Keep Emergency Lights Handy
Uneven or unfamiliar footing is a prime cause of falls in the dark, and during an emergency even familiar surfaces can become treacherous. Keep a flashlight with extra batteries near your bed in case of a power outage. Also carry a small LED flashlight on your key ring. It's perfect for walking to and from the garage as well as in unfamiliar places like hotels and city streets. If you have a smartphone that includes a flashlight, use it. If your phone doesn't, there are many free flashlight apps available (but read the fine print about whether these apps may be able to access data from your phone once downloaded).
Night-Lights Inside and Out
Twenty percent of falls happen at night. Fatigue and alcohol can be contributing factors, but poor lighting also plays a role. You can easily make outdoor steps and walkways a lot safer by adding inexpensive solar-powered path, deck and porch lights.
Inside, line your hallway and stairs with LED battery-powered night-lights. The system shown is the PathLights Automatic Lighting System, which includes wireless LED lights that “communicate” with each other when they detect motion up to 6 ft. away. You can find a huge variety of LED battery-powered, motion-activated lights and solar-powered lights at home centers or by searching online.
Ice Grips Work, with Caution
If you live in ice-and-snow country, get some ice grips for your boots and shoes. These cleats provide traction in mud, snow, ice and other conditions. They come in lightweight coil versions for paved roads and sidewalks, and heavy-duty spike models for hiking trails.
A word of caution: Don't ever rely completely on an antislip device to protect you from a fall. Feeling invincible in slippery conditions is never wise. And make sure you remove ice grips immediately when you step inside (even if you're only inside briefly). These products can be very slippery on tile and stone surfaces. Ice grips are available at sporting goods stores and online retailers.
Add Friction to Slippery Surfaces
Prevent outdoor falls by eliminating the slippery conditions on steps, ramps and decks. Temporary solutions include grit additives for paint and adhesive grip strips. These screw-on, durable aluminum plates, from Handi-Treads, are a more permanent option. Learn more at handitreads.com.
Install Hardware-Mounted Safety Gates at the Top of Stairs
Every six minutes, a child under the age of five falls down the stairs and is rushed to the hospital—that's nearly 100,000 kids per year. Prevent this by using a hardware-mounted safety gate bolted to the wall studs at the top of the stairs. Just make sure it doesn't swing in both directions or have a trip bar at the bottom of the frame.
Pressure-mounted gates are more convenient, but they should be used only between two rooms, never to block off stairwells. Buy a safety gate certified by the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, which means it meets international safety standards. And be aware that nearly half of all injuries associated with safety gates happen when adults trip or fall trying to step over them. Buy a gate that's easy for you (but not your kid) to open so you won't be tempted to climb over it.
Ditch the Clutter, Especially on Stairs
Nearly half of all falling deaths occur on steps and stairways. Keeping the steps clutter-free seems obvious, but take a look at your own steps (especially those leading down to the basement). Who hasn't set something on the top step “temporarily” with a plan to take it down on the next trip? It's easy to use the steps as semipermanent storage, but it's a very dangerous habit. Odds are that eventually someone is going to trip over something and break an arm or leg (or neck). Don't set anything on the steps. Ever.
Make Windows Safe for Kids
Each year in the United States nearly 15,000 children are injured because of falls from windows. Window screens are not strong enough to prevent falls. In rooms on upper floors, install window guards with quick-release mechanisms (in case of fire) to prevent windows from opening more than a few inches. And keep furniture away from windows so kids aren't tempted to climb near them.
Window guards are available from safebeginnings.com and other online retailers, home centers and department stores.
Use a Wall-Mount Soap Dispenser
The bathroom can be a hazardous place for everyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, injuries around the tub or shower are actually most common among those ages 15 to 24.
Believe it or not, many bath falls are caused by reaching for dropped soap! So do two things—use a slip-proof bath mat and install a wall-mounted soap and shampoo dispenser. There are many different models available, and most install quickly with adhesive strips and silicone glue. Look for models with easy-to-fill dispensers at bath stores and online retailers.
Use Step Stools Safely
Step stools may seem innocent enough, but they cause 160,000 injuries each year. Some of these occur because the stool itself isn't safe; more than a million folding step stools have been recalled recently because of design flaws. Injuries happen when the stool collapses or tips over or when someone loses their balance because there's nothing to grab onto.
Avoid these sorts of falls by making sure your step stool is well designed with safety features that include deep, nonskid steps and a handrail that extends above the top step. You should be able to stand on the top step and still have a firm grasp on the handrail. When you use a step stool, make sure it's sitting on a flat surface and that it's tall enough and strong enough for the job. And even if your stool has a handrail, leaning too far in any direction is a good way to become a statistic. By the way, never use an upside-down 5-gallon pail for a step stool. You're bound to go down!