Emergency Network 3
Security and safety is a global problem and risks have to be addressed the same way in Singapore as in your home country. We have listed the most important rules you have to implement with the family and your domestic helpers as soon as possible after you have moved into your new home.
Security Rules for Your Home
● Keep all gates and doors to your home locked.
● Check all doors and windows regularly before you go to sleep.
● Keep door keys and keys to door/window grilles at places where each member of the household can find them quickly in case of emergencies.
● Nobody should enter your grounds without your knowledge and permission. This should include friends of your domestic helpers, other servants from the neighbors, people who read the meters for gas, water and electricity, pest control, sales persons or any other trespassers.
● If any household member is expecting deliveries or friends they need to inform the maid and/or the guard and the other household members in advance.
● Workers and suppliers should never be left alone in the house but have to be supervised and watched all the time.
● All outside lights have to be switched on at dusk as to illuminate your garden, house and porch.
● Close your curtains at night to prevent people spying you out.
● Keep important documents, jewelry, money etc. at a safe place, if possible in a safe.
● Never tempt yourdomestic helpers by leaving valuables around , not even small amounts of cash.
● Advise your domestic helpers not to answer curious questions about you and your family.
● Buy a few fire extinguishers and place them strategically in your home. Train everyone how to use them and have them serviced regularly.
● Buy a fire blanket for the kitchen and train everyone in the use of it.
● Always have flashlights with fresh batteries ready at many places in your home.
● Place a list of emergency numbers next to the phone: fire brigade, police, office, taxi, ambulance, doctor.
● Take your maid along to your family doctor once to get familiar with the location in case of emergencies with the children.
● Get to know your neighbors and their guards.
● If you hire a guard: do not be surprised if he is sleeping at night. Make additional arrangements like keeping a dog inside (!)the house. It is best to hire guards via a security company as there will be a replacement if necessary and they are checked at night.
● Hire a day and night guard during your home leaves and install security lights inside the house.
● Have a security alarm installed if advised by other expatriates.
● The garbage is often placed outside the house inside the garden wall next to the gate. There are doors leading to the road and to the garden. Keep the one facing the garden locked with a key.
● If your house has metal window grilles all around there may be no chance to escape in case of a fire. Identify which grilles may be opened with keys available to all family members and the maid.
● Ladders need to be indoors not to be available for burglars or need to be secured with a chain + key. Leave a second key with the guard or neighbors in case of a fire.
Preventive Measures Around the Tropical Home
The following preventive measures need to be taken around the house and garden to avoid dangerous and unpleasant contacts with insects/animals.
● Remove trapped water regularly. Avoid keeping saucers under plants, pet dishes, and buckets, etc. outside. (Mosquito breeding places.)
● Change the water in flower vases and containers daily.
● Keep the garden and yards free of rubbish, the grass cut and the bushes trimmed.
● Fog regularly with pesticides against mosquitoes in the garden.
● Cut back creepers, bushes and trees along the walls and windows.
● Seal all crevices and cracks outside and inside the house.
● Seal all crevices and cracks outside and inside the house.
● Check potted plants regularly as they are ideal nesting places for snakes and other creatures.
● Have wire mesh installed where drain pipes feed into open drains.
● Cover all wastepipes and sink drains with sieves and buy drain covers.
● Have good screens installed on doors and windows.
● Small bees like to live in keyholes and wooden frames and are able to hollow them out completely just like termites.
● Close the gaps between doors and floors.
● Garbage is often placed in containers at the gate. The container should have a strong lid. Watch out for monkeys!
● Have the water tank on the roof or the loft checked if it is properly sealed.
● Animals under your roof can be identified by their droppings. Do not poison them as the stench of the dead animal will be unbearable. The same applies to rats! There are other remedies to get rid of them. Consult pest control.
● Have a monthly contract with pest control for house and garden but get an explanation of the chemicals used. Mainly, they control the sewage, filter and drains and spray along the walls of the house. The garden will be fogged monthly.
● Before you move in have all wooden parts of the house and garden checked thoroughly for termites.
● Also, hollow trees pose a danger and may fall on the house during the next thunderstorm.
In the tropics frequent heavy rainfalls and high humidity create damp conditions which may lead to the growth of mould. When moisture is trapped in the rooms you have to find the source of it to avoid that mould grows on wood, paper, carpets and food. Mould can damage your furniture, mildew will affect your clothes in closets. To avoid damp you must find a balance between humidity, ventilation and the temperature of the air in your home.
● Clothes should be completely dry before storing and hanging in wardrobes and drawers. Do not starch linen and shirts. Mold feeds on starch.
● Place a container of damp prevention crystals in your wardrobe.
● Keep insulation between frames, pictures and walls by placing on cork or felt.
● Place mattresses, bedspreads and sofa cushions in the sunshine for several hours regularly. Do not do this with feather cushions as feathers break.
● Avoid dampness on marble floors by placing charcoal packets under the furniture.
● Have one room constantly air-conditioned and/or place a dehumidifier in it.
● Close the bathroom doors when taking a hot bath or shower.
● Dry wet surfaces (condensation on windows, wall pipes) to reduce the moisture source.
● Improve circulation within the house by installing devices such as ceiling fans and use a dehumidifier to extract moisture if necessary.
● Have all-important items (see Air-Condition List) stored there.
● Leave windows open when cooking and cover saucepans. Make sure that moisture from exhaust fans or cooker hoods with ducts are installed to direct steam out of the house.
● Store film in airtight containers, slides and picture albums should be stored in air-conditioning.
● Store your CDs and CD-Rs in a low humidiy environment (box, air-con rooms) out of direct sunlight and extreme temperatures (car!) as the heat could cause the chemical dyes to degrade and the humidiy may encourage growth of mould.
● Framed photographs may get stuck to the glass and develop brownish-yellow spots, called foxing and molding. Newly framed photos should be framed without the photo contact the class surface. We advise to scn your photos into your computer and save them on CDs stored as mentioned above.
● Once a photo is stuck to the glass, soak it in a basin of water for 24 hours and it will peel of without any harmful chemical reaction. Wipe it gently and let it dry completly at a cool place.
Prevention of Accidents in the House and Garden
● Never run with wet feet inside the house or the patio, as the tiled floors are very slippery.
● Metal lamps should have their switches on the cable. Many electrical appliances including metal lamps are not grounded.
● Wear shoes with rubber soles when working on your computer (lightning)
● TV, telephones and PCs should be unplugged during thunderstorms.
● Buy one or more fire extinguishers and a fire blanket for the kitchen.
● Mark the many small steps and thresholds inside traditional Asian houses with colored adhesive tape to avoid frequent tripping.
● Have the children (and the maid!) learn how to swim as soon as possible and/or fence the pool in.
● Keep life preservers and a long rod close to the pool and train your maid how to use them.
Rules to Respect Nature
● Keep doors and windows closed during rain. Snakes look for a dry place to hide.
● Never place the pet dishes with food or milk outside the house as it attracts rats and snakes.
● Don’t stick your arms or legs into holes and pits.
● Don’t overturn logs and stones without safety precautions. Watch out for scorpions and poisonous frogs. We once had a snake spent the night in a water hose.
● Do not just climb trees. Your bare hands are most vulnerable to bites, especially the thin skin between your fingers.
● Children do not hide into bushes and undergrowth.
● Do not pull a ball out of a bush without using a stick.
● Never touch anything in the garden unless you know it is safe to touch.
● Avoid playing in banana trees.
● Take a flashlight with you at night and never go out barefoot.
● Before reaching out to get the mail in your post box: check with your eyes!
● Shake clothes you left in the garden before you wear them again.
● Look into shoes before putting them on.
● Never touch anything strange you assume to be “dead.”
● Wear pants, long-sleeved shirts, gloves and boots when you work in your garden.
● Before you sit down in the garden, take a good look around.
● Protect your family members and your pets from mosquito bites at dusk, at night but also during the day, as the Dengue “Aedes” mosquito feeds during daytime.
● Wear long sleeves and pants, do not use perfumes.
● Try to apply mainly natural oils like lavender, vanilla, clove, and cedar wood. If you use other mosquito repellents on the skin the percentage of DEET (diethyltoluamide) should be at least 30 percent. Reapply regularly, but excessive and prolonged use may cause allergic reactions.
● Use electric fans to discourage mosquitoes from settling down.
● Mosquito nets are useful for a peaceful sleep. Nets can be soaked in repellents.
● Plant lemongrass, mint or other leaves close to the house to keep mosquitoes at bay.
● Spray insect spray during the day and reach into all the dark corners of your house, behind the wardrobes, into the drain of bathrooms and all wet and humid locations. ● Mosquito coils and other devices for outside and inside use are very effective but often very toxic.
Use of Insect Repellent Sprays
● Many sprays prohibited in USA and Europe are still in use in Southeast Asia. Be aware of the impact on humans nature. Check if they have a registration number and state the chemicals used.
● Train your maid to remove or cover all food and toys before spraying. She must clean all sprayed areas where food is prepared and remove residual spray.
● Most sprays are contact sprays and should not be sprayed into the air.
● Pets and children should be evacuated from areas to be sprayed.
● Mosquito coils cannot be used in bedrooms over night (toxicity).
● The most effective substance designed for direct application on human skin is DEET. it does not present a health concern if user instructions are followed and proper precautions are taken. The repellent should not be used on infants under 2 years of age, pregnant women or children’s bedding or bedclothes. It should not be appied to broken skin, near eayes on lips or other mucous membranes. When apllied to the face, spray onto hand first, then rub on face.
● Do not kill the common gecko as he is an excellent mosquito hunter and harmless. However, their droppings may carry salmonellae you should make sure they do not fall into food.
● Check the toaster and other kitchen appliances left outside regularly and cover them when not in use. Look inside before you apply them. Toasted geckos are not uncommon.
Cockroaches, Ants, Flies
● Cleanliness in the house will really pay off when it comes to bugs!
● All food has to be stored in airtight containers.
● You should not eat any food in the bedrooms.
● Never leave food unattended and uncovered for a long time outside the fridge.
● Clean the outlet of the kitchen sink.
● Always clean all pots, pans and the china at once after use and store it back into cupboards.
● Never leave the dishwasher with dirty dishes.
● Tables and tops have to be cleaned at once, never leave breadcrumbs or the like.
● Do not leave packed sweets outside. A nice looking chocolate bar wrapped neatly in paper may be completely empty after a short while with an ant path leading the the next crevice.
● Use mothballs for cockroaches in closets and under sinks. (Use with caution around small children!)
Hazards in Your Tropical Garden
While the tropics are hailed for their beautiful and abundant nature, you must not underestimate the dangers lurking. As you are not born into this environment and trained to live with its dangers, you, your family and your pets need to make an extra effort to stay safe.
Poisonous Plants. Unfortunately, a good number of exotic tropical foliage, shrubs, vines and plants growing in a tropical garden are poisonous and can have serious side effects if ingested or come into contact with the skin, eyes or throat. Children must be warned never to put roots, twigs, leaves, seeds or flowers in their mouths. Always consult a doctor immediately when you suspect your child swollowed or sucked on any of the plants in your garden. Take the plant along!
The following table of plants will help you to identify some of the potential dangers in Southeast Asian gardens. Local names are either Bahasa Indonesia or Bahasa Malaysia.
|Cactus/Kayutangan Daun Sudu-Sudu||Milky juice||Blindness|
|Caladium/Keladi||Hairs of stem and juice of bulb||Itchiness, blindness|
|Castor Bean/Jarak||Oil in the seed||Fatal, if eaten|
|Cepas Tree/Riti jepas||Sap of the bark||Fatal if eaten|
|Cerbera Odollam/Pokok Pong-pong||Juice of tree, seeds, fruits||Poisonous|
|Edible Cassava/Tel Singkong Gendriuwo||Roots and leaves||Fatal if eaten|
|Dieffenbachia/Dumbcane/Pohon Bahagia||Leave and stem||Can cause convulsions|
|Exoecaria Bicolor/Buta-buta||Sap||Itchiness, blindness|
|Four O’clock Flower||Roots and seeds||Fatal if eaten|
|Lantana||Seeds of fruits||Fatal|
|Lily/Gloriosa Superba||Plant and seeds||Poisonous|
|Milk Bush Camboge/Nagasari||Milky juice of plant||Fatal if ingested|
|Morning Glory||Seeds (LSD)||Mental damage|
|Oleander/Kembang Mentega||All parts of plant||Fatal|
|Yellow Oleander/Thevetia Peruviana||All parts of plant||Fatal|
|Olerida-wel/Saga manis/saga telik||Seeds||Fatal if eaten|
|Poinsettia/Kastuba||Juice of roots and leaves||Blindness|
|Star of Bethlehem/Kendali||Acrid milky juice||May cause death|
|Trumpet Flower/Thorn Apple/Kecubung||Prickles and fruits||Fatal poison|
|Tuba||Juice of bark an flower||Used as fish poison|
|Ventonti/Kembang Sungsang||Large fleshy tubers||Fatal|
|Zig-zag plant/Pokok halipan||White milky sap||Temporary blindness|
The following creeping, flying and swimming creatures should be treated with greatest respect:
There are about 350 species of scorpions worldwide. Most common in Southeast Asia: the black and the spotted house scorpion. They hide during the day in dark corners or under debris on the ground and feed on insects at night.
The sting of their stinger is not fatal to adults but can cause severe pain and is life-threatening to small children if stung on the head or body.
Only 20 – 30 spiders of more than 30,000 species are potentially dangerous, like the Black Widow. Some like the Huntsman spider and St. Andrews Cross spider can give nasty bites. Children should not poke sticks in holes for spiders are capable of jumping on a child.
Centipedes and Millipedes
Those creatures like to live under logs, litters and stones or in soil. In the house you will find them in closets and cracks and crevices in the wall. They feed at night. Do not touch them as the bite of the centipede can be quite painful and the liquid secreted by the millipede does irritate the skin.
Bees, Wasps and Hornets
Stay clear of any nest and inform the authorities or have experts to remove the nest. If a swarm enters your garden, evacuate children and animals to the house and inform the pest control. Wasps and hornets can sting more than once which can be very dangerous. If stung in the head or throat the windpipe might swell dangerously. Seek medical attention at once. Avoid perfumes, hairspray and bright colors when working in the garden. Wear long sleeves, pants and proper shoes with socks.
There are probably over 450 species of snakes in the tropics, but only 16 species on land (and all 21 sea snakes) are poisonous. It is not uncommon to find snakes in suburban homes and gardens where the jungle meets urban development. We have mentioned above a few preventive measures in and around the house, which may help to keep snakes away. The following three types of snakes are dangerous:
Pit vipers have distinctive triangular head shapes and a body length of about 80cm. The most common like the Malaysian Pit Vipers are reddish-brown with triangular markings on the sides. It rattles its tail before striking. The Green pit viper is bright green with a distinctly red tail. They are able to jump with great force when attacking. Vipers are nocturnal and their venom is a hemotoxin. Their bite is painful and causes bleeding.
Front-fanged snakes like the Black Cobra, King Cobra, Banded Krait, Malayan Krait, are very dangerous as their neurotoxin venom acts on the nervous system and will cause gradual paralysis and even death. The Malayan and the Banded Cobra are both black with white or yellow and may be 1 – 2 meters long. Unless you step on them or expose your hands (climbing trees, rocks!) chances are slim that they are fatal as they have a small head and their small fangs cannot penetrate your skin. The King Cobra and the Black Spitting Cobra will only attack if threatened or cornered. The Spitting Cobra can eject a spray of venom over several feet aiming at the eyes. They reach a length of four meters.
Front-fanged sea snakes like the Blue Malayan Coral Snake, Banded Coral Snake have a flat tail for swimming and their bite can result in heart failure. The very poisonous Coral Snake is only 40 – 50 cm long and its lower surface is chili pepper red. They need to come up to the surface for air but are generally not aggressive if left alone. They feed on other snakes and their venom is neurotoxin.
If You Are Bitten By a Snake
If a non-poisonous snake bites, there is just a wound which may become septic. If a poisonous snake bites there is a good chance that it has not projected a poisonous dose. It may have bitten through clothing and part of the venom will be lost or it had just killed a rat or frog and there is less poison left. Hemotoxic venom affects the blood; neurotoxic venom affects the central nervous system.
Don’t panic! As fear and excitement lead to increased pulse rate, the venom can be spread much faster throughout the victim’s body. Do not move the bitten limb and try to keep it below the level of the heart. The victim should not walk one step. Try to kill the snake for identification and rush to a hospital. Apply a tourniquet above the snakebite between the wound and the heart using standard tourniquet procedure.