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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities

Expert home safety tips


Dec. 30, 2011

Just one small, neglected detail around a house could lead to injury or unfortunate accident. Following these tips from Andy Smith, occupational safety compliance officer, and Key Shop employee Pam Redburn, locksmith II, will help to keep your living space safe and secure.


  • If you seek additional security, adding a deadbolt to your door is a good option if you do not already have one. Well-made hardware should place the deadbolt deep in the frame of the door instead of just reaching into the trim. It is a wise idea to use longer screws than what are usually provided.
  • As for the care and maintenance of your locks, use a small amount of graphite in the key way and oil on the locking parts. A product with a combination of the two can be a good choice.
  • Installing a peephole is easy to do yet adds another layer of security.
  • There are also numerous types of locking devices that can be added to your sliding glass doors. Remember to latch your windows in addition to just shutting them.


  • Falls from ladders can lead to serious injury or death. The danger is increased when people are cleaning leaves out of their gutters or completing a last bit of roof maintenance before winter sets in.
  • When using an extension ladder, place the footings on level ground and be sure the ladder is far from power lines. Ensure that all locks are in place. Use the 4-to-1 rule: for each 4 feet of distance between the ground and the upper point of contact (such as the wall or roof), move the base of the ladder out 1 foot.


  • Unplug devices when they are not in use. Do not overload the circuit by plugging too many cords into one outlet. There is no set rule for how many is too many, but an old house likely has a less-gridded circuit.
  • Do not use an indoor cord for outdoor lights. The cords are labeled at the hardware store. Also, be sure to get the proper size cord. If you draw heavy amperage on a cord that is too long and it is coiled up, it will heat up and start to melt its insulation.


  • Candle use causes many fires in homes every year. If you light them, make sure to put them out, and never place candles below something flammable. If you burn wood in a fireplace or stove only a couple of times a year, a chimney inspection is recommended first to avoid chimney fires.
  • Every home should have a fire extinguisher, preferably in the kitchen, as well as working smoke detectors. Smoke detector batteries should be changed approximately every six months to keep them functioning properly. Most importantly, have a family fire escape plan.


  • Make sure that your water heater is adjusted to the correct temperature.  A setting below 120 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended by most manufacturers. If the temperature is set too high, the water from a shower or sink could scald you.
  • It is very simple to adjust your own water heater; it takes a matter of seconds. There are also showerheads that have temperature-sensing disks that can turn water heaters off if they get too hot. A safe setting protects against the risk of burns and reduces energy use.

Slips, trips and falls

  • Indoor slip hazards include poorly placed rugs and wet floors. A rug placed on linoleum can shoot out from underfoot. A non-skid mat is a good solution.
  • Regarding winter, make sure that your steps and your sidewalks are clear for you and others in your neighborhood. Keep them clean down to the pavement if possible.
  • Getting in and out of vehicles can also be a hazard. If you put one leg into a car, the other could fly out from under you. For the safest method, sit down first, then turn.

November/December 2011

Prior to the creation of Infrastructure Planning and Facilities in January 2013, several IPF departments were a part of the now-dissolved MSU Physical Plant. Some historical articles on this website reference that former unit.