The 60 Minutes Syndrome

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Another Home Inspection this week. Another reminder just how risky daily life can be.

Home used to be a place of refuge, a sanctuary from all the bad things that could happen – out there. They used to say most accidents occurred within five miles of home. But after digesting this 60-page tome of an Inspection Report, I’m not sure how anyone makes it out of their home alive these days.

I call it the 60 Minutes Syndrome. Goes something like this: Morley Safer (suspicious show biz name) does a riveting exposé on the dangers of garage door openers – the ones that pin unsus- pecting children and pets helplessly underneath. By the following week, consumer protection advocates are calling for new auto-reverse safety mechanisms.

By the following year, Home Inspectors are citing chapter and verse about brand new garage door codes. They understand (after a lawsuit or two) that if they don’t warn everyone about every possible thing that could harm them, their own asses may be in grave danger. CYA rules. Absolute CYA rules absolutely.

Real estate has moved into strange territory. Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) has been replaced by Caveat Venditor – Seller Beware – of all those things that can scare the heck out of potential buyers. Home Sweet Home. How can it kill, maim or injure thee? Let me count the ways… Here are just a few of the dangers you never knew you had to worry about…until now:

Does your oven have an anti-tip device? Ever seen an oven fall over on someone? Not pretty.

That naked light bulb hanging in your closet? Stack those sweaters high enough and it’s a fire waiting to happen.

That old dryer vent? It’s filling up with combustible layers of lint as we speak.

How many dyslexic plumbers have installed hot and cold water lines backwards? A special invitation to unexpected scaldings.

Is every stairway a potential stairway to heaven? Risers too high? Too wide? Treads uneven? Handrails too wide to grip?

Deck rails more than 4 inches apart? That’s just wide enough for small heads to get stuck.

And the list goes on…GFCIs. CO2 Detectors. Smoke Alarms. Pool Alarms. Ban all extension cords. Install tempered glass. Clamp open the damper on your gas fireplace. Replace the sharp screws in your electrical panel.

When I was growing up, all we had to fear was the atomic bomb. As long as we listened to Bert the Turtle and remembered to duck and cover and didn’t stare directly into the blast, we were fine. Everything else was gravy.

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