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SAFETY IN THE HOME


General bathroom safety


o Any uneven features on the floor can be a hazard - this includes loose mats which might cause a trip. To minimise risk, make sure there is a good colour contrast between the main floor covering and any mat, so that the edge is clearly visible.
o If the bathroom floor is at all slippery - ceramic tiles, for example - consider installing a waterproof, non-slip floor covering instead.
o Extra support around the room can make a lot of difference to safety and peace of mind. Grab rails near the bath and/or shower, basin and loo are useful. There are lots to choose from: bear in mind that a textured surface will be easier to grip, especially with wet hands, and a brightly coloured rail will be easier to see against a white background. Strong plastic rails are simpler to install than metal in the bathroom, as they won't require earth-bonding. Whatever type of rail you choose, make sure that they are properly fitted and that the wall is strong enough. A light partition wall may not give adequate support, even if proper fastenings are used to attach the rail. In this situation, it would be more prudent to attach a wooden backboard to the other side of the partition wall, then fix the grabrail to this, through the thickness of the wall. Alternatively, in some situations, a floor to ceiling pole could be used instead.
o If door handles are hard to operate, replace them with easier lever-type handles. Locks on bathroom doors are not a good idea. The door should open outwards, to give easier access to you if you have a fall and need help.
o Scalding is another risk in the bathroom. Mixer taps with an anti-scald safety cut-out are a good idea, as is a temperature indicator - visual and/or audible - for bath water.
o Any radiators or other heaters in the bathroom should have a surface that remains cool enough not to burn someone who falls or leans against them.
o Replace hard to manage tap handles with easier lever styles or even hands-free, infra-red controls. For tight budgets, there are lever adapters which fit most standard taps.

 

A safer bath


For many of us, a soak in the bath is one of the best ways of relaxing and easing those aching muscles or joints - but getting in and out of the tub can become quite challenging. There are various options to help, for every budget and from hi-tech to very much low-tech!
o Simplest first. A bath board or seat that fits across the top of the bath enables you to sit as you swing your legs over the edge. It can be combined with a bath grip that fits on the rim of the tub for extra support.
o A non-slip mat in the bottom of the bath can improve confidence and safety. Combined with a grab rail by the side to give support as you lower and raise yourself, this may be sufficient for many people.
o A powered bath seat can take the struggle out of getting down into the bath - then back out again. There are many different types, including the sturdy fabric belt type that lowers you to the bottom of the tub; the giant inflatable plastic cushion that gently deflates to carry you down; and variously styled moulded and or padded plastic seats. There are some designs that will lift you over the edge of the bath itself, with a leg lift as well. Some models will lower you further than others - a point to check if you like a nice deep soak. If more than one person uses the bathroom, you may also want to consider the remove-ability of the seat, leaving the tub free and clear for more able bathers.
o The last option is to replace the tub with a specially adapted one with a door in the side that you can walk in and out of. These doors may be hinged to open inwards or outwards, or may raise themselves vertically. This used to be a very expensive option, but there are now a number of budget conscious models available. There are a few things to bear in mind when you make your choice. Are there any inside fastenings that you might hurt yourself on? Are there thermostatic taps? (you're going to be sitting in this bath as it fills - you don't want to be scalded). How quickly will it fill and empty? Remember that you won't be able to get out until the water has gone - if that takes too much time, you'll get cold and bored! Is it going to fit neatly in the space left by your previous bath?

 

Safer showering


A shower can be faster, easier and more economical than a bath. Many of us already have one, instead of or as well as a bath. There are a number of features to look for to ensure safe showering.
o The shower tray should be as shallow as possible so that you can get in and out without having to negotiate a big step. A rough textured surface will make it less slippery.
o For anyone with more serious mobility problems, who perhaps needs to use the shower in a chair, then a tray which is flush with the floor, or has a very gentle ramp up, would be suitable.
o Conventional shower doors can be replaced with half-height ones, if you need someone to help you with washing.
o A stool and grab rail will mean that you can shower sitting down - or just have somewhere to sit while you dry your feet! Definitely makes life easier and more secure. There are many different styles of seat, including ones that can be pushed up against the wall when not in use, and others that are completely portable.
o Make sure that the shower you choose is thermostatically controlled, so that you don't get scalded, and that the controls are easy to use, even with wet hands. You can now get programmable showers that remember the right temperature for you, and ones with visual and/or audible temperature indicators.
o If you are replacing a bath with a shower, there are many large tray and door combinations available to fit in the space left by the bath. It's always a good idea anyway to have a nice roomy shower enclosure if possible - makes it easier and therefore safer to move about.
o Alternatively, a wet floor shower area does away with the need for an enclosure at all - but it doesn't work for every bathroom, as it involves a new floor with a slope to the integral drainage, waterproof floor and wall coverings, and careful thought for the siting of other elements of the bathroom, since water will be distributed over quite a large area...

 

A safer toilet


Whatever else happens, being able to use the loo privately and comfortably is a fundamental expectation. If arthritis or any other impairment is making this difficult for you, there are lots of ways to ease the situation.
o You can raise the height of the toilet very simply, by replacing the seat with a raised one, or (less simply) by adding a plinth beneath it. Some raised toilet seats also have integral arms, to help you push yourself up.
o A sturdy frame around the loo, or one or two grab rails adjacent can help with extra support as you get up and down. Hinged grab rails push up against the wall when you don't need them, so are less obstructive in small bathrooms.
o There are now special seats available that give you a little lift, either electric, battery or air-powered.
o If dexterity is also a problem, you might well add a bidet facility to your loo - there are add-ons that fit most standard toilets, and make a very economical alternative to installing a separate bidet. Alternatively, you can install a purpose-built unit that combines toilet, bidet and warm air drying in one - but this is a more expensive option, of course.

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General kitchen safety


o Fire - more domestic fires start in the kitchen than anywhere else, which is probably not surprising when you think about it. Chip pan fires are the classic example. The golden rule is never to leave things on the stove or under the grill unattended. If the door bell or telephone rings, turn off the heat before you answer. If you are apt to be absent-minded, use the timer on your oven or buy a cheap clockwork timer with a loud ring to remind you. Be prepared for the worst - ideally, have a fire extinguisher and fire blanket to hand in the kitchen, but failing these, a damp tea-towel or a bucket of sand can be used to smother a small fire by cutting off the oxygen. Never throw water onto burning fat or oil, or on fires started by an electrical appliance.
o Make sure that you know where to turn off the electricity, gas and water supplies in emergency. Keep the path to reach them clear of obstacles. If you cook with gas, make sure that your hob top has a flame failure device which cuts off the supply of gas if the flame goes out.


o Don't have electrical flexes trailing across the floor or worktop - both can be hazardous. Try to organise things so that electrical applances are situated close to a socket, and if possible, replace long flexes with the curly type. Don't overload your electric sockets - have double ones fitted if you don't have enough.


o Arrange your storage so that you can reach items you use regularly without straining. It is safer to store heavy items lower down; lightweight glasses and plates at higher level. Don't be tempted to improvise by hopping onto a stool or box if you need something that's out of reach. A proper step-ladder with wide non-slip treads is the answer - or wait until someone can help you.


o Flooring should be non-slip and easy to keep clean. Carpet is not a good idea in the kitchen and ceramic tiles may look lovely, but they can be tiring to stand on, and are definitely not forgiving if you drop anything breakable on them.


o Good lighting is important in the kitchen, and if your eyesight is poor, strong colour contrasts on edges and any steps can also help prevent accidents.

Food Preparation


o It's less tiring to work sitting down. A perching stool will enable you to rest comfortably at a suitable height for a kitchen work surface.


o Replace hard to manage tap handles with easier lever styles or even hands-free, infra-red controls. For tight budgets, there are lever adapters which fit most standard taps.


o There is a good range of utensils with easy to grip handles, which are easier and safer to use if you have arthritis or limited dexterity. Chopping boards with a raised border to hold the item you are slicing or chopping are also helpful.


o Avoid having to lift heavy kettles and tea pots by using a kettle tipper.


o Implements are available to help with opening tins, jars, plastic bags, even the ring-pull tabs that are becoming more prevalent.


o Non-slip mats make many tasks easier and safer - you can hold mixing bowls in place, for example, or make the surface of a tray more secure. You can buy non-slip mats in various shapes and sizes, or in a piece that you can cut to size.


o Carrying dishes of food or cups of tea around can be hazardous if you are not too steady on your feet. A tray with a carrying handle for one-handed use leaves the other hand free to carry a stick, or a wheeled walking frame with built-in tray gives even more support.

 

Cooking


We've already covered fire risks (see above), so this section is more about simplifying some cooking routines.


o Turning controls on the cooker may be difficult: a contour turner fits most controls and gives a chunky handle to turn.
Alternatively, you may be able to have permanent replacement controls fitted.


o Draining heavy saucepans of boiling water through a colander is hazardous at the best of times. If you cook vegetables in a wire basket that fits inside the saucepan, you have only to lift this out when they finish cooking. Alternatively, a steamer basket that sits on top of a pan of boiling water, cooks the vegetables without contact with the water, helping to preserve the nutrients and the flavour.


o Saucepans with glass lids enable you to see what's happening inside without raising the lid and risking a scald.


o Ensure that there is a clear, heat-resistant surface next to the oven and hob top, where you can put down hot, heavy dishes as soon as you take them off the heat.


o Microwave ovens have changed many cooking activities, and can make them much easier, particularly if you live alone, as they are better at dealing with small portions. No need to boil milk or scramble eggs in a saucepan anymore, which eliminates some rather tedious washing up. Anything that cooks quickly - such as vegetables and fish - can be prepared more easily in a microwave. Take great care that the food is not too hot, however, as you can suffer a nasty burn in the mouth or on the lips.

 

Food Hygiene


The number of notified cases of food poisoning in Britain may have gone down from the highs of the late nineties, but there are still some very unpleasant - and sometimes fatal - outbreaks, and it is estimated that 5.5 million people (heading for 10% of the population) will have an illness caused by food in the course of a year. Make sure you're not one of the culprits - check out your kitchen hygiene!


o Insufficient cooling and/or cooking are major contributors to food poisoning, presenting bacteria with food at the ideal temperature for them to multiply. Your fridge should be cooler than 5°C, the freeze below -18°C. If you have any doubt, a fridge thermometer is a good way to check. In the fridge, make sure that you keep cooked and uncooked food completely separate, to prevent cross-contamination. Raw meat particularly should be kept at the bottom of the fridge so that it can't drip onto anything else.


o Store any prepared foods that are eaten cold in the fridge until you are ready for them. Leftovers should also be kept in the fridge and used up in a couple of days. Check the expiry dates, particularly of very perishable foods, use them up in rotation, and don't risk them once they have expired - you can't tell from the look or smell of food that it has been contaminated with harmful bacteria. It is not a good idea to re-freeze food that has been defrosted, unless it is raw food which you then cook before freezing again.


o Make sure that food is properly defrosted before cooking. This is most important with meat, which needs to be heated right through. 71°C is the key temperature for killing bacteria - use a meat thermometer to check if you're unsure. You can defrost at room temperature or in the fridge.


o Hot food should be piping hot for safety: 65°C. Warm is what bacteria like best, so don't cook food too far in advance - either eat it straight away or keep it covered and hot until it is eaten. Cooled food may be reheated - but only once.


o Eggs have been the subject of food poisoning scares in the past. It is true that they may well be contaminated with salmonella (free-range as well as intensively produced eggs). It is therefore recommended that elderly people, pregnant women, young children and anyone whose immune system is compromised avoid raw egg completely. Remember that egg shells are porous, so don't store them near anything that smells strongly. Uncooked eggs in their shells can be kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks (keep an eye on the 'use by' date). Hard boiled eggs should be eaten in a couple of days.


o Chopping boards - are a risk area for cross contamination. Ideally, you should keep separate boards for different jobs - cooked meat, raw, vegetables, dairy, etc. If this is a counsel of perfection, however, look for a board with a self-healing surface, which doesn't leave crevices where bacteria can lurk. Keep chopping boards scrupulously clean - a scrub with detergent to remove grease, followed by an anti-bacterial cleaner.


o Washing up is likely to be more hygienic in a dishwasher than by hand, as the temperatures are higher and steam drying is better than wiping dishes with a tea-towel, which can often be a safe haven for bacteria. If you don't have a dishwasher, make sure that you wash up carefully, using sponges or brushes that are replaced regularly and washed well every week. Launder tea towels very frequently.

 

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Housework


Housework is a necessary evil for most of us - there are jobs around the house that need to be done, and here are a few ideas to make them as hazard-free as possible!


o Ironing features regularly at the top of 'most hated job' lists. Keep it to a minimum - many items don't need ironing at all if you smooth them out when you hang them up to dry, and there are new fabric mixes that launder with barely a wrinkle. For the things that do need ironing, it's much less tiring if you tackle the job sitting down. If you find a traditional ironing board hard to put up and down, look for one that folds up against the wall when not in use, or slides out of a cupboard when needed. A lightweight iron with a smooth non-stick sole plate takes some of the strain out of the work, particularly if your wrists are weak.


o Avoid stooping and stretching as much as possible - use a long handled dustpan, brushes and window cleaners. A reaching aid is useful for picking up items on the floor, or up high out of reach.


o If your electric sockets are mainly at floor level, have extensions fitted to bring them to a higher level, so that you can plug in appliances like the hoover without bending down. If reduced dexterity makes it difficult to put the plug in the socket, fit plugs with a moulded handle that you can grip properly.


o It's probably easier to have small rubbish bins in the house that you empty regularly, rather than something enormous which you then have to fight with to get the contents safely out to the dustbin.

 

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General safety tips


Every year some 2.8 million people in the UK find themselves visiting the A & E department because of an accident at home. About the same number visit their own GP for treatment. Though you probably wouldn't realise it from the media, more accidental deaths occur in the home than on the road - about 3000 a year. If you are less mobile, less dextrous, less acute of vision or hearing, you are more likely to have an accident, so it makes sense to check that your home doesn't present unnecessary hazards.

 

Carbon monoxide


o Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas created by heaters that burn fossil fuels - gas, coal, wood or oil. It is odourless and colourless, and when heating systems are working properly, with good ventilation, any CO is drawn safely out of the building. But if the heater is not working correctly, if the chimney or flue is blocked, or the room is not adequately ventilated, CO can build up inside, with potentially fatal results.


o Make sure that your heating system is in good repair; have it serviced annually, and any flues and chimneys swept.


o In your enthusiasm to stop draughts, don't leave yourself with no ventilation! Never block up air vents.


o Gas flames will burn yellow or orange instead of blue, if there is carbon monoxide present, and coal or wood fires may be difficult to light and burn slowly.


o Have a carbon monoxide detector fitted - they are not expensive and could save your life. Make sure that you test the detector regularly and replace batteries when required.


o Symptoms of CO poisoning are: drowsiness, nausea, headache, chest pain, giddiness, stomach pains. If you have these, stop using the heaters until you can have them checked, and consult your GP. A small amount of carbon monoxide in your home could be causing you long-term health problems.

 

Gas and smoke


o If you are elderly, disabled, chronically sick, visually or hearing impaired, you can join the Priority Service Register run by gas and electricity suppliers. You will then be able to have a free annual gas safety check, to ensure that your appliances are working properly and that they are not giving out a harmful level of carbon monoxide (see above).


o If you smell gas, there may be a gas leak in your home. This is what you should do:
Phone the Transco Gas Emergency line - 0800 111 999 - it's a free number and available 24 hours a day.
Don't turn any light switches on or off
Don't use matches, candles or any other naked flame - and don't smoke

Turn off the gas supply at your meter
Open doors and windows to clear the gas
Check gas appliances to see whether any have been turned on without the gas being lit

Keep people away from the area
o Smoke can also be a killer, particularly when you are asleep, so it is worth fitting a smoke detector, to give warning of fires. Make sure that it is fitted in a suitable place, and that you test it regularly and replace batteries when necessary. You can obtain flashing alarms and ones that vibrate under the pillow, if you aren't able to hear a standard alarm. These are more expensive, though.

 

Lighting


o Eye sight deteriorates with age, and you need better light levels to see clearly. Try to have the same brightness in each room, so that your eyes don't have to keep adjusting from gloom to dazzle!


o 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.


o Low energy light bulbs are more economical to run and last much longer than conventional ones, so you won't have to change them so often. They cost more to buy initially, though.


o There are safety nightlights available that plug into an electric socket and give a comforting glow without burning up lots of electricity.


Obstacles and falls


Around 1500 people over 65 die every year in the UK as a result of a fall in their home.


o Make sure that the way you arrange your furniture and possessions makes it easy for you to move around your home. Be especially careful about where you put low items that you may trip over.


o Trailing electric and phone wires can also be hazardous - try to connect appliances to a socket nearby. If trailing wires are unavoidable, arrange them as far out of the way as possible and tape them down with strong parcel tape or something similar.


o Keep staircases and passageways clear, and never place a loose rug at the top of the stairs. Be sure that you can get to your mains water, gas and electricity supply points easily in an emergency.


o A grab rail fitted near steps will give welcome support. You can buy newel rails to fit on the pillar of your banisters at the top and bottom of staircases, for extra security.


o Try to organise your storage so that you can reach items you use regularly without having to climb. Don't be tempted to balance on chairs or boxes if you do need to reach something high - use a proper step ladder with non-slip steps, or wait until someone else can help.

 

Fabric fires


Over four-fifths of the fatalities caused by burning clothes occur in people over 60 - as we get older, we are less able to recover from burn injuries, so the results can be more serious. As flame-retardant fabrics have become the norm, it is easy to be complacent about the risks - but it isn't worth taking chances...


o Don't sit too close to an open fire. Over time, the heat can become intense enough to ignite your clothing, particularly dangerous if you have dozed off.


o Watch out for trailing sleeves, scarves, dressing gowns and skirts - if you brush past candles, an open fire or gas cooker flame, they can catch fire surprisingly quickly.


o Use a fire guard to prevent sparks from jumping out onto carpet or clothes.


o Be careful with matches and cigarettes - don't smoke if you're feeling at all sleepy - and especially not in bed!


o Don't leave candles, nightlights and other open flames unattended.


o Don't dry clothes by draping them over a heater - better to put them on a drying frame a little way away from the stove.
If the worst happens, and your clothes catch fire - this is what to do:


o Don't run around - you'll make the flames burn faster.


o Lie down - it won't be so easy for the fire to spread, and you'll reduce the risk of flames reaching your head.


o You want to deprive the flames of the oxygen they need to keep going, so smother them with a heavy coat or blanket. Roll around in the smothering blanket, and this will also help to extinguish the flames.

 

Electric blankets


Electric blankets get a section to themselves, because they account for more than 5000 fires a year in Britain.
We all like to keep warm in bed, especially on those bitterly cold winter nights, and an electric blanket is a practical and convenient way of warming those icy sheets. It just pays to be aware of the risks!


o 99% of electric blanket fires involve blankets that are 10 year old or more. If yours is elderly, replace it - or at least have it checked. Many local councils and/or fire services will do this free.


You can check yourself that it isn't displaying any of these tell-tale signs:


o The old BEAB safety mark (if it carries this mark, it is definitely more than 10 years old).
o Signs of wear or fraying on the fabric.
o Any scorch marks anywhere.
o Worn or damaged flex.
o Loose connections at the plug or control.
o Damaged or displaced heating wires. You can check this by holding the blanket up to the light. The wires should be evenly spaced and not touching anywhere.
o Don't buy a second hand blanket - it may not be safe.
Sensible use of an electric blanket
o Always follow the instructions that came with the blanket.
o Check that the electric flex is hanging freely by the side of the bed, not tucked into the bedding.
o Keep the blanket flat. Tie it in place, so that it doesn't slip and crease as you move around in bed.
o Turn it off before you get into bed, unless it is the sort that can be used through the night.
o Never plug an electric blanket into a light fitting or into an adaptor or multi-plug with another appliance.
o Don't use it if it is wet or dirty - and don't turn it on to dry it out!
o Don't use a hot water bottle with your electric blanket.
o If you don't want to keep the blanket tied on the bed during the summer, you can store it flat on a spare bed, or loosely rolled - rather than folded - in a dry place. Don't put other bedding on top of it.

 

Calling help


o If you do have an accident, the outcome is likely to be much better if you receive attention quickly.
o It is sensible to have a list of emergency numbers written clearly by the phone. If you have a cordless phone that you can carry with you, even better - programme the essential numbers into that, and make sure that you get into the habit of carrying it around with you.
o There are now many 24 hour emergency response systems available, which work through a button on your telephone and another emergency button you can wear around your neck. Many local authorities run these, at a modest weekly cost. Check with your Council Offices about arrangements in your area. Particularly for people who live alone, or a long way from family and friends, it can be very reassuring to know that help can be summoned quickly at need.

 


Keep your home secure


Although burglary rates have fallen by nearly 40% in the last six years, and according to Home Office statistics, you are less likely to be burgled now than at any time in the past 20 years, it is very distressing to have your home broken into - and as most burglaries are opportunist, they can often be prevented by taking a few commonsense precautions.

 

Think security


o Burglary is quick - most thieves take just 5 minutes to break in, steal your property and leave. So don't be tempted to leave your front door unlocked, because you're "only popping out for a few moments". Always lock your doors when you go out.
Consider investing in a good quality door, saving money on the front door in your home can be a false economy if it compromises the security of the whole house.

o Close and lock windows, too, when you go out. Burglars can slip through even small ones. They don't like breaking glass, because of the noise and the risk of leaving forensic evidence.
o Don't hide a spare door key in your garden, under a plant pot, or whatever. And never leave keys in your hall where they could be reached by someone 'fishing' through your letterbox (you can lose your car this way, as well as inviting a burglar into your home).
o Arrange your home so that your valuable possessions, including things like a TV or DVD player, are not easily visible from outside.
o You can mark valuable items in various ways - with a UV pen, by etching, stamping or using an indelible market. If you mark them with your postcode and house number or the first two letters of your house name, then the police have a way of identifying the property as yours and returning it to you, if it is stolen and recovered. Every year, hundreds of thousands of pounds-worth of stolen property is left with the police because the owner is unknown. You can obtain stickers from the police "Coded for Keeps" to display in the windows of your home to deter thieves (property that can be identified is much more problematic for them).
o Be careful about marking jewellery and antiques as you could reduce their value: seek professional advice.
o If you don't want to mark your property, you can still keep a record, by photographing each item, in colour, against a plain background. Put a ruler in the shot to give an idea of size. Note any distinguishing marks - initials, crests, etc. Keep this in a safe place where you will be able to lay your hands on it at need.
o Keep documents such as passport, driving license, building society passbook, etc locked away in a safe place - identity theft is big business, and you don't want to make it easy for the thieves!
o Don't leave boxes from newly purchased goodies by your dustbin for collection. It's an easy hint to burglars that you have a nice new video camera, music centre, etc for the taking...
o If you go away, don't make it obvious that you're not there. Use timers to switch lights and radio on and off at intervals, make sure that you cancel any milk and newspaper deliveries, and arrange for a friend to collect post and draw curtains, if possible.

 

Bogus callers


o Although most people who call at your door are genuine, it is sensible to protect yourself by taking a few simple precautions.
o Before you go to answer the front door when someone calls, it is prudent to lock your back door and take the key away with you.
o Always put the door chain on before you open the front door. If you don't have a door chain or bar, get one, as soon as you possibly can.
o If the caller claims to be from an official body - the local council, water or gas company, etc - ask them to show you their ID, even if they have an appointment. All legitimate callers will have one. Check that the photograph looks like the person (tricky, I know!). Is the company name the same as that shown on your utility bills? Is the phone number the same? If you have any doubts about the person, close the door while you double check by phoning the organisation they claim to be from. Do not call the number on their card - it may be fake. Instead, look up the number in the phone book or on your bill. If you are not completely reassured after this, tell them to call back at a time when you know you will have someone with you, or to write to you to fix a more convenient appointment.
o If the person on your doorstep wants to sell you something, do not feel pressured into letting them in, however persuasive they are. A legitimate company will make an appointment at a time that suits you. A well-known ploy is for the caller to claim to be a builder or gardener who 'just happened to notice' some work that needs doing as they passed the house. Never take their word for it that there is anything that needs doing, and don't be pressured into having work done in this way. If you think that some work needs to be done in your home, get estimates from two or three reputable organisations before you make any decisions. Don't sign any contracts or hand over any money until you have talked to someone else about it.
o If the person at your door claims to be in trouble of some kind, and asks you to help, either by going outside with them, or by letting them in (to have a glass of water, make a phone call...) DON'T. Unless you have someone else with you, the only safe course of action is not to get involved.
o Remember - genuine callers will not mind waiting while you check their identity. They won't mind if you want to arrange another appointment. Be suspicious of anyone who tries to hurry you or put pressure in any way.
o Bogus callers often work an area in pairs or teams. If you think that you have received a visit from one, phone the police (999) to let them know and also alert your Neighbourhood Watch, if you have one, or local friends and neighbours. Try to remember details of their appearance and way of behaving, so that you can give a good description.
o Utility companies and some local councils have a password system for older and vulnerable customers. You supply a confidential password, and when any representative calls, they give you the password to prove that they are genuine. Find out more from the companies that supply you.

 


Secure your home


o Take a look at how secure your home currently is. It is important to think like security agencies do to be as safe as you can be. The crime prevention officer at your local police station will be glad to give you some free advice. The cost of fitting good locks to doors and windows will be less than the financial loss of a burglary, of course, and houses with good security are much less likely to be burgled than those without.
o Any accessible windows should have locks - as mentioned above, burglars are much less likely to break glass in order to get in. Another possibility is security shutters for vulnerable windows. These are widely used on the continent, and are becoming more common in Britain. There are various types available - for convenience, roller shutters which are fixed outside the window and operated from inside, are probably most practical.
o Front doors need good quality locks - a single Yale-type rimlock is not sufficient. Ideally, you should have an automatic deadlock instead (this type, when locked, needs to be unlocked from inside as well, so would prevent burglars from leaving easily by the front door with your possessions, if they have broken in through a window, for example). This should be combined with either bolts at top and bottom or a further mortice deadlock towards the bottom of the door.
o Back doors and patio doors are also vulnerable - make sure that they are adequately supplied with locks and bolts. If you have UPVC/PVCU doors, you cannot usually change the lock types - modern ones should include either deadlock bolts or a multi-point locking system, both of which provide good security by shooting a number of bolts from the door into the frame. If yours don't, consult the manufacturer about ways of making them more secure.
o For peace of mind, a spy hole in your front door through which you can view callers, is a must. They are easy to fit and inexpensive.
o A door chain or bar is also important. Always put the chain on before you open the door, but don't keep it on at other times, as it could cause problems if you need to get out quickly, or emergency services need to get in.
o A video door entry system is also worth considering, particularly if you have reduced mobility. With one of these, you can view the caller on your TV screen and talk to them, without leaving your chair (if you have a portable intercom system). You can add an automatic door opener to the system, so that you can let in those callers that you wish to, without having to go to the door yourself.
o Security lighting, which automatically switches itself on when movement is detected, or when it becomes dark, is also good for deterring burglars - but make sure that it is located in such a way that it doesn't disturb your neighbours.
o A visible burglar alarm (with a box displayed on your front wall) will also deter opportunist burglars, but be aware of the potential for driving your neighbours insane if your alarm keeps sounding for hours. Have one that stops after a set time; make sure that it can't be triggered accidentally, by pets wandering near the sensors, for example; and choose a keyholder whom the police can contact to turn your alarm off if it sounds when you are away. Be aware that local authorities can prosecute you for noise nuisance if your alarm keeps bothering people.

 

 

 

 


 

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