Summer Hazards in the Home

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Summer is the season when you open your blinds and windows to the outdoors. That makes it a great time to enjoy the full potential of your home. It's also the time when bugs start biting, heat becomes an issue and food safety concerns can start rearing their ugly heads. Let's take a look at some ways you can insure that summer at your house is fun and safe for everyone.

Heat and Fire Safety

When it's hot outside, fire can be a hazard -- often because you're looking for an alternative way to cook dinner. Outdoor grilling is hugely popular and even people without grills are getting in on the act by purchasing disposable grills or trying to do the honors over a burner on the stove. If you like grilled fare but aren't a grilling expert:

  • Use grilling equipment only for its intended purpose. Usually this is equipment designed specifically for outdoor use. Never grill in your home, garage, camping tent or other enclosed space unless the equipment you use specifically mentions that it's rated for indoor use.
  • Avoid grilling on a wooden surface like a wooden deck.
  • Never grill under an overhang.
  • Read and follow the directions on your equipment and supplies.

Moving some of the cooking chores outdoors makes good sense. Reducing the amount of heat in your home will reduce your cooling bills, extend the life of your refrigerator's compressor and probably make mealtime more fun for everyone.

The flip side of heat is cold, and using cold air to your advantage during the summer months is the key to staying comfortable. You may be tempted to use a fan, series of fans, window air conditioner, dehumidifier or other measures in hot weather. Before you get creative in an attempt to stay cool:

  • Read and follow the directions on your fan or other equipment carefully. Overloading your extension cord or electrical circuit could start a fire.
  • Keep appliance cords away from walkways where children or adults can trip over them or pull equipment off shelves or tables.
  • Never use a fan around water where it could become dislodged and fall into a sink, tub or dish of ice water and become a shock hazard.

Pay attention to these activity related tips, too:

  • If you'll be using fireworks over the summer holidays, make sure to read all directions for safe fireworks displays carefully, and wear eye protection. Never let children use fireworks unsupervised.
  • If you plan on either grilling or using fireworks this summer season, keep an all-purpose ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher on hand and consider investing in a BC fire extinguisher that's particularly effective in combating grease fires.
  • If you live in an area prone to brush fires or wildfires, keep your landscaped shrubbery trimmed, watered and well away from wooden structures. Remove any dead vegetation promptly.

Water Safety

Nothing says summer fun like water sports. If you're lucky enough to own a pool:

  • Make sure children are supervised whenever they're near the pool area. This is such a crucial rule that you might want to consider investing in a pool alarm that will alert you when someone approaches your pool.
  • Keep pool toys stowed when not in use. Leaving them out may attract young children.
  • Make sure adults and children apply sunscreen every couple of hours when playing in the pool during sunny (and lightly overcast) weather.
  • Encourage people visiting your pool to wear non-skid footwear and pool appropriate clothing.
  • Teach your children proper pool etiquette: no roughhousing, respect for others and safety first -- always.
  • Enforce hourly breaks from swimming and other pool activities. Have your kids reapply sunscreen during breaks and drink plenty of liquids to avoid becoming dehydrated.

No one wants or expects a pool emergency, but being prepared for one is an important part of water safety at home. Make sure someone in your family knows CPR, and post important emergency contact numbers for your doctor, and other services near your pool or at least on your refrigerator door. Better yet, put them on your speed dial.

Food Safety

During warm weather, bacteria can be a problem, especially where food is concerned. Outdoor grilling, pool parties, camping and picnics all call for great hot weather favorites like potato salad, brats and burgers. To make sure the foods you prepare stay as wholesome as the day you bought them:

  • Never leave prepared dishes or previously refrigerated food ingredients at room temperature for longer than two hours. If the temperature is 90 degrees F or higher, then the longest foods should be left out is one hour.
  • Avoid cross contaminating foods by using different plates and utensils for raw meats than for other food items like vegetables and fruits.
  • Wash all vegetables and fruits before using them.
  • Maintain leftovers in your refrigerator a couple of days at most.
  • Whether you're cooking on the grill, stovetop or oven, always test meat for doneness with a meat thermometer and observe the minimum internal cooking temperature guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
  • Beef -145 degrees F
  • Chicken -165 degrees F
  • Duck -165 degrees F
  • Goose -165 degrees F
  • Ground beef, veal or pork - 160 degrees F
  • Ham (fresh) - 143 degrees F
  • Ham (precooked) - 140 degrees F
  • Lamb - 145 degrees F
  • Pork (fresh) - 145 degrees F
  • Pork -145 degrees F
  • Turkey -165 degrees F
  • Veal -145 degrees F

Discourage Pests

Summer is vacation time for you and breeding time for many insect pests like mosquitoes. To keep your home safe from pests:

  • Install screens on your windows and maintain them in good working order.
  • Keep shrubs and other plants from growing next to your foundation or along your windows. Trailing vines can look pretty, but they can also give pests easy access to your home.
  • If you think there may be fleas in your garden, bathe your pets often and consider installing eucalyptus mulch.
  • Add bug-fighting plants to your landscape like: catnip, marigold, garlic and lavender.
  • Remove dead vegetation and wood from your property immediately.
  • Eliminate all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can lay their eggs. Some common culprits are: bird baths, buckets, pet water bowls and old tires.
  • Use kitchen trashcan liners and keep trash covered.
  • Keep lids on your outdoor trashcans.
  • Sweep up sugary and floury spills right away.
  • Check cabinets containing packaged foods like one-box meals and dry pasta regularly for insect activity, and discard tainted items promptly. Place a bay leaf or two in your flour bin and in your food cabinets to deter insects.
Last Updated: June 10, 2012
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About Sara Elliot Sara Elliott is a freelance copywriter and dedicated blogger. Her popular gardening, cooking and crafting blog, The Herb Gardener, was cited by The Wall Street Journal for its fun and frugal tips. Sara has a degree in English, and you can find her health, crafting, and lifestyle pieces on sites like DiscoveryHealth.com, HowStuffWorks.com, Savvi.com and TLC.com.

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