Special Report : How Safe is the American Home?

Source:  RE+VIEW Magazine – SEPT/OCT, 2013



By Hon. Nancy Harvey Steorts

How safe are most American consumers today? According to the National Safety Council, in 2009 there were an estimated 90,300 home and community-related unintentional injury deaths and 30.5 million people who suffered non-fatal medically consulted injuries due to home and community related injuries. This correlates to about one out of every 10 people having what could be a preventable accident or injury.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that there are an annual average of 366,700 fires, 2,310 deaths, 12,550 injuries and $7.09 billion in property loss from fires alone in this country.

Consumers must be diligent about what they are purchasing, and immediately report any products that are harmful or potentially harmful to the retailer, the manufacturer and to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Consumers can report dangerous products through the CPSC website – SaferProducts.gov. Timely reporting allows the government and manufacturers to address these issues immediately.

Forgetting to replace dead batteries in a smoke detector, or thinking a yearly home inspection is not important, could result in a fire that could go undetected until it is too late. One only has six minutes to exit a home before “flash over” (simultaneous ignition) occurs.

Preventable incidents happen every day throughout the United States. The unexpected fire, undetected leaking plumbing, the hot tub with only a single drain cover, or overheated electrical appliances – these are all examples of preventable situations that can bring tragedy to a home in a matter of seconds.

Role Of The Realtor®
As a trusted advisor who helped the consumer purchase a home, the Realtor® can act as a “Safety Ambassador.” Helping the homeowner understand the importance of a safe home and regularly providing specific safety-related information is an invaluable service that the Realtor® can offer. As primary players in the drive to implement consumer safety initiatives, real estate professionals are well positioned to educate their customers.

Suggestions To Share With Homeowners
      1.   Every home should have a radon inspection. (See the article on page 20 of the July/August issue of RE+VIEW magazine at go.nvar.com/1304 to learn more.) 
 2.    Each home should have a yearly home inspection by a certified home inspector. Electrical wiring and devices, gas and electric systems, plumbing systems, all appliances, chimney, gutters and drains should be included.
3.    Have an annual landscape evaluation to prevent storm damage and foundation problems, which would include all trees, fences and drainage patterns. If eligible, maintain a flood insurance policy. 
4. Use only bonded and certified contractors who are licensed in both the state and local jurisdiction for any home repair or renovation.
5.  Use only non-toxic glue if installing carpet or flooring.
6. Unplug all small appliances when you leave your home, as current runs through them as long as they are plugged in. If there is a surge in electricity, a fire could occur.
7. Disconnect all laundry equipment hoses from the water source, if planning to be away from home for a long period of time.
8. Install railings on all steps and stairs, and improve exterior lighting. Falls are one of the main causes of accidents and injuries both inside and outside the home.   
9. Do not overload wiring and replace outlets that do not work. 
10.  Use surge protectors.
11.  Have an emergency plan of two different exits for each member of the household, in case of a fire.
12.  Report product-related issues to www.SaferProducts.gov
13.  Check www.cpsc.gov for recalls of consumer products.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving
Suggesting specific ways that home owners can improve the safety of their home, and giving a gift of home safety are two great opportunities for Realtors® to become the trusted “Safety Ambassador” for their clients. Some gift examples are: child-resistant cabinet locks, grab bars and rubber mats for the bathtub, fire extinguishers or carbon monoxide detectors. Safety advice and devices are not only excellent branding and marketing tools, but also have the potential to save a life, or prevent a horrible injury. This value-added service is priceless.

Nancy Harvey Steorts is an associate broker with Long and Foster in McLean, a member of the NVAR Board of Directors, former chairman of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and author of “Your Home Safe Home” and “Safe Living in a Dangerous World.” Learn more at nationalsafetyexpert.com.

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