Aging Well – Fire Safety for Seniors

Fire safety is a concern in every home, but seniors are particularly susceptible to the dangers of a house fire. The National Fire Protection Association (NPFA) estimates that people 65 or older are twice as likely to die in a fire compared to the general population, a staggering statistic when we consider how many seniors choose to remain in their homes as they age. With a few tips, you can ensure you and your loved ones remain as safe as possible in case of emergency.

Fire Safety

Decreased mobility, difficulty seeing and hearing, and the presence of combustible oxygen tanks are just a few of the risks seniors can face. Smoke alarms are a vital first defense. Ensure batteries are changed regularly, and test the alarms to make sure they are audible throughout the home. Modern alarms are available that can flash bright lights or send an alert to a mobile phone for those who are hard of hearing. You should also install carbon monoxide detectors on each level of the home to detect odorless hazards.

Doug Craig, who spent years serving Clarks Summit as a firefighter and EMT, stresses the importance of knowing your escape routes. “You should always try to have a second escape route planned,” he says, emphasizing that these exits should be kept free of clutter and easily accessible. “Be aware of your surroundings.”


Prevention Tips

Nearly half of the home fires in the US are started while cooking, and the NPFA reports that a quarter of those killed by cooking fires were asleep when the fire began. Loud smoke alarms, appliances with automatic shut-off options, and microwavable meals can all help reduce these risks.

Professional appliance maintenance should also become a yearly routine. Dryer vents, furnaces, stovetops, and chimneys can all trap debris that can start a fire. These appliances should also be inspected for faulty ignitors, loose connections, and other hazards.

Time how long it takes to evacuate the home in case of a fire, taking note of obstacles and the distance from exits. Ideally, an exit should be less than three minutes away at all times. Consider moving the sleeping area closer to an exit if it is particularly far away or on another level of the home.


EMS Considerations

In the event of a medical emergency, a fast response can save a life. Medical alert buttons are an inexpensive way to ensure help is just a button press away. Medical alert jewelry, especially bracelets and necklaces, are also available with a variety of customizable information to alert paramedics to allergies and other special needs.

“The most important thing they need is a list of medications,” Craig says. “If you can have a list of medications, doctors, and any DNR paperwork hanging on the fridge where it’s easily accessible, that is a huge help for the EMTs.”

Click here for a printable PDF to make your own emergency list. Review the list after every physician’s appointment to keep the information accurate. You may also want to consider keeping a copy of the list in your vehicle, purse, or wallet in case of emergencies outside of the home.

With these tips and considerations, seniors can feel comfortable at home knowing there are fewer risks, and plans will be in place should an emergency occur.


Aging Well is an ongoing series of blogs written by Audrey J. Ross, Director of Marketing and Admissions at Elan Gardens Senior Living. This article was written with advice from Doug Craig, former firefighter and EMT for Clarks Summit, PA.

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