October 9th through the 15th is Fire Prevention Week, a time when the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire departments, and government agencies across the country focus on promoting fire prevention and safety.
Older adults are especially vulnerable to injury or death in the event of a fire.
According to the NFPA and FEMA, those over 65 are more than twice as likely to die in a fire as the general population, and those over 85 are almost four times as likely!
The three leading causes of fire in the home are smoking materials, cooking incidents, and faulty or improperly used electrical equipment, specifically alternative heating sources like space heaters and electric blankets.
Steps we can take to prevent fires and help safeguard our senior loved ones:
- Encourage your loved ones not to smoke in bed
- Avoid leaving the kitchen when cooking
- Make use of kitchen timers
- Avoid overloading outlets and extension cords
- Be extra vigilant if they are taking medications that cause drowsiness
In the event of a fire, early detection gives the best chance to escape without injury. As caregivers, we need to make sure our loved ones have smoke detectors properly installed throughout their homes and test them at least once a month.
With this year’s Fire Prevention Week theme of “Don’t Wait, Check the Date!” the NFPA also reminds us to check your smoke detectors’ expiration dates. They should be replaced every ten years.
If a fire does occur, we know our seniors are often at much higher risk due to decreased vision, hearing, and mobility. With typically only 3 minutes to escape a fire in the home, FEMA encourages caregivers to take extra precautions that takes our senior loved ones’ abilities into account:
- Make sure wheelchairs, canes, eyeglasses, and hearing aids are within easy reach of their bed at night
- Plan two escape routes from every room
- Clear away any items that may block an escape route
- Discus the fire escape plan with your senior loved ones, and practiced at least twice a year
- Review these fire escape plans with neighbors, building managers, and anyone else that may be nearby in the event of a fire.
If we take the proper steps, we can greatly reduce the risk of fire in our loved ones’ homes and prepare them to escape quickly and safely if one does occur.
For a more extensive list of steps we can take to keep our loved ones safe, download this free Fire Safety Checklist for Caregivers of Older Adults: https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/fief/up_in_smoke_older_adult_checklist.pdf