6 Fire Safety Tips for Seniors
National Fire Prevention Week kicked off October 4th and runs to October 10th. This annual event is to heighten public awareness and educate people on fire safety.
Older adults can face higher risk factors and quite frankly these factors can have catastrophic consequences when a fire occurs. Mobility barriers, weaker muscles, reduced cognitive function, medications, and chronic disease are just some of the risk factors that we will all experience as we age.
While not a complete list, here are 6 Fire Safety Tips for Seniors.
1. Install and maintain Fire Alarms: Most fire deaths happen in homes as a result of people breathing smoke and toxic fumes while they are asleep. Smoke alarms are an effective early warning device that can awaken sleeping occupants and help provide seniors the time they need to safely exit their home. The chance of surviving a house fire nearly doubles with the warning of a smoke detector. If you are renting your home be sure to visit the Government of BC website to understand your rights and responsibilities. It is highly recommended that everyone check the batteries on their smoke detector no less than once a year. Schedule it and do it at the same time every year.
2. Kitchen Safety: is the official fire safety message in 2020. Learn more by visiting: The National Fire Prevention Association
a. Keeping your area clutter-free and clean can help prevent items from catching fire.
b. Having a fire extinguisher in the kitchen can be effective in combating minor fires providing you have the training and the extinguisher has not expired.
c. Never leave your kitchen while the stove is on.
d. Use a timer while cooking or baking.
e. Keep a lid available to cover small flare-ups in the kitchen
e. If you are feeling tired consider ordering in or have someone help you cook.
2. Best not to smoke but if you smoke, smoke outside.
a. Keep deep and sturdy ashtray
b. Wet cigarette butts and ashes as a common practice when discarding cigarettes.
c. Never smoke in bed
d. Never ever smoke near oxygen or in a home where oxygen is being used.
Note: If you are looking for some help to quit smoking, check out the BC Smoking Cessation Program which helps eligible B.C. residents stop smoking or using other tobacco products by covering the cost of nicotine replacement therapy or covering some of the cost of specific smoking cessation prescription drugs.
3. Heater Safety
Amongst elder adults, smoking and space heaters are the most common causes of injuries and fire deaths.
a. ALWAYS follow the heater manufacture's recommendations or keep heaters at least 3 feet away from things that can burn like furniture, beds, curtains or other materials that can be ignited. (whichever is greater)
b. Always turn space heaters off before you leave the home.
c. Never use gas stoves or gas heating devices inside your home.
4. Candle Safety
The flicker of a flame and the smell of a lavender candle might offer a great way to relax and unwind, there are dangers to consider when using candles.
a. Never fall asleep with a candle burning.
b. Never leave the room while a candle is burning.
c. Know your limits. Seniors who take medications, have a chronic disease or have mobility issues should reconsider having candles in the home.
Pro Tip: Consider choosing CSA approved electric lights or battery-powered candles over regular candles. Keep flashlights with extra batteries in key locations, for example beside the bed or your favourite chair for emergencies.
5. Electrical Fire Safety
a. if you smell something burning alert your caregiver, loved one or your local fire department. Always call 911 when a fire occurs.
b. Avoid the use of frayed or old extension cords. In fact, we do not recommend the use of extension cords due to the potential tripping hazards they may cause. Do not run cords under carpets. Cords are intended for temporary use not permanent
c. Replace any appliance or electrical devices that may not be working correctly.
d. Never plug more than two appliances at a time into an outlet. Avoid using splitters.
e. Always have a qualified "electrician" to do any electrical work done in your home. Many fly by night general contractors will make claims that they can fix anything. The reality is that only certified electricians are permitted to do electrical work on any home in BC.
6. Plan, Plan, Plan
We could list hundreds more fire safety tips but no tip is worth anything without having a plan that includes a customized prevention strategy and escape plan. Every home is different and every person requires a different plan. We urge you to work with your caregiver, family members, health professionals and your local fire department to help develop the best plan for you and your situation. For residents of North Vancouver, we recommend visiting the Victoria Fire Department to get started.
Some additional Fire Safety links that you might find useful.
From Sidney to Victoria BC, Pacific Coast Health Services provides home healthcare for seniors and persons with disabilities. From respite care & 24-hour care to dementia care & advanced foot care, our care line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - 365 days a year. To book your free in-home healthcare assessment.
This blog post was done in partnership with our good friends at Lions Gate Home Care.