The thought of a fire occurring in the home is terrifying for most people, yet many elderly adults are not prepared for the possibility of a fire. Unfortunately, people who are age 65 and older are twice as likely to suffer injuries or even death from a fire, and the older they get, the greater the risk of dying in a fire. Fire safety is a critical issue for elderly adults who choose to live in their own home. These safety tips will help you increase fire safety for your elderly loved ones.
Why Are the Elderly at a Greater Risk?
Residential fires often occur between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., during the time when most people are sleeping. Fire spreads extremely quickly, which puts elderly people at a greater risk of injuries and death for a number of reasons, including:
- They are often unable to take the quick action required during a fire emergency.
- Elderly adults who live alone do not usually have others around to help them get out quickly.
- They may be on medications that make them sleep more soundly and/or that affects their ability to make a quick decision.
A smoke alarm (smoke detector) is a device that can detect smoke as well as fire. Most smoke alarms work well at detecting a fire in the early stages, so it gives you time to evacuate the home before inhaling harmful smoke and gases. While it is essential for any home to have smoke detectors, it is also important to place these security devices in easy-to-access locations, especially in the homes of elderly adults. To help ensure the safety of your loved one:
- Test the smoke alarms in their homes every month and replace smoke alarms that are in poor condition or several years old.
- Smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom as well as outside of each bedroom, the kitchen and all living areas on each level of the home.
- If your elderly loved one has hearing problems, consider installing smoke detectors and fire alarms that also have flashing lights.
Fire Alarm Installation
A smoke alarm typically detects the smoke from a fire almost instantly, but a fire alarm will typically signal a warning quicker than a smoke alarm. A fire alarm detects the presence of a fire through monitoring a change in the environment and combustion. It is important to have smoke alarms installed, but including the installation of a fire alarm will increase the chance of safely getting out of the home. There are a number of benefits associated with fire alarm installations, including:
- Fire alarms can be linked to a monitored home security system. This is especially important for the elderly who live alone, are sick or unable to get to a telephone.
- A fire alarm will detect a fire almost instantly, giving elderly residents more time to get out safely.
- Fire alarm installations can be connected to panic buttons that the elderly wear around their neck.
If a fire happens, an elderly person can easily become confused and/or overcome by smoke. It is extremely important to ensure that your elderly loved ones have a fire escape plan to help them get out of their home safely. The escape plan should be developed according to their physical abilities. For example, encourage them to sleep in a room near an exit that is easy to get to. Have fire drills regularly to help them practice their escape plan.
General Fire Safety Tips for the Elderly
In some situations, when a fire breaks out, it may also cause a power outage. A dark room presents even more of a safety hazard for the elderly, so preparations for a power outage should include:
- Store flashlights and fresh batteries in a bedside table and other easy to access locations.
- A cordless telephone will not work without electricity, so make sure they have a hard-wired phone line and/or a cell phone.
- Install battery operated lights in the evacuation route.
Remind your elderly loved ones to keep hearing aids, canes and glasses near their bed. Ensure that doorways, stairways and hallways are free of clutter to allow for easy navigation. Instruct them to exit their home immediately and call 911 from a neighbor's home and to not go back inside their house. If they are unable to leave on their own, make sure they have a monitored fire alarm that will contact the authorities for them.
For more information, contact Bevan Security Systems, Inc. or a similar company.