A hidden danger in your home: Experts say outdoor decks are collapsing, and every summer more people are being hurt. TODAY National Investigative Correspondent Jeff Rossen reports on how to protect your family.
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Decks are great. You barbecue, invite people over, let the kids play, and we never think twice about it; we assume it’s safe. But experts say people get hurt, even killed, because many decks aren’t built right — in danger of falling apart right under your feet.
It happens in a split second: You step onto your backyard deck and it comes crashing down: no time to escape, no warning at all. A group of teenagers in Indiana were posing for their prom picture when suddenly the floor opened up: chaos.
They were OK and walked away, but not everyone is so lucky. In Austin, Texas, a late-night party turned into a horror show. Dozens were hurt, rushed to the hospital with broken bones and lacerations. Survivors described a terrifying scene. “It was terrible seeing people coming out with bloody heads and bones sticking out,” said Rachel Dolman in an interview with local affiliate KXAN.Story: Rossen Reports: Hidden stair flaws imperil kids
“You just never think the floor is going to come out from underneath you,” said Erica Hagar, another survivor. “It’s a really scary feeling.”
Maria Clay of Louisville, Ky., went through a similar frightening incident. “Everything just fell and I was holding on to the latch of the door, and I'm screaming, ‘Help! Call 911!’ ” she told our local affiliate WAVE.
It happens every summer, everywhere from Idaho to Rhode Island to Kentucky. It’s a hazard most of us never thing about, and home inspectors say they see the warning signs all the time. “I would say eighty percent of the decks I inspect have safety concerns,” home inspector Frank Librero told us.Story: Rossen Reports: Is your child breathing radon gas at school?
So could your deck be in danger too? Ricardo Arevalo is an engineer with the deck equipment company Simpson Strong-Tie. We visited their safety lab in California, where Ricardo showed us the red flags you can spot right now.
“The very first thing you want to look at is where your deck attaches to the house. In this case, we only have nails,” Arevalo said. “That's real bad.”
More Rossen Reports
In fact, experts say that using nails is a leading cause of deck collapses. “A nail is smooth and pulls out very easy,” Arevalo explained. Screws and bolts are more secure.
That’s not all. He said rotting wood and splintered wood are also common problems leading to collapse. In a demonstration on TODAY Tuesday, we showed how quickly that can happen.
Death from deck accidents are rare, but injuries are common and can be very serious. By the way, deck railings can be just as dangerous if they're wobbly. Every summer people end up in the hospital, falling over.
Experts say check your deck once a year; that's all it takes. Get under there and make sure you see bolts and screws; it takes five minutes, tops.
If you do notice a problem, don't start doing work yourself (unless you're Bob Vila, and let's face it; most of us aren't). Call for a home inspection.
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