This month out of Springfield there’s something akin to holiday cheer being distributed out of the offices of IEMA (Illinois Emergency Management Agency) as its December 2011 Preparedness Campaign kicks off, trying to increase citizen awareness of home dangers like fire and radon as well as being ready in case of a home emergency.
Major, life-altering disasters can hit families within their home, along their street, or in their neighborhood, it’s not just the big winter storms or flooding disasters that can strike and alter lives forever. It’s because of these kinds of possibilities that a new website has been created (www.Ready.Illinois.gov) and IEMA has started its new campaign.
All through December 2011, IEMA will be publishing all sorts of home safety tips at the Ready.Illinois website. Things like decorating for the holidays will be covered. Candles can start fires, for example. So can faulty strings of outdoor lights.
Injuries and Deaths at Home From Fire and Toxic Fumes
Even more importantly from a personal injury point of view are things that cause serious injury and death in our part of the country each year. Old furnaces collect dust and get old and rusty, and can cause fires as well as release toxic carbon monoxide fumes. It’s very important to have furnaces professionally checked every year.
The IMEA also reminds us all that it is mandated by Illinois law that homes must have both smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors within 15 feet of each and every bedroom. Landlords must abide by this; is yours? Homeowners have to abide by this, too. Are your batteries still working in your smoke alarms and CO detectors?
Radon Gas Is Top Cause of Lung Cancer Among Non-Smokers in the U.S.
The agency also has a very wise warning for all of us: radon is an undetectable gas that causes cancer – in fact, it’s second only to smoking tobacco in causing lung cancer among smokers and the top cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Radon comes out of the soil as uranium decays. It’s important to have your home (as well as other buildings, schools, hospitals, etc. ) tested for radon. You can do the test yourself (see www.radon.illinois.gov).
Radon is a radioactive gas. It comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up. Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.
Radon from soil gas is the main cause of radon problems. Sometimes radon enters the home through well water (see “Radon in Water“). In a small number of homes, the building materials can give off radon, too. However, building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves.
RADON GETS IN THROUGH:
- Cracks in solid floors
- Construction joints
- Cracks in walls
- Gaps in suspended floors
- Gaps around service pipes
- Cavities inside walls
- The water supply
Winter Storm Emergencies
Finally, those big storms do hit and we’re going into a long winter now. IEMA has a great checklist for a home emergency kit, now is the time to make sure you’ve got everything you need. Among them:
- A battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and a battery-powered commercial radio
- Extra batteries.
- Foods that do not require cooking or refrigeration.
- High energy foods such as dried fruit and granola bars.
- Extra medications and special items for babies, the disabled or elderly.
- Extra water in clean containers.
- Flashlights. Do not use candles.
- First-aid kit, non-prescription drugs and personal sanitary items.
Your Duty to Keep Safe
Of course, there is much discussion here on the legal duties of product manufacturers, sellers, and distributors, as well as trucking companies, car dealers, road crews, and employers along with all other sorts of individuals or entities to keep us from harm in their ordinary course of business.
However, we each have a duty, too. All of us have a duty to ourselves and our loved ones to avoid danger and maintain our homes, our cars, etc. as well as to do what reasonable people do to protect themselves and their families from harm.
For example, if you race over 100 mph and crash your car, then you’ve assumed some of the legal risk of that wreck. Similarly, if you hang a sweater over a space heater and it catches fire, you’ve got some legal responsibility for that home disaster.
Be careful out there. Participate in this preparedness campaign – it’s a good thing.