we.

We’ve heard, over the past four weeks, plenty of anecdotes from readers and Facebook followers about friends and families who either had lucky escapes or lost everything due to lack of preparation.

At Open2view we spend most of our working week inside your homes, so home safety is something we all care greatly about. We certainly hope you enjoyed this series of articles and learned a few new tricks. And if not, this song shall serve as punishment:

Fire safety in the home: four key ingredients

So you’ve read our previous blog and decided to buy some smoke detectors for your home. Good stuff. But is there more you can do? Other than ‘buy another smoke detector’? The answer is most definitely ‘yes’.

The NZ Fire Service website has a list of stuff you can get to protect your home from all sorts of fires. Other than the good ol’ smoke detector they also recommend sprinklers, fire extinguishers and fire blankets.

I must be honest and admit I hadn’t heard of the last one. What is it exactly? A blanket made entirely from fire? A visit to the New Zealand Fire Service website quickly set me straight. While I was there, I thought I’d take a look at their other recommended weapons in the ongoing fight against fire.

 

Smoke detectors

Cavius smoke alarm

Every home should have them. In fact, by law, every residential property owner has to have them installed – so if you’re renting, your landlord ought to have taken care of that for you. If you’ve moved in and found the previous tenants have nicked off with them, tell your landlord immediately.

So what are the best detectors to have? We’re not giving away Cavius’ photoelectric ones for nothing. Well in one sense we are (enter now!) but anyway, these kind of alarms (as we said in the last episode) detect smoldering fires better than their ionisation counterparts. Smoke can kill long before the fire itself – so having smoke detectors that, you know, detect smoke, is pretty vital.

That is not to say the other alarms are no good – any alarm is better than none. If money is the issue, consider this: while photoelectric detectors are more expensive up front, you ultimately pay around the same overall as you need to replace the battery far less often than with an ionisation detector. If you have them ‘hardwired’ – that is, connected to the mains – there’s no need for batteries at all.

Once you have your alarms it’s good to know where to install them. The Fire Service suggests on the ceilings of “every bedroom, living area and hallway”, and discourage putting them in the kitchen or bathroom, unless they’re specifically designed for those rooms.

 

Fire extinguishers

John Cena fire extinguisher

Don’t try this at home.

Want to stop a small fire from becoming a biggy? Fire extinguishers are handy in such cases.

They are not miracle workers though, which is why the Fire Service suggests not using one until everyone is evacuated. Better to stay alive and lose your house than die trying to be a hero.

They can also backfire badly if you use the wrong kind for the wrong fire. Check out the chart on this page for which extinguisher is best for you.

In short, the most likely scenario you’ll encounter – the ones that account for around 25 percent of all house fires – is a cooking oil or fat fire in the kitchen. In these cases you’ll want to use a wet chemical extinguisher. If you want to guard against all kinds of fires, buy yourself a dry powder extinguisher too. Keep them in or near the kitchen.

 

Sprinklers

Sprinklers are, as the Fire Service says, “like having a firefighter in every room” of your house. Even better, they’re far lower maintenance – and somewhat less creepy – than having an actual firefighter standing in every room of your house.

How effective are sprinklers? According to research I waded my way through (hint: skip to page eight), the survival rate increases between 80 and 96 percent in dwellings where both sprinklers and smoke detectors are installed. They can also reduce fire damage from $42,000, in an average house fire sans sprinklers, to around $2,000.

It’s easiest to install sprinklers in houses while they’re being built, but they can be fitted into existing homes too. The Fire Service video below shows just how effective alarms and sprinklers can be in containing house fires. Check out their specialist sprinkler website for more info.

 

Fire blankets

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These are blankets specifically designed for covering – and thus putting out – small cooking fires. Should the worst happen and someone catches fire, you can also throw it over them. They’re usually made from glass fibre as well, so that settles that question.

These blankets act exactly as you’d expect – they cut off oxygen to the flames and smother them. They can also be used as a cover to escape through flames if need be.

Fire blankets can be bought from several outlets including Firewatch, Womald and Chubb.

 

Over to you

Buying and installing smoke detectors is a no-brainer. Getting at least one out of the other three can go a long, long way to saving you money and – most importantly, lives.

What would be first on your shopping list: sprinklers, fire blankets or an extinguisher? Let us know in the comments or over on our Facebook page!