Safety is an important but overlooked issue in residential basement storage. Falls occur in poorly lit, cluttered basements that lack clear passageways,and people with mobility disabilities and visual disabilities are particularly vulnerable. Falling is the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in Senior citizens who live at home.
Basements commonly hold HVAC appliances such as water heaters, furnaces, and central air conditioning units. An unobstructed,clearly lit path is necessary for their regular maintenance and for urgent repairs. The space surrounding these appliances should also be clear of clutter in order to create safe access and movement.
Flammable and combustible substances raise critical storage issues, and homeowners should be guided by building, fire and electrical codes.Safety experts note that homeowners are often unaware that their basements hold the potential for disaster.Fires and explosions occur each year because of the inappropriate storage of substances such as gasoline and paint solvents. Gasoline should never be stored or used indoors---never.
Flammable and combustible substances should never be stored or used in basements that have heating equipment. Approximately 76% of all fires and explosions are associated with gas powered hot water heaters, presumably caused by the pilot light’s ignition of flammable vapors. An additional 4% of such fires and explosions are associated with furnaces that are often found in basements.
Basements that have kitchens or cooking equipment are another source of risk. Cooking ranges are associated with 20% of the annual fires and explosions from flammable substances. Standard domestic refrigerators contain ignition sources and should never be used to store flammable substances.
Flammable and combustible substances should not be stored in basements even when heating equipment and other hazards are not located in the basement. Storage of these substances on the ground floor is always preferable to the basement because such storage creates easier access for first responders in emergencies.
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