Ensuring safety in the home

Everyone values safety. We often hear of people who are skeptical about trying companion housing because they are afraid of safety. Living among like-minded housing companions that you value and trust can be one of the most powerful safety mechanisms. Animals almost always travel in packs because it is safer and increases their resilience. Companion housing is very much the same. Having someone you trust around the home in the event you fall, become sick, or if someone breaks in is invaluable.

Maintaining safety in a companion home is a team effort. Much like other house rules, reviewing best safety practices should not be overlooked. Creating a safe environment includes more than reviewing physical safety. One’s health and emotional safety are equally valuable.

Physical safety

The physical environment refers to things that you can see and touch. This includes things like fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, first aid kits, locks, and alarm systems. If your home has safety equipment that is not functional or missing, make sure to get new equipment as soon as possible. It is easy to procrastinate, however at the moment you need it, you will be very glad you have it.

If you have any environmental hazards in your home, these should be rectified before a housing companion moves into the home. Examples of this include exposed electrical wires, broken chairs, or slipping and tripping hazards. 

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should have their batteries replaced annually. Each detector also has an expiry date on the backside as the sensor breaks down over time. If the detector is expired, replace it! While you are at it, check to see how old your first aid kit supplies are.

Emotional safety

Every person in your home should feel safe to open up emotionally. Your housing companions may become invaluable advisors to navigate difficult or emotional times. For this to happen, you need to foster a culture of respect and trust for each other’s thoughts, values, and emotions. 

You are not just sharing space with your housing companions; you will be sharing part of your lives. There is a good chance one or more of your housing companions will go through the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, relationship breakup, or other emotional events. Show empathy in these situations and treat others how you would like to be treated in a similar situation. 

When discussing emotional troubles, it is vital to keep everything confidential. Sharing personal information and details outside of your conversation is a breach of trust. Different people have different limits of what they feel comfortable sharing with others. Just because you don’t think it’s a big deal, it does not mean your fellow housing companions feel the same.

There is a good chance you will run into situations where you have differences of opinions, values, or beliefs. You do not have a right to force change upon your housing companions to adopt your views and opinions. Rather, focus on understanding them so you can see the world from their perspective. Many of our thoughts and beliefs have cultural roots. You can rehearse this content in chapter 3 of this book.

Health safety

Having more people increases the chances of cross-contamination and the spread of germs. If you are not careful with your actions and health practices, you may be compromising others in your home. If you live with someone from a vulnerable sector with health complications, you will need to take extra precautions.

Discuss with your housing companions any special precautions you may need to take. Remember, just because you can’t see something, or it doesn’t affect you, doesn’t mean that it can’t be harmful to others. 

Emergencies

You must review procedures to respond to emergencies with all your housing companions. When an emergency strikes, you don’t have time to search for things. Planning and preparation are everything!

Review fire exits of the home and muster points.

Emergency contacts for each person should be listed (such as family members) in a central place. Make sure to add a phone number for a plumber, electrician, and emergency services.

Medical emergency response procedures should be reviewed with your housing companions. Make sure your housing companions know about any underlying medical conditions and allergies and what they should do in an emergency. 

Neighbours’ phone numbers should be written down below emergency contacts. If you need help ASAP, your neighbours are often your best bet. If you don’t know your neighbours, go meet them!

Securing the home

Adding more people to your household will increase the amount of traffic, visitors, and postal deliveries. This increased traffic can pose more security risks if you do not establish a culture around security.

Security tips for the home:

  • Know your neighbours and introduce them to your housing companions; watch out for each other!
  • Change your locks if you can’t remember everyone who has a key, consider changing to an electronic keypad instead, and change your code regularly
  • Establish rules on visitors to limit who, when, and how often people can visit your home
  • Window locks, do you use them? Open or unlocked windows can be a security risk
  • WIFI password – always have a password, don’t use one that is easy to guess
  • Security system and cameras – having a doorbell camera or security system can provide peace of mind or even catch that parcel thief!
  • Keep your yard and home organized – if it looks like you are away on holidays, you could become a target

Safety Items

Every home should have the following safety items/equipment at a minimum:

  1. Fire extinguisher
  2. First aid kit
  3. Smoke alarms
  4. CO2 alarms (if fuel burning appliances in home)
  5. Emergency contacts phone list

Let’s touch on Covid-19

You were likely feeling a little anxious or lonely from several months of isolation and limited socializing. A housing companion can provide a great boost for your spirit as you share meals and conversations. However, when bringing a new housing companion into your home, you should follow some best practices to limit your risk.

Always take into consideration that your housing companion may be a high-risk individual. Always respect any request for social distancing, mask-wearing, and follow government-issued protocols. Discuss with your housing companions how you plan to limit your exposure and maintain good hygiene within the household.

Note: Consult your local health authority for the latest updates and best practices

Self-isolation

Do you have a new housing companion moving from another city or country? You may want to consider having them self-isolate for two weeks at a hotel or designate your home area where you can maintain social distancing. If they are self-isolating in an area of the home, consider providing a mini-fridge, microwave, and hot plate so they can prepare food in a separate area.

Your bubble

Once your housing companion moves in, you will become part of each other’s bubble. You should discuss among your housing companions how you can limit your exposure risk. For example, you may designate one person to do all the grocery shopping.

Sanitizing

Ensure regularly sanitizing all commonly touched areas such as doorknobs, light switches, refrigerator handle, and television remote. Designate a place to sanitize products and food bought from stores before it is carried through your home.

Exercise

When is the last time you did a safety walkthrough of your home? Complete the below self reflection exercise to access the home safety exercise. 

Self reflection