Fire Safety Tips for the Elderly

After retirement, most elderly people want to do is relax. Having worked their entire lives to own their homes, cars and provide for their families, they deserve a few years of quiet and relaxation. As elderly people move forward in retirement they may start to notice different things about themselves. It is inevitable that as people age they often grow more dependent on those around them. Often elderly people become forgetful and begin having chronic health issues. As they age, their risk of home accidents increases dramatically. One major accident that occurs in elderly people is residential fires. In Canada, 30% of all fire related injuries and fatalities that were recorded between 1999 and 2008 occurred in seniors over the age of 65. This statistic is staggering and terrifying. Fortunately though, most residential fires can be prevented. With a few simple tips, the elderly can feel safe and sound in their homes.

Waking up to a fire in your home can be scary for anyone, but it can be especially frightening to seniors. Residential fires often are the result of tragic accidents or forgetfulness in elderly homes. Fortunately though, these fires are usually preventable. Fire prevention for the elderly is key to keeping them safe in their own homes. Talk with your elderly relatives about fire prevention in order to ensure yourself and them that they are safe. Unfortunately, as people age, both their physical and their cognitive abilities may decline. As this occurs, the risk for accidents in the home increases. Elderly people who live alone present a higher risk for all accidents, including fires. To prevent fire accidents from occurring, it is important to educate elderly people about fire safety. By simply taking a few safety precautions in their homes, elderly people can stay safe and healthy in their own homes and they will not have to give up their independence. No one wants to leave their own home and their life, especially after they have worked their entire life to gain their independence. Instead of moving to retirement communities, assisted living homes or even nursing homes, most elderly people long to stay in their own houses. To help the elderly stay independent and in their homes, it is vital to teach them fire prevention tips. Talk to your elderly relatives about fire safety and about the dangers that lurk in their homes. To start the conversation, tell them these simple and effective tips:

To Prevent Electrical Fires:

  • Always use light bulbs that have appropriate wattages for your light fixture. Using higher wattage light bulbs can lead to overheating and fire.
  • Use extension cords only for temporary fixes. Never rely on extension cords for everyday use.
  • Plug only two electrical plugs into one outlet. Don’t overload outlets.
  • Do not plug in appliances with frayed cords.
  • Do not cover electrical cords with rugs, carpeting or blankets. Always leave them visible to prevent overheating and fire.

 For Smokers:

  • Never smoke in bed or while laying on a couch.
  • If you smoke inside, then run your cigarette butt under water before throwing it out.
  • Never smoke around oxygen tanks.

 Heating Fires:

  • When using a space heater or kerosene heater, always turn it off when leaving the home or going to sleep.
  • Space and kerosene heaters should be placed in isolated areas, at least 3 feet away from any other object in your home.
  • Look for space heaters that have automatic shut-off systems.
  • Never place space heaters on the counter, always keep them on the floor.
  • Never plug a space heater into an extension cord.

 Electric Blanket:

  • Buy and use electric blankets that have been tested for safety.
  • Do not tuck an electric blanket under a mattress to prevent it from overheating.
  • Do not use an electric blanket with a frayed or damaged cord.
  • Never place another blanket on top of an electric blanket.
  • Using an electric blanket all night long should be avoided if possible.
  • Do not wash electric blankets frequently. Repeated washings can cause damage to the electrical cords.
  • Buy a new electric blanket every ten years.

 Kitchen Fires:

  • Never leave a turned on stove unattended.
  • Wear secured or short sleeves when cooking to prevent them from catching fire.
  • Cook at low or medium temperatures. High temperatures can cause fires faster and can lead to burns.
  • Always have oven mitts handy.
  • Clean stove burners and ovens frequently to prevent fires from occurring.
  • Always have a large box of baking soda in the kitchen to douse on fires if they occur.

Elderly people should always have fire alarms and carbon monoxide alarms installed in their homes. These alarms will need to be tested monthly to ensure that they are in proper working order. Often they will need a fresh set of batteries every six months. Other, generalized fire safety tips for elderly include: 

  • Having an escape plan ready for if a fire occurs. Practice the escape plan often to seal it in their minds.
  • Place a phone next to the bed in case of emergency.
  • For elderly people with hearing disabilities consider buying a fire alarm clock that will sit on their bedside. When smoke is detected, the alarm clock will grow louder until the person wakes up. Some fire alarm clocks even connect to a bed to shake the mattress in order to wake up heavy sleepers.
  • Keep stairways and doorways free of clutter for easy navigation.
  • Keep glasses, hearing aids and canes next to the bed.

No one wants to think about a fire occurring in their home. However, it is important to have a plan in case one ever would occur. In order to ensure that elderly people are safe in their homes, they must have a fire escape plan that will help them get out of their home safely. By following all of these tips and being aware of their surroundings, elderly people will be able to prevent common household fires and stay safe. The best tip for keeping elderly people safe in their homes is to constantly be aware of their surroundings. Double checking stoves, cigarettes, heaters and appliances before they fall asleep each night or leave the house can prevent many fires each year.