For decades, fire safety and fire prevention education has been geared towards kids. It makes sense: by having fire safety messages reach children while they’re in their formative years, educators can help establish proper safety mindsets early that stick with kids for years. As people age, however, they naturally expose themselves to more fire hazards. Adults are in control of and/or are exposed more often than children to cooking, heating, smoking and other potential fire starters.
Older adults are particularly at risk of suffering injury or death from a fire. In fact, seniors 65 and older are two times more likely to die in a fire than the rest of the population is, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. For those 85 and older, that figure rises to four times the likelihood of the general population.
Why Is Fire Such a Major Threat for Older Adults?
Think about what happens to all of us as we age. We slow down. A loss of mobility decreases our reaction times, making it difficult for seniors to respond quickly when a fire starts. Vision and hearing abilities begin to decrease with old age as well, making it more challenging to detect a blaze or the warning signs that one is about to begin. This inability to react quickly makes preventative measures all the more important.
Even those seniors who have practiced the strictest of diet and exercise regimens throughout their lives are likely to suffer from at least some physical health limitations that slow them down. The rest of us take the ability to execute routine reactive actions in the face of fire for granted, but seniors sometimes need to rely on a third party such as a family member, neighbor or caregiver to help them, which makes it less likely that they can respond quick enough in the event that a fire starts.
Every building should have working fire alarms set up on each floor, but they’re even more important for seniors than the rest of the population. Knowing about the presence of smoke as early as possible gives seniors the best possible chance to react in time. Alarms should be tested monthly and batteries replaced yearly, by caregivers, if need be.
It’s easy for senior citizens to fall into the trap of living isolated lives. Easy, but not safe. If you’re over the age of 65, you should discuss your fire safety plan – which should always include two ways out from every room in your home – with family members, neighbors and/or building managers. Some seniors may need to have special accommodations like ramps in place in order to make their safety plans effective. Those who are unsure of what they should do to maximize their safety should contact their local fire department for suggestions.
Minimize Fire Hazards
Unattended cooking fires present a serious fire injury and death risk. Cooking fires should never be ignored, and a timer should always be set to provide an extra reminder of when to turn off the oven or stove. Additionally, loose clothing should not be worn while cooking with an open flame, because it can easily catch fire if it can easily come in contact with the flame and catch fire.
Finally, older adults need to be acutely aware of the leading cause of residential fire death among those in their age bracket: careless smoking. Those who do smoke should take care never to do so while in bed or when nearby an oxygen source or gas stove.
Our Guest Author
Nick is a copywriter and blogger who has written extensively about health and safety issues, particularly those related to fire safety and prevention. He raising awareness about these issues while working for Foremost Promotions.