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Video: Rossen Reports: Protect family from deck collapses

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    >>> morning on rossen reports a hidden danger in your home. outdoor decks that can potentially collapse. national and investigative correspondent jeff rossen is here with how to protect your family. good morning.

    >> hey, matt. this is important information. we love our decks. you barbecue on them, invite people over, let the kids play and never worry about it, assuming they are safe. experts say people are getting hurt and killed because decks aren't built right, in danger of fall apart under your feet. this morning you're about to watch a collapse up close. 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.

    >> if you're standing here taking a picture --

    >> reporter: these teenagers in indiana were posing for their prom picture when suddenly the floor opened up. chaos.

    >> oh my gosh.

    >> reporter: they were okay and walked away.

    >> is everybody all right?

    >> i think so.

    >> reporter: not everyone is so lucky.

    >> the ambulance, what is the address of your emergency?

    >> reporter: in austin, texas, a late night party turned into a horror show.

    >> a balcony has collapsed. maybe 25 to 30 people were on the balcony. it collapsed. it just dropped.

    >> reporter: dozens were hurt, rushed to the hospital. broken bones and lacerations.

    >> it was terrible. seeing people come out with bloody heads and bones sticking out. oh my god.

    >> you never think the floor is going to come out from underneath you. a really scaring feeling.

    >> reporter: it happens every summer everywhere from idaho to rhode island to kentucky.

    >> everything just fell. i was actually holding onto the latch of the door until -- i'm screaming help, help, call 911, call 911.

    >> reporter: it's a hazard most of us never even think about. but home inspectors say they see the warning signs all the time.

    >> i would say 80% of the decks i inspect have safety concerns.

    >> reporter: so could your deck be in danger, too?

    >> a crack like this is severe. it should be replaced.

    >> reporter: an engineer for a deck equipment company, we visited their safety lab in california where ricardo showed us the red flags you can spot on your deck 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.

    >> reporter: nails bad.

    >> that's right.

    >> reporter: experts say using nails is the leading because of of deck collapses.

    >> a nail is smooth, pulls out easy.

    >> reporter: good for hanging pits on your wall but not attaching a deck to your house.

    >> absolutely.

    >> reporter: rotting wood, splintered wood causing problems leading to cracks. ricardo set up a good deck showing the difference using screws and bolts, which are more secure.

    >> the big difference here is you can see lots of metal. you see bolts. you see screws attaching the deck to the house. this is all good.

    >> reporter: and that's what you should be looking for underneath your deck. but if all you see are nails, you risk this.

    >> reporter: wow, that's crazy and so fast.

    >> it happens in the blink of an eye .

    >> reporter: this is very much a real scenario. somebody could be sitting in these chairs, grilling.

    >> not only on top of the deck but underneath the deck. they probably would have been killed.

    >> reporter: in these accidents, people don't usually die but the injuries are very serious. by the way, deck railings can be just as dangerous. every summer people end up in the hospital falling over. so if your railing is wobbly, you can feel it, that's another problem. experts say check your deck once a year, that's all it takes. get under there and check the bolts and screws. matt, they say it takes five minutes tops, that's it.

    >> a lot of people will check today. if they spot a problem, can they fix it themselves or call a professional.

    >> unless they are bob villa . call a home professional to tell you what should be done. it's an easy and inexpensive fix and could save

By
TODAY
updated 8/14/2012 7:42:13 AM ET 2012-08-14T11:42:13

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.

Have an idea for Rossen Reports? Email us by clicking here!

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.”

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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.

Read more investigative journalism from Rossen Reports

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.

Have an idea for a future edition of Rossen Reports? We want to hear from you! To send us your ideas, click here.

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