1. Dangerous Grill Placement A charcoal grill next to combustibles (say, a wooden deck rail or low-hanging tree branches) is a leading cause of BBQ fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. EASY FIX: Always make sure to leave a 10-foot clearing between your grill and deck rails, the side of the house, and overhanging plants. This backyard safety tip comes from David Markenson, MD, chairman of the American Red Cross Advisory Council on First Aid and Safety.
2. Toxic Plants More than 68,000 people a year are poisoned by plants, reports the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Most end up with nothing worse than an upset stomach or an itchy skin rash. However, some plants can be fatal, especially to pets and small children. EASY FIX: Do your homework before choosing backyard vegetation, says Amy Stewart, author of Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers. A few common plants require caution: Oleander, datura (also called jimson weed), and castor bean are all dangerous if swallowed. For a complete list of toxic plants, check out Prevention.com.
3. Tiny Pools of Water Even the smallest amount of standing water can give mosquitoes a hospitable place to multiply, which raises your risk of bites--and infections such as West Nile virus. "I've seen mosquitoes breeding in a soda bottle cap," says Joseph Conlon, technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association. EASY FIX: Do a weekly check of buckets and plastic covers and dump any water to keep pests away. Also change the water in birdbaths and fountains.
More from Prevention: Mosquito Repellants That Work
4. Not-Quite-Extinguished Charcoal Charcoal may feel cool to the touch, but if you throw away coals while the insides are hot, you risk starting a fire. EASY FIX: When you've finished grilling dinner, soak coals with cold water and then place them in a noncombustible metal can for safe disposal. Keep the can on a nonflammable surface, such as the driveway or a cement patio.
5. An Unfenced Pool According to the Home Safety Council, nearly a quarter of all drownings in the United States happen near home. Even if your kids are older, consider this: Easy access to your pool may lure neighborhood children or pets into the water when you're not around. EASY FIX: Whether your pool is built in or above ground, install a four-sided fence that is at least 5 feet high, with a self-latching gate. Don't use the house as one side of the fence, because an open door provides an easy entry, and never place patio furniture close enough to the fence that it could be used to scale the barrier.
6. Pesticide Residue Homeowners often use too many pesticides--conventional or natural--or apply them incorrectly, says Jennifer Sass, PhD, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. This not only wastes money but, in extreme cases, allows chemical levels to get high enough to cause flu-like symptoms, she adds. EASY FIX: Cut down on pests naturally by attracting birds and insects that eat the bugs that are attacking your prized roses. Install a birdhouse designed for bluebirds, which feed on insects ($23; backyardbird.com). Or grow plants--such as those in the parsley and sunflower families--that attract predatory insects such as assassin bugs and parasitic wasps. Despite their ominous-sounding names, these critters do your garden good; predatory insects don't hurt plants or people but destroy the bugs that do. Growing plants native to your region, which are less susceptible to infestation, can help, too, advises Kimberly Rider, author of The Healthy Home Workbook.
7. A Weather-Worn Deck If you don't waterproof your deck every 2 to 3 years, moisture can seep in and warp the wood, upping your risk of falls. EASY FIX: Inspect your deck every spring, paying extra attention to the ledger board, the place where the deck attaches to the house--it's the most vulnerable to water damage. Keep your eyes peeled for splits and cracks--signs that moisture has gotten in. If you can easily penetrate 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the wood with a screwdriver or ice pick, the wood should be replaced.
8. Too-Short Ladder This tempts you to overreach--and increases your risk of falling. EASY FIX: Use a ladder that lets you work while standing four steps from the top. Your max reach should be no more than 4 feet above the ladder. Translation: If you're going up 8 feet, choose a ladder that's at least 4 feet high. Always follow the 4-to-1 rule: For every 4 feet the ladder extends up the house, bring the base out by a foot. "This gives you stability," says Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council.
A major storm with drenching rain, gusty winds and the risk of flooding will accompany temperatures more fitting for March and April in the northeastern United States early next week.
Citizens around the world now have the opportunity to be part of one of the newest scientific developments in earthquake research using only their smart phones.
Some relief from the recent harsh cold will come to Germany later this week but only across northern areas.
The Bartz brothers build elaborate snow sculptures not just for themselves but also to help others through charity.
Damaging winds, torrential downpours, hail and tornadoes are among the weather phenomena expected to threaten the Southeast this weekend.
At least 24 people, with the vast majority children, died on Thursday when a truck crashed into a school bus amid dense fog southeast of New Delhi, India.
Heavy rain moves south to Southern California as the first round of flooding tapers off throughout Thursday.