Home fires are a concern for households of all ages. And for good reason. According to the National Fire Protection Association, a local fire department in this country responds to one every 24 seconds. Every 85 seconds, one of those fires occurs in a private residence.
For seniors, the risk of being injured or losing one’s life in a fire is high. Vision problems, hearing impairments, and mobility challenges are leading reasons why. Reaction times that slow us down as we grow older is another.
While home fires can happen anytime, the peak season is during the fall and winter months. This is when the weather is cooler and people are more likely to use furnaces and heaters. Not to mention the holidays when decorations can present additional risks.
Preventing Home Fires
While smokers account for less than 20 percent of the population, smoking is a leading cause of home fires. Bedrooms and living rooms are where the majority of smoking-related fires begin. A smoker may fall asleep in bed or drop an ash on furniture upholstery which can quickly ignite.
Here are a few general fire prevention tips to review with your senior loved one:
- Working smoke detectors: Check to make sure every level of your older loved one’s home has a smoke detector. They are absolutely essential near the kitchen, and next to bedrooms where people sleep. Have a plan in place to regularly check that they are working properly. Note it on your monthly calendar or set an alert on your smart phone so you don’t forget.
- Careful use of space heaters: If your aging family member likes to utilize a space heater during winter months, make sure they are careful about adhering to safety basics. Most should be kept at least 3 feet away from any flammable materials, like furniture, curtains, clothing, and rugs. Never sleep with a space heater running. Instead, use it to warm up the room before you go to bed for the night.
- Have an evacuation plan: Every second counts when a home fire breaks out. In fact, experts say home dwellers have 3 minutes or less to safely escape. That’s why it’s important to have a plan that includes at least 2 ways to evacuate the home. And practice escaping on a regular basis so it can be done quickly during an emergency. Also, make sure to sleep with the bedroom door closed, as that buys you extra minutes to escape. Finally, have a pair of shoes and your cell phone within easy reach. Both are essential for evacuating and calling for help.
Kitchen Fire Prevention Tips
Besides smoking, kitchen mishaps are the next leading cause of home fires. In fact, 2 out of every 5 home fires begin in the kitchen. They account for 15 percent of all fire deaths at home. Most are linked to cooking. Here are a few tips to help you and your senior loved one avoid a kitchen fire:
- Use a timer: Try to avoid leaving food cooking on the stove unattended. If you have no other choice or are cooking something that takes a while to finish, set a timer on the stove or on your smart phone. For a senior who is forgetful, a device like Cook Stop can be installed. It will automatically turn off the stove top if motion isn’t detected in the kitchen for a predetermined amount of time.
- Watch clothing: Avoid cooking in long-sleeved tops, especially those that have billowy sleeves. They may drop against a burner and ignite. Instead, opt for blouses with short or close-fitting sleeves.
- Invest in a fire extinguisher: While you don’t want to tackle a big blaze in the kitchen, having a small fire extinguisher handy allows you to douse a small fire before it gets out of control.
Holiday Decorating and Fire Safety
Finally, as we head into the holiday season, be aware of the unique fire risks that festivities present. Many homes are decked out with candles, twinkling lights, and Christmas trees. While it creates a lovely environment, these are also the leading reasons the holidays are peak fire season. From overloaded breakers to dried out trees and unattended candles, be mindful of seasonal hazards.
Thoughtfully Designed Environment at Sunrise
Sunrise Senior Living communities are designed with safety in mind. From emergency call alerts and sprinkler systems to fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, residents and their families have peace of mind knowing they are safe. Call Sunrise at 888-434-4648 to learn more!