Elderly at greater risk in a fire

(NC) – If you’re a senior or a caregiver, here are some frightening facts. According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association, people between 65 and 74 are nearly twice as likely to die in a fire; people between 75 and 84 are nearly four times as likely to die in a fire; people ages 85 and older are more than five times as likely to die in a fire! Here are some tips and suggestions for fireproofing your home.

Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths and the second leading cause of injuries among people aged 65 and older (FEMA). Whether you are a smoker yourself or living with one, convincing an elderly smoker to quit at this late date is likely to fail. You may be able to reduce the chance of smoking-related fires by using deep ashtrays, so that butts don’t end up on the carpet or upholstery where they can smoulder. Do not leave lit cigarettes/cigars unattended. Dampen cigarette butts and ashes before emptying ashtrays into the trash. Never smoke when you are tired, lying down, drowsy or in bed. Smoking-related fires usually start off in a smouldering state, eventually bursting into flames. This is the most deadly te of fire. For faster detection of smouldering fires, have the newer “photoelectric” type smoke alarms installed.

Heating is the second greatest cause of fire death and the third greatest cause of injury to people aged 65 and older (FEMA). Keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, such as blankets, curtains, newspapers, clothing, etc. Unplug heaters when you shut them off, leave your home or go to bed. When buying a space heater, look for a tip-over feature that automatically shuts off the power if the heater falls over. Keep fire in the fireplace by making sure you have a screen large enough to catch flying sparks and rolling logs. Never use the range or oven to heat your home. Keep all-purpose “ABC” type fire extinguishers anywhere in your home that a fire might start, such as in the garage, near the furnace and fireplace. Know how to use one in the event of an emergency.

In the kitchen
Cooking is the third greatest cause of fire deaths and the leading cause of injury among people aged 65 and older (FEMA). Wear tight-fitting or rolled-up sleeves when cooking. Housecoats or blouses with loose, hanging sleeves can catch fire. If your clothing catches on fire, stop, drop gently to the floor and roll over to smother the flames or use a towel, sheet or blanket. Use fireproof oven mitts to handle hot pans. Never leave cooking foods unattended. Locate a small “BC” type extinguisher within reach in the event of an emergency. If a pan does catch fire, don’t panic. Just slide the lid over it and turn off the burner. Never throw water on an oil-based or electrical fire. Use an extinguisher if possible, or get out of the house and call 911 or your local emergency service. Never cook when under the influence of alcohol or medications.

Smoke alarms
Smoke alarms provide an early warning system, but only if they are installed and maintained properly. They should be placed on every level of your home, high on the wall or on the ceiling inside sleeping areas where the occupants sleep with the door closed. For convenience, install tamperproof alarms with 10-year batteries that don’t need replacing. For hallways leading to an exit, install an alarm with an escape light feature. Check alarms monthly by pushing the test button.

– News Canada

Raffi Nersesian is a residential fire safety expert.