The start of a new year is the perfect time to focus your attention toward your home’s safety. This comprehensive checklist of maintenance and improvements will help minimize the risk to your home in 2018. When you complete it, you will feel confident that you’ve done everything necessary to protect your property, family and belongings for the coming year.

1. Secure your property

More than 2.5 million home intrusions are reported every year in the United States. Additionally, homes without security systems or alarms are three times more likely to be broken into, so if you don’t have a security camera system in place, start looking for one. If you already have cameras installed, consider whether your system is as effective as it could be—2017 saw many home security improvements and advancements. There are numerous home automation security features that improve how you safeguard your home, so take a look at what’s available and see if your home could benefit from an upgrade.

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2. Check for structural damage or erosion

Erosion and structural damage around your home worsen over time, so it’s important to nip any problems in the bud. If you’ve been neglecting any cracks in your walls, it’s time to fix them. Notice whether the soil around your home has moved at all. If it has, your grass or other covering is failing to keep it in place, so get concrete pavers or gravel for stronger reinforcement.

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3. Inspect your roof

Check your roof annually for signs of damage or sagging, including buildup of moss or leaves that might cause expensive leaks and water damage. If your roof has shingles that need fixing, purchase a bundle of shingles and some roofing caulk to replace any missing or damaged ones. This is often a cheap fix if you’re able to do it yourself.

Book a Local Roofing Contractor

4. Clean your gutters

Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause water damage to your home’s foundation. When this happens, water can leak into your basement. Clean your gutters by removing any leaves, dirt or other debris that have accumulated. To fix any leaks in your gutters, purchase a gutter sealant.

Book a Gutter Cleaning Service

5. Update your smoke alarms

Check your smoke alarm system once a month and replace weak batteries as soon as you notice them. Your smoke alarm should also be cleaned yearly—simply remove the batteries, use a vacuum to remove dust buildup and clean its cover.

6. Check your electrical wiring

Ensure electrical wiring isn’t overloaded anywhere in your home, as electrical short circuits can cause household fires. Replace old wires to reduce the chances of an incident and check your wires every few months. Go a step further by ensuring all your plugs fit snugly in their outlets—this will help you avoid hazardous heat buildup.

Hire a Local Electrician

7. Maintain your furnace

If you have a furnace, make sure it has a clean filter. A clogged furnace filter can cause you to use more energy—and thus pay a higher bill—to heat and cool your home, and it can also make the air in your home unhealthy to breathe. If yours needs any other repairs beyond a new filter, which is easy to replace yourself, call in a professional to do them.

Schedule a Furnace Repair

8. Clean your air conditioner

Replacing or cleaning filters is crucial to maintaining your air conditioning unit, as is cleaning its coils and fins. Whether you aren’t sure if your unit is in good condition or if you know it needs repairs, call a professional service technician as soon as possible.

9. Ensure your carbon monoxide detector works properly

Carbon monoxide is almost impossible to identify without a detector, thanks to its lack of odor, color, or taste. To protect your family from potential CO poisoning, install a detector on each floor of your home, especially near areas where people sleep. Some cities have laws that specify what type of CO detector you must have and where they must be located—ensure your home has appropriate protection and meets local standards.

10. Create a 72-hour emergency kit

Each person living in your household should prepare a 72-hour kit for emergencies. The contents of your 72-hour kit may vary depending on where you live and what hazards are most common in your area, but include these necessary supplies:

  • Water
  • Food
  • A flashlight or battery-powered portable lantern
  • Required medications
  • First aid supplies such as bandages, gauze pads, hot/cold packs and hand sanitizer
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Personal medical history
  • A whistle

11. Establish an emergency communication plan

In the event of a disaster, regular communication methods, such as cell phones, may fail. To combat this risk, make an emergency communication plan for your family. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends creating paper copies of necessary contact information for your family, including information for your doctors, schools your children attend and other relevant service providers. If you complete the Family Emergency Communication Plan online, you can print it on a wallet-sized card. Make sure to practice your household emergency plan regularly to ensure everyone knows how to respond to a crisis.

12. Join a neighborhood watch group

Neighborhood watch groups help unite communities. Members act as extra eyes and ears for their neighbors. Join a neighborhood watch group to improve safety in your area, increase awareness of potentially suspicious activities and work with your neighbors to keep your street protected.

There is always more you can do to improve your home’s safety, so make the most of the new year by safeguarding yours.

Comment below if you complete this list and share any home safety hacks we missed with other readers.