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Practical Paranoia and Preventable Death



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Preparing for Mundane Disasters in the Home

Humans are pretty bad when it comes to risk assessments. As a species, we tend to fo – cus more on fantastical outliers and aggressive outside influences rather than the boring nor – mal. But dead is still dead regardless of the reason, so let’s look at some important statistics as well as simple and practical ways to tangibly reduce your risk of accidental death.

One of the problems with statistics and the rule of large numbers is that they aren’t one-size-fits-all; individuals have different risk factors than groups as a whole. Nor do statistics account for the stakes of failing to prepare, just the outcomes.

While the overall probability of a home invasion occurring may be quite small, the stakes are extremely high if it actually happens. If you’ve gone through the trouble of setting up and practicing a home invasion plan, gaming scenarios and running drills, you should at least give these a look and keep them in mind. They aren’t really fun or sexy and make for terrible TikTok posts, but they can help keep you safe.

When we talk about accidental death, the first thing that comes to mind are car accidents. To start, they’re exceedingly common. Most of us have at least experienced fender benders, and even if you don’t personally know someone who had a life-ending or life-altering car accident, no one reading this is more than a single step removed from a fatal incident involving a vehicle.

We also regularly experience effects from automotive accidents in the form of slowed and stopped traffic, from rubberneckers or emergency responders, and often a combination of both. All of this is why we have licensing requirements, seatbelt laws, regulations against drunken and distracted driving, and increasingly stringent impact safety standards.

We’re certainly not advocating some sort of licensing and seatbelt system for the home, but we’re strongly encouraging real-world risk mitigation and reduction.

When it comes to preventable death, car accidents account for only a little over 20 percent of them — a whopping 70 percent of deaths actually occur inside the home. Per the CDC and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), the top five causes inside the home are poisoning, falls, suffocation, drowning, and fires.

BATTLE STATIONS

In a term borrowed from the U.S. Navy, Battle Stations in this context are centralized locations of emergency supplies. They should be located in common areas on every floor of a structure, perhaps tucked in a hall closet or near stairwells or other transitional places. Only to be used for actual emergencies, each Battle Station should have a fire extinguisher, headlamp or other light source, and emergency medical supplies at minimum.

While it’s OK to put your boo-boo Band-Aids and other first aid items here, Battle Stations are first and foremost for critical incidents, so each should contain RFN time-sensitive medical items like tourniquets, or in the case of someone with a severe allergy, EpiPens.

POISONING

Typically, when we think of poisoning, we envision children chugging chemicals from under the sink. Somewhat muddying the waters is that overdoses of controlled substances also fall into this category, which is part of the reason this category of preventable death is so high beyond childhood.

Though this may not be an issue in every household, statistically speaking, you probably know someone struggling with an opioid addiction or, even if you aren’t aware of it, someone who takes opiates for chronic pain.

Elderly people with opiate prescriptions and failing memories are particularly at-risk for accidental overdose. A growing number of cities, states, and pharmacies offer free Naloxone/Narcan, and it’s never a bad idea to have one tucked away in your Battle Station.

While 911 is always available, there’s a 24/7 number specifically for poison control (800-222-1222) that should be saved in your phone. Ensure any chemical cleaning bottles are clearly marked, and don’t mix chemicals.

FALLS

Being a roofer is one of the top five most dangerous jobs in the United States, with the risk of death about 300 percent higher than law enforcement. As you may imagine, the number-one cause of death for roofers is falling from great height.

Fear of heights is high up on the list of common human concerns, and the numbers prove that this fear is largely practical. One of the problems with ladders in the home is that since they’re rarely used, most people are inexperienced and unfamiliar with ladder safety.

We could write an entire and exceedingly boring article on ladders, but OSHA has a QuickCard reference on portable ladder safety you should check out. For example:

  • Use a ladder instead of something impromptu like stacking chairs
  • Use the right ladder
  • Follow ladder safety guidelines Stairways should always have safety railings, and hardwood stairs in particular need anti-slip pads.

CHOKING/SUFFOCATION

The Triangle of Death

We’re not referring to the Suuni Triangle during the Iraqi War, but instead a place in your home. Also called the Bathroom Bermuda Triangle, most full bathrooms in America have one, and it’s also where emergency personnel often discover dead bodies.

This triangle of death is the cavity between your toilet and your tub. While under normal circumstances an average adult can’t fit their body in there, the force of a fall combined with body weight, and perhaps a lubricant like soap, can hopelessly wedge you in. Imagine falling in the shower. People undergoing cardiac arrest can often end in the Triangle as well, thanks to the gastrointestinal discomfort often associated with heart attacks.

It’s also not uncommon with drug overdoses. What usually happens is mechanical suffocation, the inability to extract yourself exacerbated by poor leverage and slippery surfaces.

If you’re sick, you should take care when using the lavatory, and showering while intoxicated greatly increases your risk factor for ending up in the Triangle of Death. An extra grip in the shower can also be good for recreational purposes as well as catching yourself if you have a fall.

Choking

We’ll never know how many people have been saved from proper application of the Heimlich maneuver, because someone is probably being saved right now with it while you read this article. Abdominal thrusts can also be performed on yourself with the aid of a hard surface such as a countertop or chair.

These methods are simple to perform, but the time to learn them isn’t during the moment you actually need them. Your local Red Cross likely teaches free in-person classes, but simply watching a YouTube video or two is certainly better preparation than making it up as you go along.

FIRES/CARBON MONOXIDE

Though fatal fires and smoke inhalation aren’t as common as they once were (thanks to fewer open fires for heating and cooking, as well as improvements in industrial design), they’re still very dangerous. You’re eight times more likely to have a fire in your home than to experience a home invasion.

Have functional smoke detectors in bedrooms and central locations, and regularly check and change the batteries. Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed on every floor and replaced every five or six years. Appropriate fire extinguishers are especially important for kitchens, garages, and workshops.

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