Experts call for home safety measures while on vacation

    Accidents at home are a common occurrence but some can be very dangerous and incur a lot of expense. The accidents might involve a leaking gas cylinder, a tap or water pipe or even smelling or swallowing an insecticide by mistake.
    Sometimes, accidents can happen because of sheer recklessness or neglect and at other times, being too careful can also result in big financial losses.
    Every family takes certain precautionary measures to keep their home safe while they are away. The biggest fears are fires, water leakage, electrical short circuits, robbery and chemical poisoning. These accidents can be psychologically damaging in addition to incurring financial losses and in some tragic cases, loss of lives.
    Arab News spoke to a number of people who shared their experience about the catastrophes they faced following a long vacation. In view of these unpleasant stories, some safety experts offered to give some advice to prevent such disasters from happening.
    Col. Saleh Ali Al-Qahtani, director of the awareness program at the General Directorate of Civil Defense, said that the directorate is working on outreach programs for citizens and residents to make the house environment safe when the family is away.
    “The most common hazard that might affect a family financially and sometimes in loss of lives is in the case of the apartment being in a building with a large number of residents where the tenant neglects to switch off the mains before he leaves for vacation, which might lead to the warming of a device or connection resulting in a fire,” Al-Qahtani warned.
    He said that such incidents also include leaving the radio or the electric kettle on or a leaking gas cylinder which could trigger a blaze. “Water leakages can also be hazardous and result in damage to property especially if they coincide with an electrical short circuit,” he cautioned.
    He said that insecticide poisoning cases are usually due to the use of phosphide aluminum which produces phosphine, a deadly gas, when mixed with water or moisture.
    “This substance and concentrated sulphuric acid are banned internationally but continue to be used in the Kingdom for disinfecting homes. However, they are extremely hazardous,” Al-Qahtani said adding that it would be better to use safe sterilizers sold in big supermarkets which come with warning labels and directions.
    Al-Qahtani pointed to the importance of the safety measures which every family should take before leaving their houses for long periods of time. Such measures include disconnecting any electrical device in the house, even the refrigerator after emptying its contents.
    One should also make sure that gas supplies are all firmly closed, and check electrical connections and plugs. “If the family wants to use some types of sterilizers before leaving, they should make sure that cooking and eating tools are properly wrapped or put away to prevent any contact with the stuff,” he warned.
    Dr. Mansour Al-Qudsi, emergency consultant at King Abdulaziz Hospital in Jeddah said the use of some kinds of chemical substances and insecticides is internationally prohibited as it negatively affects human health, either through inhalation or orally by mistake. He also said that leaving the house without any type of ventilation after using sterilizers might be hazardous to neighbors when such stuff mixes with heat or humidity inside the house, as it becomes a poisonous gas, without any color or smell.
    Referring to the symptoms of inhaling such poisonous gases he said they are almost similar to food poisoning, but a small quantity of these gases inhaled by a baby or a kid might lead to his or her death.
    A number of citizens shared their experiences about such accidents while they were away from their houses. Abdulrahman bin Tasha, 32, said, “My bride and I were on our honeymoon in Thailand for two weeks but when we came back the house was flooded with water because a water tap had broken without prior notice. Thank God the water did not touch any electrical connections or appliances, but our furniture was all damaged.”
    Frand Abdul Halem, 34, recounted a similar experience. “I was away for only twelve hours. But when I came back the whole house was drowning in water. The walls had to be repainted; the furniture was rotten because of the water and dampness so I had to buy everything,” he recalled.
    Another citizen, Ahmad Al-Hanafi, 35, cited a tragic family incident that happened when some relatives of his decided to go out for a camping trip. “Before they went out they put some insecticides to kill the mice and insects and closed the doors and windows firmly. A son of the family who was working in another city came back suddenly and used his own keys to get into the house. When the family returned, they went into deep shock upon seeing their son who had died in his sleep due to inhaling the insecticide.”
    A number of housewives also cited some incidents in this regard. Manal Ayman said she always takes precautionary measures before leaving the house, and makes sure that water taps are closed, the electricity is disconnected and the gas cylinder is also firmly closed.
    Another housewife, Um Abdulrahman said that when she leaves the house for long periods she always asks her sons to check on it, even leaving the radio on the Qur’an station seeking God’s protection.
    Norah Abdullah said she encountered an incident that she will never forget as long as she lives. “A family member was very sick and my husband hastily booked air tickets for us. I packed in a rush and when I got to the airport, I remembered that I had forgotten the milk bottle for our baby. I came running back to the house to find it full of smoke and the meal cooking on the stove burning in flames. Although I missed my plane and lost the price of the tickets, it was a small loss compared to what could have happened if I had not returned,” she said.