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Home Safety

There are many factors to staying safe in your residence while in the U.S. The Home Safety Council (HSC) has a personalized home safety checklist you can create to customize a list of safety considerations. In general, the HSC website offers resources on how you keep yourself and any family members living with you safe.

Home safety basics Heading link

  • Build or buy a first aid kit – Fill a container with basic medical treatment items like gauze, bandages, anti-bacterial wipes, pain relieving medication, cold packs, etc. Make sure the kit is easily accessible in your home and that all family members know where to find it.
  • Create and post an emergency contact list– Create a list of emergency phone numbers including 911 for police, fire and medical emergency personnel, your personal emergency contacts, doctors, local hospitals, etc. Add UIC emergency contacts as well.
  • Gather important papers – Store important papers such as immigration documents, birth and marriage certificates, and medical and immunization records in one place that is easy to grab if you need to leave your residence immediately.
  • Create an emergency action plan – Identify various exit routes in the event you need to immediately leave your residence. Communicate this plan to any family members that are living with you and designate an emergency meeting place that is a safe distance from your residence such as the corner store or bus stop shelter at the end of the block.
  • Consider your specific safety needs – Do you have a pet? Are there any mobility or language needs within your household that would impact someone’s ability to respond in an emergency? Does your home present unique safety concerns such as a fireplace, stairs, balcony, or direct access from the street? Have a discussion about home safety with others in your household to see what ideas they have about how to establish safety plans and practices in your home.

Renter's insurance Heading link

Depending on your lease requirements, apartment complex, or landlord, you may be required to purchase renter’s insurance. Renter’s insurance is an insurance policy that will help cover damage and expenses associated with a home-related hazard, such as fire, flood, loss of power, home invasion (burglary), etc. There are many companies that offer renter’s insurance policies, and it’s recommended that you research options online and read reviews prior to purchasing a policy.

Fire safety at home Heading link

Fire safety is one of the most important facets of home safety. Here are a few fire safety tips and reminders:

  • Ensure you have smoke detectors installed. The Illinois Fire Safety Alliance outlines the state smoke detector requirements for dwellings.
  • Check smoke detectors monthly and replace batteries at least once a year (one recommendation is to replace the batteries in the spring, when daylight savings time ends, and in the fall when daylight savings time begins). The U.S. Fire Administration also has safety tools for home residences.
  • Select an appropriate fire extinguisher and install it in your home.
  • Monitor candles or cooking hot plates and griddles – do not leave these unattended! If needed, set a timer to remind yourself to turn them off.
  • If you have a clothes dryer in your unit, clean the lint trap after every use and check the exhaust hose (that connects the dryer to the outside of the home to vent hot air) regularly.
  • In the winter, do not use your stove or oven to heat your home. This is extremely dangerous and can result in a fire, gas poisoning, or both. Cookware should only be used for cooking or baking.

Carbon monoxide safety at home Heading link

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that is generated by improperly used or vented fuel-burning appliances. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause headaches, dizziness, and in severe cases, vomiting, vision impairment and death. CO is impossible to detect by smell or sight and CO alarms are recommended outside each sleeping area (I.e. hallway) and on each level of your residence.

Personal safety at home Heading link

To increase the security of your home, only share building access codes or keys with family members living with you and those you trust. For additional security, you can consider adding a video doorbell, or motion-detector lights on porches, patios or the front door. If you rent your home, check with your landlord before installing anything.

If you plan to be away from your U.S. residence for a long period of time, be careful what you post publicly on social media. If you advertise that your home is unoccupied, someone may take the opportunity to enter and steal your belongings. You can also notify the U.S. Postal Service to hold your mail until your return so that a big pile of mail does not accumulate at your door.

Handling unexpected visitors

Don’t let someone into your building unless you know who it is and have confirmed their identity either by talking to them or seeing them through a peep hole or video monitor. If you are expecting a friend or a delivery, you should still confirm their identity before buzzing them in.

Sometimes, and perhaps more often around an election, political canvassers may buzz your apartment or knock on your door unexpectedly. These are people promoting a cause or an individual running for political office. You are not obligated to talk to them or let them into your home. It is not good safety practice to let a non-resident into your building walk through the halls and knock on doors unaccompanied.

Lastly, if an individual rings your doorbell and indicates they are from a utility company, ask to see their company ID badge and to explain the nature of their visit before letting them into your home. Do not give any personal information to them unless you are expecting maintenance on a certain utility (electricity, cable TV, etc.). If you are renting, and have not been notified by your landlord of the service visit, ask the person to wait outside while you contact your landlord for confirmation. There are known scams where individuals impersonate utility workers to either steal your personal information or case your home for a potential robbery at a later time.

Food safety Heading link

Food safety might seem like common sense, but reminders can be helpful when in a new country where food safety language and certain ingredients might be unfamiliar. This guide to food date labels can help you read common safety markings found on food items in the U.S.