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An EMS Guide to Hurricane Preparation: Keep Your Family Safe!

girl_under_umbrella_hurricaneWe are just beginning August and already in the middle of an above-average hurricane season. While the thought of being in hurricane season may not concern most people, the thought of getting ready for a hurricane can cause some worry and panic if left to the last minute. The long lines, the financial cost, and finally the letdown when yet another hurricane comes and goes and turns out to be nothing more than a windy, rainy day has made properly preparing for hurricanes a bother and an afterthought. I realize that hurricanes, unlike earthquakes can take days and sometimes weeks to happen and give ample time to prepare, but the fact remains that proper preparation and planning can avoid putting you and your family in danger both during and after a storm.

As an EMS provider, I would like to share with you some of the basic hurricane preparation tips that we tell people and also share with you some of the issues that I have seen in the aftermath of storms and weather events.

INSIDE YOUR HOME

  • How many people will you be preparing for? Will it be just the people in the house or will there be extended family or grandparents as well. Preparing for four people and housing more will deplete supplies very quickly.
  • Do the people in the plan have special needs, handicaps or medications that need to be filled? What about medical devices that require power? Beds, oxygen tanks, breathing machines, asthma machines etc. All need to be considered.
  • If you have a baby or small child, do you have an ample supply of diapers, formula, medication, clothing etc.
  • Food and water. Buying nonperishable food is recommended, and having at least a 3 day supply is recommended as well. How will we cook the food? Propane tanks should be filled and ready, does a barbecue need to be purchased or brought inside? Refrigerators and freezers should be set very low to preserve food in times of power loss. Enough water should be purchased to keep people hydrated during times of power loss and no air conditioning to avoid any heat or dehydration issues. Water should also be considered for cooking needs as well.
  • Do you have enough batteries to power devices? Do you have a power generator in the event of a loss of power for an extended amount of time? There are many different sizes depending on your power needs. Do you have gas for your generator? When storing any type of fuel, please do so in a well ventilated area and not in the living area as fumes may be toxic.
    NEVER RUN YOUR GENERATOR IN OR NEAR THE LIVING AREA. Carbon monoxide from the exhaust can be fatal. The generator or any motorized device should be run outside, in a well ventilated area, well away from where people are gathered or living. Do you have extension cords to run into your home from the generator? Make sure you buy properly rated cords or you could risk a fire starting from overheating of the cords.
  • All pets should be brought in during the storm and enough food and water should be on hand for the pet inside the home. Will there be different pets in the house and could that cause problems? Do the pets take any medication that need to be filled before the storm? Do any of the people staying in your home have any pet allergies? And will this be a possible issue?
  • First Aid supplies. During a storm, EMS providers and fire trucks cannot go outside once the winds hit a certain miles per hour and may prevent us from responding to your home in an emergency. Having a basic first aid kit and supplies such as band aids, gauze, ice packs, ace bandages etc. will help in times of delayed response by EMS.

OUTSIDE YOUR HOME

  • Patio items. Are there any items that may fly way during a storm? Patio furniture, above ground pools, Barbecues, boats, golf carts etc.. If it can be brought inside then it is recommended, but if it cannot then secure it the best you can or try to find an alternate storage site.
  • Securing your home. Do you have impact windows and doors? If not, then are there any hurricane shutters that need to be put up? Do you own hurricane shutters? If not there are places that sell them in standard sizes. Do we have any lingering roof or window issues that may worsen during a heavy rain and wind event? A little drip can turn into a lot more very quickly. Do you have a flooding issue around your home? Sandbags may need to be filled and placed as well.
  • Vehicles can get severely damaged when left outside in a storm. If you have nowhere to store your vehicle then I recommend pulling it as close to the building as possible to avoid as much exposure as possible and it can provide some protection to the structure as well. Having the vehicles fully fueled beforehand is recommended in case of emergency and also to avoid the long lines at the gas station that always result.
  • Sheds and outside storage. In hurricane Andrew here in south Florida, there were numerous reports of tool sheds being sent air born and the tools inside become very sharp and dangerous projectiles in the process. Please secure sheds and storage as much as possible and bring tools inside if possible.
  • Items attached to the home. Any items on the roof such as turbines or whether devices can be ripped off leaving very large holes in the roof and should be removed and capped if possible. Below ground pools should be lowered to avoid damage to the pool as well as the overflowing possible causing flooding towards the home.

Being 100% prepared for a hurricane truly depends on your needs and the needs of those around you. The list of possibilities is endless but the basics are not. What things do YOU and YOUR FAMILY need to survive on a daily basis? Is a question that should be asked, and contrary to your kid’s beliefs, internet is not one of them. The basic essentials of shelter, food, water, and medicines trump all else. The overall list can be long and daunting and looks much worse when done at the last minute. But having the essentials on hand at the beginning of hurricane season leaves time to accomplish everything else thus making that list not so bad. Having been born and raised here in South Florida and gone through hurricane Andrew, I can tell you firsthand that the supplies we had made all the difference and it will for you as well. I hope this list has served as a guide and a good place to start for you.

Thank You

Is Your Indoor Air Good for Your Family’s Health??

Last updated on December 11th, 2021 at 09:32 pm

Let’s clear the air: Dry indoor air during cooler months may be contributing to your seasonal sore throats, congestion and other respiratory infections. To be sure, cranking up the thermostat causes the humidity level in your house to drop. When it falls below 35 percent, mucous membranes dry out, making you more susceptible to inhaling fine particles that may carry viruses. But a humidifier can be a breath of clean air for your health — and your home. First, buy a quality hygrometer (available at hardware stores, from $5) to constantly monitor your in-house humidity level, which should stay between 35 and 50 percent. Too much can contribute to mold-spore growth and be bad for your health, too. If the humidity is too low, consider purchasing a room humidifier.


Which Type of Humidifier Is Right for You?

Evaporative cool-mist humidifier. The most widely available and least expensive among humidifiers, evaporative humidifiers use a fan to pass dry room air through a water-soaked wick filter in the base of the unit. The water evaporates into the air while the wick filter traps any impurities and minerals in the water. The cool air lowers the room’s temperature, making it easier for you to breathe, which is why evaporative humidifiers also tend to be a physician favorite. “Think about it this way: When you go outside on a cold day, your nose usually runs because the cold shrinks your mucous membranes,” says Dr. Amy Guiot, a clinical instructor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “The cool air from an evaporative humidifier has a similar effect.”

Warm-mist humidifier. Quieter than evaporative humidifiers (there’s no fan), warm-mist models heat water to a boil and disperse a hot, impurity-free steam into the air, making a cool room feel considerably warmer. But Guiot says she wouldn’t recommend warm-mist humidifiers to those suffering from any respiratory infection, since heat causes mucous membranes to swell rather than shrink and drain.

Ultrasonic humidifier. Often dubbed the quietest humidifier around, ultrasonic models use high-frequency sound waves and a demineralization cartridge to break down water into an ultrafine, mineral-free vapor. Some ultrasonic humidifiers are also equipped with a heating option.

Features to Think About When Shopping for a Humidifier

  1. Tank size and shape. A humidifier should be sized appropriately for the room. Typically, removable tanks range from 1- to 4-gallon capacities (which refer to the gallons of moisture the humidifier will expel into a room daily). Humidifiers are rated for square footage, so measure your room before settling on a model. If the humidifier is too large for the room, condensation will appear on the interiors of the windows and invite bacteria and mildew to grow. Too small, and you won’t reap any of its benefits. If you want to avoid the fuss of lifting and carrying potentially heavy refill containers, opt for a unit with an easy pour-in feature.
  2. UV anti-microbial humidifiers. Some humidifiers — both cool- and warm-mist models — now feature UV light designed to kill 99.9 percent of bacteria, germs and viruses in the water before they enter the air you breathe.
  3. Indicator lights. Look for a model equipped with a light to signal when the tank needs to be refilled or — better yet — a humidifier that automatically shuts off when the refill container is empty.

Maintenance

Once you have a humidifier, make sure to take care of it! It needs to be cleaned and dried regularly. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for filter changes and cleaning guidelines; improper care could pump bacteria and mold spores into the room.

Daffodils and Parmesan and Kids…Who Knew??

Last updated on July 17th, 2021 at 09:22 pm

Spring is here. Flowers are in bloom. In Connecticut Daffodils - beautiful but dangerousone local town celebrates the arrival of spring with an annual daffodil festival. In fact – thousands of flowers. I wonder how many people know that the bulbs of the plant are among the most poisonous of all plants in the US.

And who doesn’t like a little Parmesan cheese sprinkled on- well in my house, on just about everything. And I like the bright inviting colors of the packaging- inviting me to indulge. Unfortunately Comet cleanser has equally colorful packaging. And certainly you never accidentally put your comet in the fridge and the Parmesan under the sink but look at products the way a child would. They are drawn to bright colors and to things that Mom and Dad handle and use.

Antifreeze used to smell really nice and became a common poison to our animals and kids. Manufacturers are no longer allowed to add perfumes to make the product smell better. Believe it or not, antifreeze performance does not improve with the addition of perfume and without it kids and dogs are safer.

So as you go about enjoying spring, getting back out into the world, maybe doing a little “post-pandemic” spring cleaning- check to make sure that your cabinets, both kitchen and bath have child proof locks. In the garage double check that kids can’t get in or that products are well out of reach. Also make sure that shelving is very secure and won’t fall over onto curious, climbing kids. And finally check your fridge for Comet- just to be safe.

Accidental poisoning CAN be prevented- take a few minutes to check things out- don’t guess, be sure.

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Editors Note: This post originally ran in May of 2010 and was written by our former PedSafe EMS Expert Jim Love. Our thanks to him for some wonderful reminders

Kitchen Safety for Families: Do You Know What to Do If…?

Last updated on November 8th, 2020 at 02:52 pm

Steaming tea kettleTypical, isn’t it? You’re flying between cooktop and cutting board, prepping dinner while the kids finish homework. In a moment of distraction, you grab a scorching saucepan handle or slice the tip of your finger with a paring knife … or the budding young chef in your family does. Whatever the kitchen slipup, chances are the remedy is within arm’s reach, says Dr. Jennifer Avegno, an emergency medicine specialist at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans. Here is her advice for treating everyday kitchen injuries.

1. Cuts
Food prep simply can’t happen without a sharp knife or two, not to mention a cheese grater or potato peeler — hence the packet of plastic bandages in every cook’s cabinet. In the event of a cut or abrasion, run plenty of tap water over the wound to rinse out dirt and bacteria — the source of infection — that may have been on the instrument or your skin. (Don’t use hydrogen peroxide: The solution kills contamination but can also destroy the clotting and healing cells the blood carries to the wound). Bleeding will likely stop on its own. If not, apply gentle but steady pressure to the cut with a clean cloth or bandage and keep the wound elevated. After bleeding stops, apply antibacterial ointment, and bandage the cut securely. Seek medical attention if the cut is deep, you can’t get dirt out of the wound or blood spurts from the wound or continues to flow after applying steady pressure for more than five to 10 minutes.

Watch out for swelling or redness. The wound could be infected. See a doctor as soon as possible.

2. Small Burns

We’ve all touched the back of our hand to an oven’s heating element, accidentally placed fingers near hot steam or been splattered with sizzling oil. If the burn covers the palm or crosses over a joint, seek immediate medical attention. The same holds if the burn — even a small one — is on the face. A trip to the doctor may help prevent scarring. Otherwise, you can treat it at home.

First, run the affected area under cool tap water for a few minutes to stop the burning process and remove any bits of burnt skin. Smooth on a layer of antibiotic ointment to create a barrier against infection and wrap loosely with gauze or a small bandage. Be sure to rinse the wound with water and change the dressing twice daily for a few days, says Avegno, so that it remains covered and protected until the scab is gone.

Watch out for increased pain, redness, fever, swelling or oozing. The burn could be infected. See a doctor as soon as possible.

3. Scalds

Burns from scalding water tend to cover larger areas, such as arms, feet, legs and stomach, which may make them harder to treat at home. And if the scalding is to a child, whereby a large percentage of the body is affected, call an ambulance or go to an emergency room immediately. Otherwise, start by treating the affected area the way you would a small burn: run under cool water (or use a wet towel) to stop the burning process and to clean the area, layer with antibiotic ointment, and dress with gauze or a large bandage as best you can. Even a clean and loose-fitting white T-shirt over the burn area will add some protection if you don’t have large enough bandages. Blistering is to be expected, but avoid popping the blisters, as doing so adds entry points for infection. These burns are often more painful than smaller ones, so take acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If that doesn’t block the pain, seek medical care.

Watch out for continued or worsening pain, or signs of infection (see above). In these cases, seek immediate medical attention.

4. Injuries to the Eyes

Lovers of spicy food know the painful power of capsicum, or cayenne pepper: Contact with the eyes causes a strong burning sensation. Flush out any material in the eye with water and then splash milk in the area to stop the burn. Steam, pokes to the eye or spattered oil are more serious and can cause eye damage. Rinse the eye right away to cool the area and clean out debris.

Watch out for pain, oozing or a change in vision after a few minutes of blinking and rinsing, any of which might indicate damage to the cornea. Seek immediate medical attention.

Given the increased risk of infection with cuts and burns, Avegno advises a tetanus shot if you haven’t had one in five to 10 years. Even a shot administered within a day or two after the injury will be effective, she says. Of course, when extreme injuries happen — especially when small children are involved — emergency care is critical for preventing even greater harm.

Warning! Your Kids & Grandkids Think Gummy Meds Are Delicious

Last updated on July 3rd, 2020 at 03:05 pm

Mommies and Daddies, Grandmas and Grandpas, listen up. There are many prescription and non-prescription medications kept around the home that could be a danger for your children/grandchildren should they find these and “taste” them.

One of the more common of these “medicines” include the variety of vitamins, minerals and supplements found in homes now. While most vitamins are “benign” when inappropriately ingested, there are some that might cause problems in children who ingest large amounts, such as vitamin D, A, and certain minerals in excess. Not all supplements and “alternative” medical cures have been regulated by our FDA and therefore the correct dosages of these have not been calculated. While ingestion of a single chewable, gummy or regular tablet would probably be OK in a child, it is most of the time impossible to say how many have been consumed. As a result, even in adults, the dosage is not accurate and this is magnified in a smaller lighter- weight child. Therefore, these should be kept out of the reach of children.

Also among the most common of these are the pain relievers- such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. Aspirin, fortunately, is not as popular as it used to be, but was responsible for a good proportion of accidental poisonings in children. This medication in excess caused severe derangements in hydration and acid/base balance in children and occasionally led to death. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) in excess could lead to kidney problems and possibly go on to kidney dysfunction and failure, while acetaminophen, also in excess, has been responsible for liver problems and possible liver failure and death. Treatment for any of these “poisonings” is not 100% effective and so, like all other issues, prevention is the best medicine. The problem with these meds is that they are very common in households and are considered to be “benign” so efforts to hide them are not realized. Also, we can’t forget that “normal dosages” for these drugs vary with age and weight, and children are at much higher risk than adults for complications at much lower doses. This rule holds for all medications and drugs.

The stronger pain medications that could be found around the home after surgery or injury are far more dangerous in that they are almost all depressants and can slow down heart rate and respirations to the point of coma and death.

Specific medications for specific ailments; high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, etc. should always be kept locked up as, while these medications do a very good job for those who need them, can cause problems of varying nature if taken by those people (children) who do not need them. And again the rule of age and weight applies here also.

Antibiotics are found around the home when they are being used or if they are “saved to be used another day”. This is a very poor practice, but not uncommon, as the price of these drugs keeps going up- throw away any unused antibiotics. Unless a person (child) is allergic to these medications, or consumes very large amounts they do not cause as many problems as the medications mentioned above.

As a rule, keep any medication and vitamins, minerals and supplements out of the reach of children and locked in a safe place- assume that any one or more of these could cause serious problems for your children or grandchildren.

If the child is found near an open bottle of any medication, particularly if there are traces of that medicine in or around his/her mouth or pills are found lying on the floor nearby, assume the worst and call poison control (everyone should have the phone number of local poison control centers nearby) and then the Doctor. Have the bottle of the medicine in front of you when you call (if possible) so that you can answer any questions that are asked. Remember that prevention is the best “cure” for poisonings because there is often no good way of treating these problems after the fact.

US Toll-Free Poison Help Line

1-800-222-1222

Call is free and confidential

Connects you with your local poison control center

Home Alone After School? Top 8 Safety Checks for Parents

Last updated on October 14th, 2019 at 10:30 am

little boy opening doorWe are now a few weeks into the new school year and along with all the new fresh faces roaming the halls during school, there are fresh faces staying home alone after school for the first time. Now I’m pretty sure that if you have made the decision to leave your child home alone after school that they are what you deem to be old enough and a responsible person. Yet even the most responsible adult can run into problems or have emergencies when home alone, so a little pre-planning and forethought can go a long way to your child’s safety and your peace of mind.

Let’s start with the basic safety checks:

  • Emergency contact numbers, are they known or preprogrammed into a phone or highly visible place near the phone?, Parents, friends, neighbors ,poison control ?, the best case scenario would be to have someone close to your home whom you trust to be aware of the situation and willing to be on call.
  • Safety gear, Next we can get all of our safety gear such as flashlights, candles, and a fire extinguisher all together and know how to safely use each. As a little side note, any fire station will gladly teach you how to properly use an extinguisher.
  • Medications, these can be anything from pills that parents take to needed medications for the child like Insulin or any type of med available in the home. Medications that parents take should be kept locked up and medications the child may need to take while home alone should be clearly taught and understood and closely monitored by the parents upon coming home.
  • Household cleaners should always be locked up if there are little ones around and if they are not, it should be understood the dangers they present when used and how to take proper precautions, such as opening a window for ventilation and hand and eye protection.
  • Major emergencies, It cannot be understated how important it is to call 911. It should be understood that calling 911 is not embarrassing and should not get anyone in trouble. It is what we are here for. Should anything happen in or around the home when your child is home alone that makes them feel unsafe, please instruct them to call 911 right away! ,They could be cooking and accidentally start a fire or smell smoke in an odd place, hear electrical buzzing, maybe they see or hear someone outside or anything that makes them feel unsafe, please make it ok for them to call 911. If it turns out to be nothing, that is fine. You can talk about it when you get home and everyone is alive, safe and well.

Three of the biggest things we worry about with children that are home alone are Fire, Strangers and Weapons.

  • In the case of fire, it is a great idea to have an escape plan from your home. Escaping from a single story window or door may not be hard but a second or third story may require an emergency ladder or alternate route in case of stairs blocked by fire.
  • When it comes to strangers, there is no shortage of bad people. That being said, it is a good idea to have a do not answer the door policy and even a do not acknowledges anyone at the door policy. If it is at night, the house should be well lit and should the person at the door not go away or make your child feel unsafe then 911 should be the next call. A police officer recently told me it’s a good idea to have a second alarm control keypad in the upstairs area that can be activated with a panic button in case of an intruder or strange noise.
  • When it comes to Weapons it goes without saying that they should be respected and understood. Your child is home alone and if there are weapons in the home they should be safely stored, locked and secured as to avoid the awful accidents we see on the news every year. If your child is old enough, trained and certified with a gun, then it is your decision to give them access to it, but be warned because accidents happen. I would think it would be a better and much safer thing to do the things that deter unwanted guests, such as outdoor lighting, cameras, alarm company signage, a dog, anything that does not put a loaded weapon in your child’s hands.

I hope these safety checks give you something to think about and I hope it keeps all the kids safe.

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