interior of home

Above all else, a home should be a safe place. Photo: The Dave Keefe Real Estate Team ©2019

Above all else, a home should be a safe place. However, there are many basic safety measures most homeowners haven’t even considered. To help you improve safety in your home, we asked six Diamond Certified Expert contributors to share their tips.

 

Make sure door locks are functioning properly.

A malfunctioning doorknob latch or deadbolt is more than an inconvenience—it can leave your home susceptible to break-ins. To ensure security, test your home’s door locks and take steps to amend any malfunctioning components.

Gary Lekan of First Lock & Security Technologies describes a couple of ways to tell whether your doorknob latch is functioning properly. “First, listen for clicks when you close the door. If the latch is functioning properly, you should only hear one click—that’s the sound of the main latch falling into the hole. If you hear two clicks, that means the dead-latch is falling in as well, which it shouldn’t do—this makes it easy for burglars to push in the latch with a knife or credit card. Another thing you can do is check the strike plate on the door frame for wear marks, which is another potential indication of improper functioning.” Watch Gary’s video for more tips on testing door locks.

 

testing doorknob latch

A doorknob latch actually consists of two latches – the main latch and the dead-latch. Photo: First Lock & Security Technologies ©2019

Upgrade your smoke detectors.

Does your home still have old, 9v battery-powered smoke detectors? While these are better than nothing, they have their shortcomings, which is why California safety codes now require new, improved models with redesigned features. If you want to maximize safety in your home, upgrading your smoke detectors is a great investment.

Lamine Elabed of LW Construction & Handyman Services explains what makes the new smoke detectors better than their predecessors. “The main thing is they don’t rely on regular alkaline batteries to function. Instead, each unit is equipped with a built-in, tamper-proof battery that has a 10-year lifespan. This change is aimed at removing human error from the equation, which is expected to reduce the amount of fire-related deaths caused by simple negligence. Once the unit’s 10-year lifespan is up, it can be replaced with a new one.”

Mr. Elabed also notes that there are two different kinds of smoke detectors, differentiated by sensor type: ionization and photoelectric. While either one will suffice, he recommends the latter. “Photoelectric units are known to have a faster response time, which means they can detect house fires in their early stages. Photoelectric detectors are more expensive than ionization detectors, but considering the stakes, it’s worth investing in this superior option.”

 

Close your bedroom door at night.

Unlike upgrading your smoke detectors, this fire safety measure requires zero effort or financial cost. Corey Haney of Statcomm Inc. explains why closing your bedroom door before going to sleep at night could potentially save your life. “More than half of house fires occur between 11pm and 7am, when most people are sleeping. In the event of a fire, a closed bedroom door can reduce the amount of carbon monoxide that enters the room by up to 90 percent, as well as protect against extreme temperature increases.”

 

Install an earthquake safety valve.

Due to high levels of seismic activity, earthquake safety is no small matter in the Bay Area. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), there’s a 63% chance of a major seismic event occurring in the Bay Area during the next 30 years, and many experts believe we’re overdue. While seismic retrofitting measures can help prevent earthquake damage, there’s another step few homeowners are aware of: installing an earthquake safety valve on the home’s gas line.

Rod Tehrani of Absolute Plumbing and Drain explains how an earthquake safety valve works. “When a major earthquake occurs, a home’s gas supply can become damaged, which can cause a leak that brings a risk of fire or explosion. An earthquake safety valve guards against such catastrophes by sensing substantial seismic shifts and subsequently shutting off gas service to the home.”

Mr. Tehrani says earthquake safety valves aren’t expensive to install, but they do vary in quality, which is why he recommends investing in a good product. “Cheaper valves are more liable to be triggered accidentally and they aren’t easy to reset—typically, it has to be done by a professional. In contrast, high-quality valves are designed better, so they’re less likely to be triggered accidentally. They’re also equipped with easy reset buttons, so if yours does get triggered, you won’t need to call a plumber to reset it for you.”

 

earthquake safety valve

An earthquake safety valve shuts off gas service to the home after a seismic event. Photo: Absolute Plumbing and Drain ©2019

Prevent dryer fires.

Dryers are a commonly overlooked home appliance, but few homeowners realize the potential safety risks that can result from neglect. For example, Ron Frediani of AWC says it’s important to ensure your dryer’s vent has proper airflow. “Adequate vent airflow is crucial to ensure proper dryer functioning and prevent potential fire hazards. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to test dryer vent airflow: go outside while your dryer is running and use your hand to feel the air coming out of the exterior vent. It should feel like a hair dryer. If the air flow seems weak, you may have a clog in your dryer vent. If you think your dryer vent is clogged, don’t delay in clearing the obstruction, as it may pose a fire threat.”

 

Make sure your garage door motor has a battery backup.

The garage is often thought of as separate from the home, but when it comes to safety, there should be no distinction. The California Senate understands this, which is why they recently passed a bill requiring all garage door motors sold or installed in the state to be equipped with a battery backup. Ata Salem of Ace’s Garage Door Repair & Installation explains why this feature is important for safety. “A battery backup ensures the garage door motor will still function in the event of a power outage. Without a battery backup, if the power went out and you needed to get your car out of your garage, the door wouldn’t open. For this reason, in an emergency situation like a fire or an earthquake, a battery backup could mean the difference between life and death.”

If your garage door doesn’t have a battery backup, consider upgrading it. You can also learn how to open your garage door manually—that way, if you need to open your garage following a power outage, you’ll know what to do.

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