Aging adults are at increased risk for fire death and injuries for a number of reasons:
- Loss of physical mobility and dexterity may prevent them from being able to take the quick action necessary in a fire emergency.
- Visual or hearing impairments may delay their detection of a fire.
- Medications may affect their ability to respond and make decisions quickly.
- A lot of elderly people suffer from Emphysema which reduces the amount of oxygen that is brought in through the lungs into the blood stream. People that suffer with this will be 10 times more susceptible to Carbon dioxide poising from smoke inhalation.
- Many older individuals live alone. When accidents occur, others may not be around to help.
- Often seniors reside in older houses, which many times may have damaged or improperly installed wiring and too few or overloaded outlets.
- Aging seniors may suffer from memory loss putting them at risk for such things as leaving on a stove burner or forgetting to turn off electrical appliances before going to sleep.
- The kitchen is one of the most potentially dangerous rooms in the home, with cooking accidents
- being the leading cause of fire-related injuries for older Americans.
- Alternate sources of heat, such as wood stoves and electric space heaters are responsible for a large percentage of fires in seniors’ homes each Winter.
Fire Safety Tips
The following Fire Safety Tips are good advice for all, but some are also related specifically to the needs of seniors and those caring for their Elderly Parents.
Oxygen tanks and compressors – Make sure there are signs in place to inform people that there are oxygen tanks and compressors present. This is valuable information for fire departments as they can be dangerous in a fire.
Alternative Heat Sources – If they’re using space heaters, make sure it’s one approved by Underwriter’s Laboratory. If it is, there will be a prominent UL mark or tag on the heater, almost always at the end of the cord.
Check their smoke detectors – If you have an elderly relative who lives alone, you should consider checking their smoke detectors for them. They may be placed too high for them safely reach or the batteries may be too difficult for them to remove and replace. Change their smoke detector batteries at least once a year.
An easy way to remember to do that is to change them in the Fall when switching back to Standard Time or in the Spring with returning to Daylight Savings Time.
Dryers – When visiting their home, take the time to check whether or not they’ve been properly emptying the dryer lint trap, as this can be a fire hazard.
Develop a Fire Emergency Plan – This can literally save your their life. Ensure they know what to do in an emergency and that they have the physical ability and speed needed to get out in time. If they have difficulty with their mobility, ensure they have an escape route that doesn’t involve stairs or having to walk a long distance. Review that escape plan with them regularly and continually adapt it as necessary to fit their changing needs.
Fire extinguishers – Make sure there are fire extinguishers in any places where there’s a potential hazard, such as the kitchen. And that the size, weight and operation of those extinguishers is manageable for that person.
Smoke detectors – If they suffer from significant hearing loss, make sure all smoke detectors are loud enough for them to hear or replace them with ones that also have an accompanying light that will flash when the detector is activated.
Electric cords – Make sure all cords are in good condition and are being used properly. They should never be under carpets or overloaded.
Clutter-free – Ensure their home is clutter free so that they can quickly and easily get out in case of emergency. This is also a good idea in general, as items kept on the floor and or in pathways seriously increase the risk of falling and injury.