Safety and Security
Every year thousands of people find themselves in the A&E department of their local hospital or visiting their GP due to an accident in the home. If you are less mobile, less dextrous, have less acute vision or hearing, you are more likely to have an accident, so it makes sense to make sure you have certain safety and security measures in your home.
Smoke can be a killer, particularly when you are asleep, so it is essential you have a smoke detector alarm to warn you if there is a fire. Smoke alarms should be able to detect both heat and smoke and can be operated by battery or by the mains electricity. Whether it is powered by battery or mains, it should be checked regularly. Smoke alarm systems for people with hearing impairment are available with a flashing light and/or pillow vibrator as an alternative warning method.
Natural gas is an energy source that is commonly used in homes for cooking, heating, and water heating. Although it only happens rarely, a natural gas leak can sometimes occur inside the home. A natural gas leak can be dangerous because it increases the risk of fire or explosion. A gas alarm will warn you in the same way a smoke alarm does if it detects abnormal levels of gas and some will even shut off the gas automatically. Most of the newer gas cookers have inbuilt detectors and will automatically switch off gas if the supply is turned on but not lit.
Carbon Monoxide (also known as CO) is a poisonous gas which can be given off by any appliance which burns a fossil fuel such as gas, coal or oil. Carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless and has no taste and as a result, is extremely dangerous. Carbon monoxide alarms are available from all good hardware stores. They are usually installed adjacent to sleeping areas or in rooms containing a gas appliance. More than one may be required to offer full protection. A Carbon Monoxide alarm should not be used as a substitute for a smoke alarm. For more information, visit http://www.bordgaisenergysupply.ie/safe/htm/carbon_monoxide.htm
Temperature cut-off lever taps restrict the turning of the tap to prevent flow of the hottest water which may scald or burn. Mixer taps can also be used which allow you to channel the hot and cold water through the one tap at the same time which is safer. Scald warning devices can be used to check water in a bath to make sure it is not too hot before climbing in which could be helpful for people who have poor sensation. When dipped into hot water, they change colour and they are available for different set temperatures.
For people with poor or deteriorating eyesight, good lighting is very important. Try to have the same brightness in each room, so that your eyes do not have to keep adjusting as you go from room to room. It is particularly important to have good lighting on staircases, and you should be able to turn the light on and off at both ends.
There are safety nightlights which can be plugged into key locations around the house such as the landing or beside the phone which turn on automatically when it gets dark and use low-energy, low cost light bulbs. If there is a possibility someone might get up during the night, for example, to answer the phone or use the toilet, night lighting can help reduce the risk of a fall or walking into something. They turn off again automatically when it is daylight.
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Living alone or being alone for long periods of time can make someone feel more vulnerable but there are a number of steps that can be taken to make you more secure in your home.
Today there are more types of phones with more different features to choose from than ever before. A telephone can provide a vital link for someone or to someone so it is worth considering what features would be useful to ensure the telephone is as effective a communication device as possible for the user.
There are some services available specifically for people with disabilities and older people in regard to telephones and textphones. For more information, see www.eircom.net/group/disabilityservices/.
Basic intercom systems are available from most electricians and security companies. They enable you to speak with, and if it has a video camera, see who is calling at the front door so you can decide whether you want to allow access to your home or not. If you want your visitor to come in, they can be set up to release the front door lock with the press of a button so you do not have to have to rush to the door to let someone in.
There is a large choice of personal systems available today for people who may require assistance, ranging from portable personal alarms that omit a loud noise if activated, to simple pull-cord alarms which activate a flashing light or bell outside the home, to autodialler alarms which dial, via a telephone, directly to a 24-hour monitoring station. The monitoring station is able to communicate with the person through a speaker phone and take an appropriate course of action eg contact a family member, call an ambulance. For details of companies that provide this service please see the Assist Ireland document 'Personal Alarm Providers'.
The alarm button can be put in almost any location ie worn on the wrist or as a pendant so that if the person falls they can contact for help, or fixed in a single or number of places in the house.
For more information on the equipment mentioned in this section, see Choosing a Personal Alarm System.
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