It may come as a surprise, but it’s during these chilly winter months that the most home fires occur. Why? Heating equipment is most often the cause of wintertime home fires, and even holiday decorations can become fire hazards. Thousands are affected by home fires every year, especially the elderly, which is why it is so important to be aware of fire safety tips for seniors.
At a Greater Risk
Fact: seniors are twice as likely to suffer fire-related injuries or fatalities than younger age groups. This higher probability could be due to a variety of causes. Limited mobility is perhaps the biggest contributing factor, but a decrease in the strength of one’s five senses could also be a factor, especially if they are unable to smell smoke in the house. In addition, some older adults may have difficulty making the quick decisions that are necessary during a fire if they suffer from a form or dementia or if they take certain medications.
Top Fire Safety Tips
Although the statistics outlined above are worrisome, preparing for a home fire can go a long way in remaining safe in your home. To ensure you and your loved ones stay safe from fires all winter long, follow these fire safety tips for seniors from Ready.gov and the National Fire Protection Association:
- Number 1 on your list: Regularly check all smoke detectors in your home. The detectors’ batteries should be replaced at least twice a year (when Daylight Savings Time begins/ends is a good reminder to do so). If you do not feel comfortable checking the smoke detectors, ask a family member, caregiver, or trustworthy neighbor to do it for you.
- Never leave the kitchen when food is cooking. It’s easy to forget that the food is cooking when you leave the room, and unattended food and grease flare-ups are two of the biggest reasons why most home fires begin in the kitchen. Don’t wear clothing that is too long or baggy while cooking as it is more likely to catch fire.
- Place protective screens on fireplaces, and never leave a flame unattended – whether it’s a large fireplace or a small candle. Do not use candles during a power outage as this greatly increases the risk of a home fire. (For more power outage safety tips, click here.)
- Keep space heaters at least three feet away from curtains, bedding or anything that could catch fire. An added tip: install carbon monoxide detectors in rooms with a fireplace, space heater or lantern to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Don’t smoke indoors and always make sure that the cigarette and ashes are out. Another big risk factor is smoking in bed – always be alert when smoking. Don’t place ashtrays on furniture as chairs and sofas burn quickly.
- Be on the lookout for frayed wires or damaged appliance cords. If lights flicker or the light switch is hot when you touch it, have a professional replace them.
- If possible, have all of the essential rooms, like your bedroom and bathroom, on the first floor so you can quickly exit your home in case of a fire.
- Be sure to practice a fire escape plan with your loved ones. It’s also a good idea to keep a list of emergency contacts by each telephone for quick reference.
Home fires are certainly scary, but these precautionary steps can help you and your loved ones stay safe in your homes all winter long.