For anyone, fire safety and prevention is an important way to feel safe at home. It gives you the tools and education you need in the event of a fire.
Being able to react quickly to any emergency situation means having the right tools in place in your home, like fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, among other things.
For seniors, the same rules need to be applied, with a focus on accessibility. It may be more difficult to indicate when there’s an emergency if you’re an older adult living alone. Here’s some easy tips for fire prevention for seniors.
For anyone who may need accessible doors and exits for any reason, it’s important to regularly check that emergency exits are accessible. This means checking that all doors and exits are working.
If someone is unable to walk or uses a mobility device, consider what alternate exits they can take. For example, if there’s a fire blocking the main door, what is the second door that is accessible to someone who uses a mobility device such as a wheelchair? Have a few fire exits in mind and indicate them with stickers or labels if necessary.
The Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General offers these tips for older adults when around the home:
Don’t reach for danger! Wear tight-fitting or rolled-up sleeves when cooking and don’t reach over a hot burner. Always stay in the kitchen when you are cooking.
Always blow out candles before leaving the room.
Ensure items that can burn are one metre away from space heaters.
Avoid overloading the electrical outlets. Extension cords should be used only as a temporary connection.
Chances are if you live in any house or building, smoke alarms will already be installed. If that’s the case, routinely check their battery every month to make sure they’re still working.
For someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, installing a visual smoke alarm can provide an alarm to indicate a fire emergency. Simply install it in the applicable rooms and a light will flash to indicate the smoke alarm has gone off.
The National Fire Protection Association explains one device that can work for the deaf and hard of hearing:
Smoke alarms and alert devices, called accessories, are available for people who are deaf. Strobe lights throughout the home are activated by smoke alarms and alert people who are deaf to fire conditions. When people who are deaf are asleep, a high-intensity strobe light along with a pillow shaker or a bed shaker can wake them up and alert them to fire conditions.
Fire drills aren’t just for school and the workplace. In addition to having the right equipment and tools necessary for fire emergencies, it’s important to educate anyone on what to do in the event of a fire.
For seniors, this means having an escape plan in place and actively going through it. In the event of a fire, figure out where all the exits are. If one exit is blocked, learn what other path to take. Familiarize yourself with how to use a fire extinguisher and how to detect fire in another room.
The Canada Safety Council explains why making an escape plan is so important:
Many seniors still depend on escape routes that were planned when the kids were young. Update these plans with their current capabilities in mind, and practice with them. Make sure there are two ways out of each room. Keep hallways and stairs uncluttered. Instruct seniors to call 911 from a neighbor’s house, and not to go back inside their home. If they cannot leave on their own, they should still dial 911. Place a telephone beside the bed, as well as slippers, house keys, eyeglasses and a flashlight.