5 Ways to Create Your Own Home-Grown Disaster


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Danger, Not a Step.

Look familiar? See #4 below.

Not knowing is one thing. Just not thinking is another.

Here are five really dumb things that people do that lead to emergencies and even disaster.

Don’t do any of them, please.

 Dumb Act #1: Mix household cleaners.

The classic mistake is to mix household ammonia (like window cleaner spray) with liquid bleach — “because two cleaners ought to work better than just one.”

The result: a gas that can cause nausea, eye irritation, sore throat, headache, cough, and difficulty breathing.

In fact, the chloramine gas that’s released could even send you to the hospital for an emergency tracheostomy — surgery to create a hole through the neck into the trachea (windpipe) to allow you to breathe.

OK, so you know about not mixing.

Did you know that you can create the same noxious gas by simply using two cleaning agents one after another on the same surface?

Every cleaning agent should be suspect:

  • liquid cleaners for the toilet bowl
  • gel for unclogging drains
  • powdered cleansers for counter tops and grout
  • spray foams for the shower.

Check the label for ingredients (look for sodium hypochlorite) and warnings.

If you smell or feel ANY strange or strong fumes, get out of there immediately and allow the space to air out thoroughly before allowing anyone into the area. Rinse everything completely with water and let it dry out some more before you attempt to finish your cleaning job.

Dumb Act #2: Work alone.

Most of us are happy to work alone for some time during the day!

But most of us are not engaged in high risk activities like using dangerous tools, working around machinery, electrical wires, scaffolding, trenches, high pressure materials, hazardous substances, at height or in closed spaces like grain elevators or tanks, etc.

For the 15% of people who do find themselves in these situations it’s important to have some sort of check-in procedure.

This isn’t just for construction or agricultural or other special industries. Office workers like receptionists or parking attendants who work alone may face potential violence from the public. They need a check-in procedure, too.

If your workplace doesn’t have a policy about working alone, get one.

Dumb Act #3: Underestimate a portable generator.

We’ve talked a lot lately about how a portable generator can be a great emergency preparedness tool if the power goes out. We’ve even made some recommendations about which kind to consider, how much to expect to pay, etc. (See footnotes for links.)

We have certainly talked about the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from setting up a generator indoors. That extends to having it in the garage or even locating it too close to an open window.

There are other dangers associated with generators that you would know if you thought about it – but sometimes, people just don’t think.

Consider these possibilities:

  • Fire. Like any motor, your generator can get overheated. Don’t spill gas on or around it!
  • Electrocution.  A generator produces – electricity! If your power cords are too light, frayed or kinked, or not properly grounded, you could get the shock of your life. Electricity can kill.
  • Electrocuting someone else. The fifth leading cause of occupational deaths is what is termed “back-feeding.” This occurs when a power company worker touches a wire that should be inert but isn’t because it is carrying power from an unanticipated source – like YOUR generator.

This is why you don’t plug your generator into a wall outlet in your house. The power goes into the house and right through the house into the power grid where the unsuspecting worker is busy trying to fix the outage!

Yes, there is a way to power your house with your generator, but it requires a special “power transfer switch” installed in advance by a qualified electrician.  (A solar array with battery backup requires the very same type of switch.)

Dumb Act #4: Disrespect a ladder.

We are all pretty familiar with ladders, and have probably used at least a couple of different types — step ladder, extension ladder, etc.  (There are many types. Wikipedia lists 21 different ones!)

But for all its familiarity, a ladder can be very dangerous.

If its feet aren’t solidly placed, the ladder can tip over backwards or slide down frontwards. You come down right with it, flat on your back or your face or tangled between the rungs.

Second, a ladder can break. Like any other piece of equipment, ladders simply wear out.  Got an old one in your truck or garage? Before you use it the next time, check out the rungs, the rails, the spreader bars and locks and the feet to be sure they all function as designed.

Finally, can you read? I’ll bet your ladder has a sign somewhere that reads, “Not a step.” (I took the photo above of my own well-used step ladder.)

In simple English, that means “Do not stand on this.” Get up too high on a ladder and you will overbalance the whole thing. Stand on a paint can shelf instead of a step, and the shelf will break.

Every year, more than 90,000 people end up being treated in the emergency room from ladder-related injuries!

Dumb Act #5: Disconnect smoke alarms.

This is simple. Once again, the statistics tell you everything you need to know.

Half of U.S. fire deaths occur in houses where a smoke detector is installed but has been disabled because it beeps.

Of course, nuisance chirping from a smoke alarm is awful. And yes, it always seems to happen in the middle of the night.

Just take the time to fix it. Either put in a new battery or replace the whole thing, preferably with a photoelectric alarm (instead of the cheaper ionization model). If you’re not sure how to do it, go online to YouTube and search for “How to change the battery in a smoke alarm” or “How to install a smoke alarm.” Some videos are boring and some are better; any of them will guide you in making the fix!

As you read this, I hope you are saying to yourself, “Heck, I knew that!”

The key thing is, not everyone does know it! When you have the chance, share this information with children, co-workers, members of your club or church — anyone, in fact, who might have missed it. These are NOT emergencies you want people to learn about from experience.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

 

Looking for more info on some of these topics? Here are other Advisories we’ve written over the past year or so.

The Best Generator for Emergencies

Portable Generator for Power Outage — Safety Update

Carbon Monoxide Alarms and Detectors

What you didn’t know about Smoke Alarms

 

Don’t miss the NEXT safety Advisory. Sign up below to get them all.

 

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2 Responses to “5 Ways to Create Your Own Home-Grown Disaster”

  1. Russ Says:

    I think my easiest possible mistake is the household cleaners…I have comet and windex next to each other in the closet…not a good mix right?
    Next is ladders…Ive done lots of ladder set up in a hurry on home projects. However as I get older I am more careful of heights

  2. Volunteer Says:

    I am confident — now — that an emergency trip I took to the hospital in 1994 was the result of mixing cleaners! I couldn’t breathe, could only take short half breaths, felt I was running out of oxygen. I had to call an old boyfriend to take me to the emergency room, spent 7 hours there but they never figured out what had happened! I won’t even tell you how much that stay cost my insurance company! Virginia