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Is Your Home Safe?

A Condominium Safety Checklist

Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED AP, Criterium Engineers
Published in Condo Media, May 2012

When performing reserve fund studies or other engineering investigations at a condominium, a question often asked is, “Do the units meet code?”.  Since most inspectors can find code violations in even the newest building, the question should be “Are the units safe?”.  So with spring upon us, perhaps this would be a good opportunity to clean out all unsafe and accident-prone areas of the home.


  • Do all interior and exterior stairs have a railing on at least one side?
  • Do all stairs wider than 36 inches have railings on both sides?
  • Do all porches, balconies, and decks have railings around the perimeter?
  • Are the railings secure, i.e. could they withstand a horizontal force of 200 pounds?
  • Are all balusters or grillage spaces less than 4 inches wide?
  • Do any railings have integrated benches? This encourages sitting on the top rail.
  • Are any porch, balcony, or deck railings less than 42 inches high?


  • Do all windows less than 18 inches above the floor have safety glass?
  • Do all windows less than 24 inches above the floor have child proof locks?
  • Do all glass doors at the bottom of a descending stairway have safety glass?
  • Do all windows having access to a roof have childproof latches?


  • Are all combustibles more than 36 inches away from a wood or coal stove?
  • Do you have hard-wired smoke alarms near all sleeping areas?
  • Do you have a carbon monoxide detector near all sleeping areas?
  • Do you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and garage/ workshop area?
  • Are the attached garages separated from living areas by fire-resistant materials?
  • Are all flammable materials stored outside or in well-ventilated areas?
  • Are gas water heaters in the garage up at least 18 inches off the floor?
  • Have all bottled and natural gas fittings been inspected in last 12 months?
  • Do all stairs wider than 36 inches have railings on both sides?
  • Do all stairs wider than 36 inches have railings on both sides?


  • Is there a fence at least 42 inches high around the entire swimming pool?
  • Are all gates through the fence equipped with childproof locks?
  • Are there childproof locks on all doors leading to the pool area?
  • Does the pool have an alarm to alert you if a child falls into the pool? 


  • Do garage door openers have an automatic safety reverse and photo cell detector?
  • Are laundry chutes equipped with childproof latches?
  • Are electric devises child safe?
  • Are children protected from hazardous and poisonous materials?
  • Have all hot air heat exchanger been tested for leaks in the last 3 years?
  • Do all retaining walls 2 foot and higher have railings at the top of the walls?
  • Do steep embankments have shrubbery or fences to prevent children falling?
  • Are GFCI outlets in the kitchen and bathrooms tested every 3 months?

For the most part safety around the home is a common sense issue. Each generation needs to look with a critical eye at items around their homes that might prove to be unsafe for other generations. That means making sure the downspouts and site drainage do not produce frozen ponding areas that create slippery areas for the visiting grandparents. Also, 50-and-older condominium complexes should view their grounds with childproofing in mind.

Needless to say this is not an all-inclusive safety list but it highlights many areas that are frequent sites of accidents in and around the home.  With periodic reviews each year your condo home can be your safe haven for many years to come.