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Simple Home Safety Tips for Your Hawaii Home

Simple Safety Tips Can Save a Life!

As we all know, the best action in regards to safety is the one that prevents the problem before it happens. And some of the most basic safety tasks can save your life! Our busy lives are so full of the stressors from daily tasks such as career responsibilities, family life, social life and all the never-ending duties related to keeping that in balance that the last thing we need to add to that equation is wondering if our home which holds our most precious beloved’s is safe and secure. Safety and security is imperative to our mental well being, protection of our real estate assets, physical personal property and of course most importantly ourselves and our loved ones. What simple steps other than locking your doors are you taking at home to ensure your safety and the safety of your children and loved ones? What are you doing to protect your property and its contents? Assets that are the cumulation of years worth of hard work, dedication, and savings. You bought the house, now what’s next?

The Good Ole Days

As much as we all like to revel in the “Good Ole Days” where people didn’t always feel the need to lock their doors at home or we could run into the market without locking the cars, the reality is that even on our Island of Maui we have break-ins, fires, assaults, and other crimes do happen. Even me at my youthful age of 41, I still remember the days before I began having children that I could run down to my favorite surf spot at the Breakwall in Lahaina and leave my truck unlocked with no worries. Or, how my friends and I used to head out for a post-surf session meal and never give a thought to securing our vehicles when we head into the cafes. But something to consider nowadays is while Maui lifestyle is not typically thought of as having the same threats as living in the big city, we do need to be aware that things do happen and we should be doing everything possible to protect ourselves and our financial investments such as our homes and vehicles.

Why Practice Home or Vehicle Safety Measures?

We should all be practicing some extra safety measures at home because our communities thrive when its members are happy, healthy, and safe. And these tips are not only for the homeowner but for the renter as well that will one day be a homeowner themselves. Whether you own or rent, the place that you call home is still yours to retreat to and should be a place of serenity and safety. Knowing that we are secure, our loved ones are safe and we can relax and enjoy the space that we work so hard to be able to afford creates incredible peace of mind. A state of being that allows us to laugh, smile and be in gratitude. Not having to worry about our older children and their safety when we are out working and they are at home by themselves after school allows us to be more productive and protects our children from feeling insecure, lonely, or scared when at home alone. All of these things which have a trickle-down effect over time to create positive family home life, less trauma, and most importantly lots of smiles and emotional security. A happy home begins with the initial purchase or investment, and it thrives on stable maintenance which includes protecting your investments in several ways!

Assessing My Current Situation

There are several things we can all be doing at home or with our vehicle that are not only potentially life-saving but are also affordable or even free to implement. I have the good fortune of having a close friend that is not only a retired career military man after over two decades of service as a former US Marine and also as a Lieutenant of the US Navy Reserves. He has spent his life protecting our country from threats and continues to do so. He has collected numerous awards over the years, certificates and degrees in the study of Strategies for Security on a national level, with even as recently as last year returning from a long grueling and focused period of time in Afghanistan. So naturally, when we became friends the first thing he did for me was asses the safety of my home and point out some areas that could use some attention. A simple assessment that you yourself may want to consider performing at home.

Laziness Equals Loss!

I will admit I used to be a bit lackadaisical at best about my home security. As a busy single mom of two beautiful grade school age children and a free spirit at heart, I was known to lock my front door at night but leave my lanai sliders unsecured. Some of my ground floor windows were locked at night and some were not. I was more concerned with saving on my electricity bill then lighting up my home’s exterior perimeter—all until I had a break in. I live in a very safe, well manicured, and family oriented subdivision next to a golf course and it never crossed my mind that a break in could ever happen to us. Until it did.

I personally run my AC every day. Being a successful Realtor means when I am not out with clients or doing my property research and open houses, I am at my desk in my home office. I like it cool and quiet while I’m working, with the occasional distraction of my favorite funny Ellen clips on Youtube. Keeping the windows locked at all times should be a no-brainer. However, there are times that I entertain friends for poker nights, BBQs, and birthday parties, and often open up windows so we can enjoy the music in the backyard. In the past, it was not uncommon for me to forget to secure the window locks after everyone leaves and I close up the windows. After the break-in, my house was inspected and we found two perfect handprints on the outside of my first-floor window where someone had placed their hands and slid my window open from the outside. You can bet that I now always remember to keep my windows securely locked. I double check them periodically so I can notice immediately if something is amiss. For those of you that keep their windows open and don’t run AC, how many of you compensate for keeping ground level windows open while everyone is sleeping by having security lights around the perimeter of your home and entrance points? Keeping the exterior/perimeter of your home well lit at night can be enough to cause a nighttime creeper to bypass your well lit home and move on to a dark and more unnoticeable property where he or she may be less likely to be noticed or identified.

The things to consider and ask yourself in regards to safety are:

  1.  How can I keep unwanted people out?
  2.  How can myself and my children escape quickly in case of a fire?
  3.  How can I protect myself and my children if someone does break in?
  4. What about my vehicle?

Top Tips for Home & Vehicle Safety

So here are some great starter tips to start implementing in your home or with your vehicle that are affordable to put together, some free, and most importantly potentially life saving! Of course, there are hundreds of other things you can do to keep yourself aware, secure and in a preventative mode. However, this is simply a few basic tips to practice and get started.

Let’s start with the vehicle.

Recently I found myself stopped on the side of the highway at 9:30 pm. I was returning home with a friend after enjoying dinner when we see a girl next to her car looking uncertain and concerned. She is standing outside her vehicle, trunk open, and it is completely dark outside. Only as cars drive past does her scenario light up briefly. We turn our vehicle around and pull up behind her, keeping our headlights on and doing a quick assessment of the situation before exiting our car to help her. Of course, I can only think of my daughter and when she will be driving one day. It is definitely possible that she may end up stuck on the side of the road at some point.

Not only is the girl’s cell phone dead, but she doesn’t know how to change her tire, isn’t sure if she has a jack, and is intimidated to flag down drivers so late at night. As much as I would like to think that when my daughter is driving one day and, heaven forbid she gets stuck on the side of the road, at night, on a busy highway and by herself, that the most honest and wholesome of angels will immediately pull over and assist her, the reality is she could be stuck on the side of the road for a long period of time in the dark by herself and it may be quite some time before someone takes the time to pull over and help her. Or the person that may pull over might not have the best intentions. So here are some basic tips to protect yourself in this scenario (and also teach your young new drivers to practice).

  1.  If you think your vehicle may be in trouble at night, pull over in a well-lit spot if possible. Always have flares or a handful of glow sticks in your emergency pack so you can make yourself noticeable to traffic if you get stranded at night.
  2. Always keep a container of basic emergency items in your car, no matter what. Water, a couple of power bars/nuts, headlamp, flares, basic first aid kit, jacket or blanket. Having a small backpack may also help in the event you have to leave your vehicle and walk somewhere to get help and need to gather your personal or valuable items with you.
  3. Teach your children that drive how to change their tires in case of a flat and also be sure you can do this as well! Double check that you know where your spare is, that your jack has everything needed, and practice changing your tire in the daytime at home when there is no emergency, so you will not be trying to figure it out when you actually have a flat. If your rims are custom like mine and have special bolts that require an unusual part to remove to change a tire (to protect from theft), be sure that you keep one in your car at all times!
  4. Ensure that your phone is always charged when you are driving. In our busy lives it is easy to let the batteries run low on our phones, however being stuck on the side of the road is not the time that you want to be without your cell phone! Be sure your high school and college-age children are taught this as well. It is much safer for them to be calling for help on their cell phone from inside a locked car than standing on the side of the road trying to flag down strangers when they are in distress.

In case of a home fire.

Recently, Maui experienced terrible and destructive raging fires. Homes were lost, people were displaced, and like is common with fires things happened quickly and with devastating effects. There are many things that people can do to protect themselves in the event of a home fire, but there is one simple trick that a mom neighbor shared with me in regards to second story homes where a bedroom may be above the driveway. Besides the obvious that there should not only be a smoke alarms in all the rooms and there should also be a fire extinguisher in every room in the home that has a door to it, backing your car all the way up to the home at the garage door if you have a bedroom that is over the garage could make for a shorter jump distance should anyone in the home be trapped upstairs due to a fire below and have to exit the home out of the upper level windows. Sure we would rather risk a broken leg jumping out of a second story window in case of a fire, but something as simple as backing my car up to the home at the end of the day so jumping out of a window would land me on top of the roof on my car, and then hop down to the ground sounds much more appealing then launching myself or my children the full distance to the ground. Of course, this only applies to those that live in a home where there is a bedroom above the garage/driveway but for many properties, this is the case.

Always keep a fire extinguisher in every room in the house — this may seem extreme, but when a sudden and unexpected fire breaks out and you find yourself or you and your family retreating quickly to a bedroom or bathroom and closing the door. You aren’t going to be running back down to whatever room the one fire extinguisher in the house is residing. After spending all your money on your property, your belongings, and your valuables, anything you can do to quickly minimize damage to any of the previously mentioned seems like a wise investment to me. Hopefully, you can escape your home, but in the event that you cannot, ensure that any room that you may find yourself either trapped in or retreating to has a fire extinguisher. For those that live on a tight budget, you may think to yourself that is too expensive! But the reality is you can buy a fire extinguisher for as cheap as $20.00 online. That’s less than a quick McDonald’s run for a family of four!

Minimize the potential for damage to your belongings by keeping the extinguishers accessible, and working. Take a family day and practice in the backyard so everyone knows how to use a fire extinguisher. We all know what they look like, but ask yourself if a fire broke out right now in my home, how many seconds would it take me to grab an extinguisher and activate it? Would I have to read the directions quickly or would I know exactly how to operate it? Would my child know how to activate one immediately if a sudden electrical fire broke out and they were home alone?

What about windows, sliding doors, and my garage?

Always be sure to lock all doors that lead from the garage to the interior of the home as well as any other doors leading outside. The door between the garage and the interior of the home is a lock that can often be forgotten as it is easy to think that if the garage door is closed then there is no need to lock the door that leads from inside the garage to the kitchen or whatever room may be the entry point room. Taking it one step further is to put a door stopper behind the door (and your front door as well) at night. Even if a burglar is able to quietly pick your lock while you are sleeping, it is almost impossible to bust open a door quietly with a door stopper wedged at the base. One would have to push and bang on the door to gain entry which would surely wake up the household and alert everyone to an intruder. Recently there was a story on the news about a woman that broke into someone’s home quietly while the homeowner was sleeping. The criminal silently took several valuables, and easily located the vehicle keys and took off — all while the homeowner was sound asleep!

Invest in a wooden rod for all of your sliding doors that lead outside. Measure the space between your door that slides and the point where it stops when opened on your sliding door track when your door is closed, and go to the hardware store. I was able to find a thick round wooden pole, one for each slider and they cut the wood for me to the exact measurements. The total cost was less than $20.00. Take it one step further and wrap brightly colored tape around the pole so it is obvious to you when the pole is not in its place. My rods look like the old school barbershop poles with their swirling red stripes wrapped around like stripes on a candy cane. I also looped a piece of paracord around one side like a handle so it is easy to pick up when it’s time to open the sliders. I always put my rods in place when I leave the house and at night.

And now for the children!

Never underestimate how capable young children or even teenagers for that matter can be in the event of an emergency. The key to success is like anything else — knowledge, practice and proper equipment can mean the difference between success or failure!  And when it comes to home safety, failure cannot be an option! I teach my children that in the event of a break in and they are home, which did happen, by the way, when my son was home from school, being prepared and calm is the most important skill. If you ask my daughter, who is 6 years old, what is the most important lifesaving skill in any type of emergency whether it be fire, break-in, shooting, kidnapping, who knows what — her answer is automatically to take a deep breath, remain calm, and think. Getting in the correct calm mindset may take just a split second but it is a mindset that can aid in being able to perform life-saving tasks versus a panicked state of mind that can prevent you from thinking clearly.

Keeping a phone line, cell phone, or prepaid phone for emergencies only in each child’s room is a potentially life-saving tip. Teach your children and give them the tools to be proactive and confident should a break in occur and they are home. Cell phones can be on silent, landlines can have the ringers turned off. But should there be a break in and heaven forbid the parent or parents are in an altercation with an intruder — having a phone in each child’s room would allow them immediate access to call 911. Take it one step further for the older children and install a lock on their door (preferably the type of lock that locks from the inside and down low so it is within the child’s reach) so a child could barricade themselves in their room and call for help. Sound extreme? When I think about my most precious belonging, my children, no measure is too extreme to ensure their safety and well being.

Protect Your Assets

Now that you have taken some extra measures to protect some of your most valuable assets like your home, your vehicle and your family it is time to enjoy and relax! Nothing says enjoyment more than knowing you do not have to worry about losing what can be some of your most expensive and prized belongings that you may own in your lifetime. You’ve bought house, you’ve filled it with loved ones, now ensure your life’s work will last!

If you have other amazing tips for protecting your home and other assets, be sure to share them here so others can utilize your knowledge and pass it on as well! Be sure to contact me so we can not only work towards your next home purchase or your next home sale but so we can share ideas on what you do to maintain the value of homes and investments!

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Randy Balliett

October 30, 2018

Excellent article.

As a retired police officer of 32 years who has been lucky enough to visit your beautiful island a couple of times, I applaud your awareness of these safety issue. Often it is this awareness and preparedness that keeps a problem from occurring in the first place.

I sometimes envy those who can go through life (and especially a vacation!) without worrying about what MIGHT happen, but the reality is that bad things do happen. Even in “paradise!” Taking a moment to prepare and think about options is smart. Your article conveys solid information that will really help people.

Mahalo!

Randy Balliett

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