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Feature Articles - Housing


Environmental Safety

Ronn Phillips, Arch.D., and Bobbi Hauptmann, Architectural Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia


Environmental Safety is a critical component of quality of life. It can be investigated from a burglary and theft, fire, hazardous waste, universal design, and general crime prevention perspectives.

Burglary & Theft: From the outside of your home, consider how difficult it would be to break in. If you locked yourself out, could you easily break in or climb in through an unlocked window? Other areas to consider are:

  • Exterior Doors -- Do they appear solid and sturdy?
    Windows -- Windows should be closed and locked anytime that you are not in your home or anytime at night.
    Sliding Glass Doors -- built in locking systems are recommended.
  • Outdoor Lighting -- Have lights placed near porches, outside of all doorways, garage doors and all other points of entry.
  • Burglar Alarms - Recommended if you reside in an isolated area or if you spend extended periods away from your home.

Fire Safety: A home is a vulnerable place for a fire. The time a family should think about a fire is before one happens. The following points should be considered BEFORE a fire begins:

  • Have a fire escape plan.
  • Have monthly fire drills.
  • Install smoke alarms outside each bedroom and near the stairway leading upstairs - a smoke alarm should be located on level.
  • Leave matches out of children's reach.
  • Do not set flammable items near a stovetop.
  • Keep the area in front of a toaster oven clear.
  • Have electrical problems checked by a certified electrician.
  • Keep clothes dryer clean and lint free, and in good working order.
  • Do not store flammables in attics or garages.
  • Visit your local fire station; it's a child-friendly information center.

Hazardous Waste: Household hazardous waste may consist of actual hazardous products or have hazardous impacts.


Some of these products may pose direct hazards in their intended use; examples may include aluminum cleaners with hydrofluoric acid, caustic or acid drain cleaners, and caustic spray oven cleaners.


Others may be safe when properly used, but hazardous when improperly used or disposed; examples of these may include motor oil, automotive antifreeze, disinfectants or even shoe polish.


Still others may involve particular hazards in manufacture, as well as use; these may include lead or creosote.

Universal Design - Accessibility: The kitchen and the bathrooms in a home are typical areas were Universal Design principles contribute to a more sustainable living environment. Typical guidelines might include the following:

  • People with limited ability to grip more easily use single lever faucet controls.
  • Controls located on the side or front of a stove are easy to use without reaching
  • Non-adjustable wall cabinets can be installed at 15-inch clearance from the counter top for use by shorter persons.
  • A side-entry bathtub with door and folding seat allows users with balance problems and limited physical mobility to soak.
  • The height-adjustable shower is installed on the wall opposite the seated bather. A grab bar can be installed below the shower for transfer assistance.

Housing Safety through "Natural Surveillance": Natural surveillance is a cornerstone in the achievement of community safety. Ensuring that spaces around homes, footpath routes and open spaces are open to view from adjoining occupied properties and/or well-traveled routes can assist in discouraging criminal activity, by increasing the risk of detection, reducing opportunities for crime and making potential offenders feel more vulnerable.




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Last update: Wednesday, May 06, 2009