Home fires are a concern in communities all across our country, including in the Midwestern states of Illinois, Ohio and Michigan where the seniors we work with reside. The National Fire Protection Association statistics show that a fire in a private home is reported every 85 seconds. For older adults, the risk of being harmed in a fire is higher. Vision problems, hearing impairments and slower reaction time all contribute to that.
While home fires occur during all seasons, they generally peak when cooler weather sets in and furnaces and heaters come on. That is why the 2nd Week of October is designated as National Fire Prevention Month each year. Take time this month to create a fire safety plan for yourself or an aging loved one so everyone knows what to do in case a fire occurs.
Steps to Take to Keep Seniors Safe from Home Fires
Here are a few tips to help you get started:
General Home Fire Safety Tips
- Make certain every level of the home has a working smoke detector. It is especially important to have them located near the kitchen and bedroom.
- Have a plan in place to routinely test all smoke alarms and to replace the batteries. Mark the dates on your calendar so you don’t forget.
- If you or your aging family member use a heater, it is important to follow the instructions on it closely. This includes making sure potentially flammable materials such as curtains, throws, magazines and furniture are kept at least three feet away from the heat source.
- Develop an evacuation plan. You should have at least two ways to evacuate the house and concentrate on rooms most frequently used. Have practice fire drills on a regular basis. Experts from the National Fire Safety Association say residents typically have only three minutes to safely escape a burning building. Being able to act quickly can save your life or that of your older loved one.
Preventing Kitchen Fires
- Don’t leave food cooking on the stove unattended. 67% of all home cooking fires are caused by food or other cooking related materials igniting.
- If you’re concerned that you or a senior loved may forget about food cooking on the stovetop, consider an automatic shut-off. One such device is called, CookStop. It tracks movement in the kitchen and turns the stovetop off if movement isn’t detected in a pre-determined amount of time.
- Opt for short sleeves and close-fitting clothing while cooking. Robes, blouses or other loose-fitting garments can easily brush against a lit burner and ignite.
In The Bedroom
- Keep essential items such as a telephone, your eyeglasses and any assistive devices you need at your bedside. In the event of an emergency, you want to be able to quickly call for help and escape.
- Close your bedroom door while you are sleeping. This can help you stay safe if a fire breaks out in another part of the home.
- Never smoke in bed. 40% of deaths from fires that started in the bedroom were the result of an adult smoking in bed.
- Turn off any home space heaters before taking a nap or going to bed for the night.
To learn more about Fire Prevention Month and how you can help keep older adults safe, we encourage you to visit nfpa.org.