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Editorial

Safety Pro


House Safety Tour Basement/Attic/Storage Sheds



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06/01/2012 - As we look at the storage areas around the house, a number of safety tips apply to each location. First, these areas should be well-ventilated. If you live in an older home (mine is 170 years old), that may not be a problem. My attic or basement will never be 'air-tight.' For newer homes, keep some airflow just to keep heat, radon, moisture and mold risks, and vapors from stored items at safe and healthy levels.

Housekeeping is critical. Keeping these areas neat and 'navigable' reduces risks of fire, rodent and other wildlife infestations, and trip and fall hazards. Also, be sure to have good illumination so you can safely maneuver.

Depending on the season, heat exhaustion or hypothermia are risks so don't plan an all-day search or clean out during the dead of winter or the height of summer. Finally, make sure you have safe access with sturdy and non-cluttered stairs, handrails, and a light switch located where you start, not where you end up.

The Basement

Do not store gasoline or other flammable contents (mineral spirits, paint thinners, etc.) in the basement. Any vapors generated can easily get to the gas pilot light on the furnace or water heater or spark at your electrical panel or fuse box.

As mentioned previously, check radon levels. You do not want to be breathing radon air.

Place a fire extinguisher in the basement just like the one in your kitchen. Remember, the extinguisher does not make you a professional fire fighter to save your house; it is there to assist you in getting out of the house. Spring for an extra ten bucks and include a smoke detector, as well, placed strategically in the ceiling area.

Moving storage items up and down stairs (including the attic) means you need your stairs to be clear of clutter and your storage items not exceeding your maximum lift abilities. It's a great idea to store things in boxes but remember you still have to be capable of moving them at some point in time. Also remember that as you age, your lifting capabilities decrease so you may have to split a load in a large box to two smaller boxes just to ensure you can safely move them.

The Attic

Keep heavier boxed storage items in the basement. Usually the attic stairs are more narrow, less sturdy, and only wide enough to fit your body through the ceiling hole. Not a good place to try maneuvering awkward boxes.

If you are adding insulation or hooking up an exhaust vent, stay on the rafters, not the floor, or you could end up in your bedroom after falling through.

The Storage Shed

Mowers, plastic gas cans, fertilizers, insecticides, aerosols, no windows and closed door got a match? Finally, never use your shed as a storm cellar.

Use common sense when storing things, buy only what you need, and don't bulk up on materials you can't use. Keep you, your family, your pets, and your neighborhood safe!

Randy DeVaul (safetypro@roadrunner.com ) is a 35-year safety professional and emergency response instructor. Comments are always welcome.

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