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Home Fire Safety for Older Adults
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By PIO / Fire Prevention Officer Scot Best
August 2, 2021

The U.S. fire problem is severe. Each year, home fires result in a significant number of deaths and injuries. Older adults (ages 65+) are burdened with the gravest fire risk and are consistently more threatened with injury or death by fire than any other age group. Raising awareness among older adults is the key to reducing home fires and preventing deaths.

Knowing what to do in the event of a fire is particularly important for older adults. At age 65, people are twice as likely to be killed or injured by fires compared to the population at large. And with our numbers growing every year, adults age 65 and older make up about 12% of the population – it’s essential to take the necessary steps to stay safe.

Did You Know?
• Your risk of dying in a home fire is greater as you get older.
• Represent 15% of the United States population but suffer 40% of all fire deaths.
• Have a 2.6 times greater risk of dying in a fire than the U.S. population as a whole.
• Ages 85 and over are 3.8 times more likely to die in a fire than the U.S. population as a whole.

Quick Fire Safety Tips for Older Adults
- Keep it low: If you don’t live in an apartment building, consider sleeping in a room on the ground floor in order to make emergency escape easier. Make sure that smoke alarms are installed in every sleeping room and outside any sleeping areas. Have a telephone installed where you sleep in case of emergency. When looking for an apartment or high-rise home, look for one with an automatic sprinkler system.

- Sound the alarm: The majority of fatal fires occur when people are sleeping, and because smoke can put you into a deeper sleep rather than waking you, it´s important to have a mechanical early warning of a fire to ensure that you wake up. If anyone in your household is deaf or if your own hearing is diminished, consider installing a smoke alarm that uses a flashing light or vibration to alert you to a fire emergency. Family and caregivers should check the smoke alarms of those who are unable to do it themselves.

- Do the drill: Discuss fire escape plans with family and neighbors. Conduct your own, or participate in, regular fire drills to make sure you know what to do in the event of a home fire. If you or someone you live with cannot escape alone, designate a member of the household to assist, and decide on backups in case the designee isn’t home. If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure that you can go through the doorways. Unless instructed by the fire department, never use an elevator during a fire. Contact your building manager or fire department to discuss your plan if you need extra help escaping.

- Open up: Make sure that you are able to open all doors and windows in your home. Locks and pins should open easily from inside. (Some apartment and high-rise buildings have windows designed not to open.) If you have security bars on doors or windows, they should have emergency release devices inside so that they can be opened easily. These devices won’t compromise your safety, but they will enable you to open the window from inside in the event of a fire.

- Stay connected: Keep a telephone and emergency phone numbers nearby, along with eyeglasses, keys, and hearing aids, so that you can communicate with emergency personnel if you’re trapped in your room by fire or smoke.

- Be Safe Around Medical Oxygen: When using medical oxygen, the amount of oxygen in the air can increase. This means there is a higher risk of both fires and burns because it is easier for a fire to start and spread. Never smoke in a home where medical oxygen is used. Never use a candle, match, lighter or other open flame. Never use a fireplace, stove or other equipment fueled by gas, kerosene, wood or coal. Keep oil, grease and similar petroleum-based products away from oxygen valves. They can cause a spontaneous explosion.

- Be Fire-Safe Around the Home: Careless smoking is a leading cause of home fire deaths among older adults. If you must smoke, never smoke in bed. Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, grilling or broiling food. Use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking. Don’t overload electrical outlets or extension cords. Properly maintain chimneys and keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away from space heaters. Take special precaution if you are on medication that makes you drowsy.


Help prevent older adult (ages 65 and over) fire deaths in your community by sharing this content with your loved ones, and on your social media channels.


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Ridge Volunteer Fire Department, Inc.
13820 Point Lookout Road
P.O. Box 520
Ridge, MD 20680
Emergency Dial 911
Non-Emergency: 301-872-5571
E-mail: info@ridgevfd.org
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