Fire Safety for the Elderly and Disabled

Every year many of our senior citizens die in fires. Many of these fire deaths could have been prevented.

Seniors are especially vulnerable because many live alone and can't respond quickly in an emergency. People over the age of 65 face the greatest risk of dying in a fire. There are special precautions you can take to protect yourself and your home from fire. The risk of death or injury from fire is even greater for people with physical, mental or sensory disabilities.

Why are older adults at risk?

Seniors may have decreased mobility, health, sight, or hearing and may have a more limited ability to take the quick action necessary to escape during a fire emergency. Depending on physical limitations, many of the actions an individual can take to protect themselves from the dangers of fire may require help from a caregiver, neighbor, or outside source.

Why are people with disabilities at risk?

People with disabilities should be more cautious because of physical limitations and a decreased ability to react in an emergency. In some cases people with disabilities may need the help of a caregiver to practice proper fire safety precautions.The fire department can provide escape plan ideas and may perform a home fire safety inspection and offer suggestions about smoke alarm placement and maintenance. Ask emergency providers to keep your special needs information on file.

Here are some simple safety tips...

BE FIRE-SAFE AROUND THE HOME

  • If you must smoke, never smoke in bed or near an oxygen source, gas stove, or other flammable object.
  • When cooking, never approach an open flame while wearing loose clothing.
  • Don't leave cooking unattended. Use a timer to remind you of food in the oven.
  • Never run electrical cords under a carpet or rug.
  • Don't overload electrical outlets or extension cords.
  • Never use the oven to heat your home. Properly maintain chimneys and space heaters.
  • Take special precaution if you are on medication that makes you drowsy.
  • Sleep with the bedroom door closed in order to provide more time to escape if a fire occurs.
  • Keep space heaters well-ventilated and at least three feet away from flammable materials.
  • Unplug space heaters when not in use. 

INSTALL AND MAINTAIN SMOKE DETECTORS

  • People with disabilities should be aware of the special fire warning devices that are available.
  • Smoke detectors with a vibrating pad or flashing light are available for the deaf and hard of hearing.
  • Smoke detectors with a strobe light outside the house to catch the attention of neighbors, and emergency call systems for summoning help are also available.
  • Ask the manager of your building, or a friend or relative to install at least one smoke detector on each level of your home.
  • Make sure your smoke detectors are tested monthly and change the batteries twice a year.
  • Smoke alarms are inexpensive and easy to install. For assistance with the location and installation of smoke alarms, call your local fire department or visit our Smoke Alarms fact sheet.
  • Have a friend or relative test your smoke alarm while you are asleep to ensure you can hear it.
  • Replace smoke alarms if they are more than 10 years old.
  • Caregivers are encouraged to check the smoke detectors of those who are unable to do it themselves. 

PLAN YOUR ESCAPE

Seniors and people with disabilities have often been excluded from the development and practicing of escape plans and fire safety drills. As a result, their vital input is omitted and their fire safety needs remain unfulfilled. Speak up to ensure that all parties receive the fire safety information that everyone deserves. Contact your local fire department's non-emergency line and explain your special needs.  

Here are some safety tips

  • Ask emergency providers to keep your special needs information on file.
  • Keep a phone near your bed and be ready to call 911 or your local emergency number if a fire occurs.
  • Develop and practice a fire escape plan.
  • Be sure to include all hallways and stairs.
  • Know at least two exits from every room.
  • Know how to escape from all levels of your home.
  • If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you can get through the doorways.
  • Ensure that you have exit ramps and widened doorways to facilitate an emergency escape.
  • Unless instructed by the fire department, never use an elevator during a fire.
  • Ensure all doors and windows can be unlocked or opened.
  • Crawl low near the floor to the nearest exit maintaining contact with the wall.
  • Test the door by feeling it with the back of your hand. If it is hot, do not open. Use an alternative route.
  • If the door and knob are cool, stay low with your shoulder against the door while opening slowly.
  • Be ready to close the door if smoke and heat rush in.
  • If trapped, put as many closed doors as possible between you and the fire.
  • If trapped, seal all cracks in doors and windows with towels or bedding.
  • If your clothing catches fire, stop, drop to the ground, cover your face with your hands while rolling back-and-forth to put out the flames.
  • In case of fire - GET OUT AND STAY OUT - never go back into a burning building.

LIVE NEAR AN EXIT

Although you have the right to live where you choose, you'll be safest on the ground floor if you live in an apartment building. If you live in a multi-story home, arrange to sleep on the ground floor, and near an exit.

KNOW YOUR ABILITIES

When it comes to fire ,don't be scared, be prepared.