Skip to main content

9 must-have items to keep your home safe and secure

man installing a smoke detector battery

Your home is your oasis and your fortress. It should be a safe zone where you can relax and unwind, knowing that all is right in your world. But ignoring reality is not a helpful mindset. Big and small emergencies happen without warning, so it’s best to be prepared. These items will add to your peace of mind, knowing that you’re ready when the unexpected happens.

Smoke and carbon monoxide alarm

No one wants to hear an alarm blaring in the middle of the night. And, let’s face it, most home smoke alarms will only need to let you know that the bacon is burning. But, for a few bucks, a smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarm will reassure you that if anything does catch fire, you’ll find out before it’s too late. 

The current standard is one ceiling-mounted smoke detector per floor of a home. Floors with more than 1,000 square feet of living space should have one per 500 square feet. Consider installing them away from the kitchen or bath to avoid nuisance alarms from cooking or bathroom steam.

First aid kit

From scrapes and cuts to bruises and sprains, there are endless small uses for a well-supplied first aid kit. It helps, too, if it’s in a convenient grab-and-go bag instead of spread among two or three different bathroom medicine cabinets.

Purchase a ready-made kit, or set one up from scratch. Use clear plastic sealable bags to compartmentalize the supplies, and place them all into a durable zipper bag or hard-sided latching box. The American Red Cross offers recommendations on what to keep in your home first aid kit.

Fire extinguisher

House and apartment fires happen for a variety of reasons. Owning and knowing how to use a fire extinguisher could mean the difference between a small amount of damage and a total loss of your home and possessions. Although the general recommendation is that each home should have one on every floor, consider keeping one near every higher-risk area such as the kitchen, garage, fireplace or woodstove, or workshop.

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) offers these guidelines on choosing and using fire extinguishers.

woman setting a security alarm
Daniel Jedzura/Shutterstock

Contact list for doctors, poison control center, etc.

In an emergency, you’ll need quick access to the right contact. Everyone in the family should know to call 9-1-1 for serious emergencies. Additionally, homes should have prominently posted phone numbers and street addresses for all family doctors, specialists, and local hospitals. Other important phone numbers may include:

  • Police and Fire departments (non-emergency)
  • Poison Control Centers and ASPCA Animal Poison Control
  • Power, Water, and Gas utility companies
  • Animal control
  • Tow truck and Locksmith
  • Insurance agent
  • Boss and coworkers
  • Nextdoor neighbors

Disaster kit

Wildfires, floods, severe weather, and other natural disasters can knock out power for days at a time or even force us to evacuate our homes. Some variety of these events may strike any part of the country, so we all should make the necessary preparations for ourselves and our families well in advance.

Be prepared by storing these essential items in a closet, pantry, basement, or garage so that you have them when you need them:

  • Three day supply of non-perishable food (ready to eat without preparation)
  • 3 gallons of drinking water per person (1 gallon per person per day)
  • A flashlight and extra batteries
  • Solar cell phone charger
  • Safety matches
  • Candles
  • Whistle
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and NOAA Weather Radio and extra batteries for both
  • Copies of vital documents
  • Can opener
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Pet food 
  • Cash 

Deadbolt locks on outside doors

Security starts with keeping intruders out. Criminals know their way around basic doo knob locks, so step up your safety game with high-quality, heavy-duty deadbolt locks on outside doors. A deadbolt is integrated into the door above the knob and locks into the door frame. While you’re at it, spend a few more dollars and install a reinforced strike plate for the bolt. 

Don’t forget to lock all doors, including garage entries. Other security measures that will deter burglars and home invaders include securing window locks, lighting up the landscape, eliminating hiding places such as tall bushes near doors or windows, and setting up security cameras.

woman adjusting a thermostat

Wifi thermostat

The thermostat not only keeps you comfortable at home but if it’s Wifi-enabled, it can give you a status report while you’re away. If you happen to be out of town when the furnace goes out, a wifi thermostat will notify you of the problem so you can avoid frozen pipes or other expensive snowball effect damage. Of course, it also lets you control the temperature remotely, so you can turn it down while away or warm it up on your way back.


Even before they learn to crawl, babies have an uncanny ability to grab, scoot, or roll their way to overlooked danger. You don’t exactly have to think like a baby to childproof the home, but you do have to consider where they will be and how they may maneuver themselves, and the items they can reach. By the time they’re toddlers, children acquire a highly inquisitive nature and explore virtually everything with their mouths.

This is not an exhaustive list since each home is different. But these childproofing processes provide a basic level of safety from some of the most common household safety concerns.

  • Install electric outlet covers on unused outlets.
  • Secure power cords with a floor strip, wall anchor, or cable ties.
  • Use baby gate(s) to restrict access through the house and block stairs.
  • Secure bookshelves, dressers, and other “tippy” furniture to the walls.
  • Trim the cords on window blinds.
  • Install latch toilet seat covers.
  • Install cabinet latches and locks in the kitchen and bath. 
  • Install stove knob safety covers.

Non-toxic houseplants

Houseplants are a wonderful addition to any home. They can help keep the air clean and provide a stress-relieving connection to nature. But young children, pets, and those with allergies may be at an elevated risk of adverse reactions to skin contact or ingestion with certain types of plants. In severe cases, contact may result in serious illness or anaphylaxis. 

Avoid keeping houseplants with known toxins, such as oleander, dieffenbachia, caladium, philodendron, and pothos. Those with sensitivity to latex should avoid all members of the ficus family. Other plants that harbor allergens include English ivy, African violets, and orchids. Low toxicity, low allergen plant choices include palms, dracaenas, spathiphyllums, and sansevieria. 

Home safety and security need not dominate every waking thought to be effective. Avoiding accidents, illness, and injuries should be a planning priority, after which you can automate maintenance. After purchasing and installing safety equipment, be sure to maintain it in working order. Set a calendar reminder for an annual fire extinguisher checkup and recharge (if needed) and install fresh batteries in smoke and CO detectors. Also, remember to update contact lists as new doctors, neighbors, or coworkers enter the picture. With a good plan and a well-equipped home, you will more fully enjoy your home oasis.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Wolfe
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mark Wolfe is a freelance writer who specializes in garden, landscaping, and home improvement. After two decades in the…
New research says your smart home devices are teeming with bacteria
A new study by Vivint proves your smart home devices may have more bacteria than your kitchen sink
Woman using a smart home device in the kitchen with a toaster

Smart home devices have transformed the way many homeowners interact with their spaces, particularly since the pandemic, when many were trying to eliminate viral and bacterial contamination in their homes. But what if our smart home devices aren’t as clean as we hoped? A new study from Vivint brings light to research that proves our smart home devices may be teeming with bacteria. Here’s what you need to know.

What was Vivint’s study?
Vivint aimed to examine the number of bacteria and other living microorganisms that call our smart devices their home. To do so, Vivint looked for four types of bacteria that could be living on the devices. Then, Vivint used CFUs — colony-forming units — to determine the "number of these living microorganisms on a given surface." Vivint said it then "analyzed how many CFUs of each type of germ had amassed on a number of home security components." With this process, the study produced alarming results for many homeowners who may have colonies of bacteria literally at their fingertips.

Read more
Should you ditch your gas stove? Unpacking the controversy – and what you can do about it
Here's what to know about the gas stove safety debate
A close-up of a gas stove

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that gas stoves recently ignited a firestorm debate among policymakers that naturally leaked onto the internet.

If you’re unclear about how exactly the now-heated debate started, here’s a recap:

Read more
Keep your renovation from taking forever: 5 expert tips to help you stay on track
Don't let your reno become a hassle. Save time on your next remodel with this expert advice
Kitchen renovations with man on a tablet

It’s not uncommon for homeowners to shy away from grand remodels. From issues with your items arriving on time, hiccups in communication with your electrician or contractor, and just overall poor luck when it comes to certain project expectations, home renovations present a plethora of problems that can lead to a remodel taking much longer than anticipated.

That’s why we spoke with Laura Badall, the head of supply chain for Block Renovation. Badall is an industry leader of end-to-end renovation platforms and an expert at navigating the current shipping landscape. If you need help mapping out the most efficient project timeline for your reno, she has five expert tips that could help you stay on track. Here’s what you need to know.

Read more