More than 400,000 home fires occur in the United States each year killing more than 4,000 people. Fires often start in older homes but no home is completely safe because most residential fires are caused by the people who live there.
Fires and the fatalities caused by fires are often a result of carelessness, a lack of knowledge and an improper response to a fire when a fire starts.
Fire safety and Prevention are an important part of home care, especially when caring for the older adult. 65 years and older are twice more likely to die in a fire than the national average adult.
85 years and older are four and a half times more likely to die in a fire. The normal aging process causes some people to be more vulnerable to fires. Aging can cause a change in our senses and physical function.
An older adult may not hear the smoke alarm or smell the smoke or gas leak. Gas and smoke inhalation causes disorientation and breathing difficulties and can affect an older adult much more quickly.
A physical decline in poor eyesight can make it difficult for an older person to escape a fire. Medications may affect a person’s ability to make critical decisions during a fire emergency. Many times after an older person dies in a fire, the investigation reveals that that person was directly involved.
In the start of the fire as a caregiver, you have an important role in fire prevention. You can reduce the risk of injury or death to yourself and the person you’re caring for by understanding what makes a fire by identifying and correcting fire hazards in the home and by knowing what to do when a fire starts and by knowing ways to prevent fire.
4 Components that act as a CATALYST
There are four components that are necessary for a fire to start.
The first is oxygen, which is present in the air.
The second element is fuel. Fuel is a material being burned and can include materials such as draperies and doilies, paper wood, upholstery, gasoline, and propane.
Heat is the third component and provides the energy necessary to ignite the fuel.
Some common sources of heat are stoves, fireplaces, cigarettes, wiring, hot water heaters and furnaces.
The fourth component is a rapid chemical chain reaction that can occur when oxygen fuel and heat are combined. According to the United States Fire Administration, 75% of older Americans who died in home fires do not have working smoke alarms.
Most home fire deaths occur during the night and are caused by smoke toxic gas or a lack of oxygen rather than the fire itself. The smell of smoke will not wake you because the toxic gas puts you into a deeper sleep.
You don’t need to worry if you follow my detailed guidelines below on ways to prevent fire.
17 ways to prevent fire and home safety fire prevention tips for Elderly
Install the Smoke Alarm at the Centre of the house:
Smoke alarms provide an early warning in the event of a fire and can increase your chance of surviving a fire. They are one of the essential safety items for seniors. The important thing about smoke alarms is that you need to have them in the areas you’re going to spend a lot of time and near the kitchen.
Kitchen fires happen normally during the daytime. That time you’re awake and you need to be near your bedroom so that when you’re sleeping it’s the time that can be the most dangerous because a fire can start in the opposite end of your house and you need to have that smoke alarm detection so that you can wake up and get out of that house on time and as fast as possible.
The best place for a smoke alarm is in the center of the ceiling. If this isn’t possible, then install the alarm on the ceiling four inches from the nearest wall.
To install a smoke alarm on a wall, place it six to twelve inches below. The ceiling alarm should be located away from air vents, windows doors or forced air registers where drafts could interfere with the operation of the alarm to be sure that the smoke alarms are in good working order.
Test them monthly. Batteries and bulbs should be checked twice a year. Replace smoke alarms after ten years especially for seniors living alone safety.
There are a variety of smoke alarms available including disposable 10-year battery alarms and alarms with the hush reset feature if you’re caring for someone who is hearing impaired there are smoke alarms equipped with strobe lights and vibrators.
Before you install the alarm follow the manufacturer’s instructions on where to place the alarm and how to maintain it if you have any questions call your fire department.
The one I usually always recommend is This. This smoke alarm is advanced and a very recent product for senior care safe at home.
Some fire departments offer smoke alarm programs which include help with installation in most areas. 911 is the telephone number to call for all emergency services, check to be sure that your area has 911 emergency telephone numbers for fire police poison control or 911 in large print and posted in Clearview next to every telephone.
Highlight your home address: Ways to prevent fire
It’s also a good idea to have your home address listed with the emergency numbers. Visiting relatives and other caregivers may not remember the address especially during an emergency.
To make it easier for firefighters to find the home, be sure the address is visible from the roadway.
Post address signs at the driveway entrance. Directional signs should be posted at all driveway. You can save lives and property damage by putting out small fires with a portable fire extinguisher.
Install a multi-purpose Fire extinguisher – home safety fire prevention tips
There should be at least one fire extinguisher on each level of the home particularly in the kitchen, laundry room garage and workshop as home security for the elderly.
When you’re looking for a fire extinguisher to buy, you should look for one that’s multi-purpose. On the extinguisher, it’s going to say whether it’s AB or C. A stands for ordinary combustibles wood and paper bees for flammable liquids grease and gasoline and C would be electrical and that would be your choice.
Look for one that’s multi-purpose. That will do all those jobs for your home. The other type of fire extinguisher you could buy here at home to protect your computer equipment so you didn’t have the powder all over the computer would be a co2 fire extinguisher.
It would be the two choices that I would buy from my home. The rules have changed a little bit on the extinguishers. If we check an extinguisher out on business, the extinguishers are now good for three years but for the home user, they should be checked on a regular basis.
High-quality rechargeable fire extinguishers can be purchased from a fire extinguisher dealer. A dealer can also advise you on the best fire extinguisher for your needs. For your attempt to extinguish the fire, you need to call 911 see services you need to plan an escape route and have that to your backside.
You need to stand six to eight feet away from the fire and remember the four-step procedure this spells pass.
Number one is pulling a pin, number two is aiming the nozzle at the firebase to the fire, squeeze the trigger and sweep the base of the fire, not the top of the flames and remember that the fire extinguisher is only going to last for eight to twenty seconds, so you only have that 30 second time period.
So if you haven’t put it out within that time period, then you need to take your escape route and leave the building even if you believe that fire is out, the fire department still needs to come out and inspect it after you’ve called them.
Initially, when a person is on fire, the stop drop and roll technique can be used to extinguish the fire.
First, stop the person from running or walking, then help them drop to the floor to smother the fire, roll the person across the floor several times until the fire is out or use a blanket to put out the fire.
Have a Pre-Rehearsed Escape plan ready – home safety fire prevention tips
After a fire starts, every second count. In less than 30 seconds, a small flame can become a major fire. It takes only minutes for a home to fill with smoke and flames.
You must have an escape plan and you must rehearse it. Make an escape plan on paper for every member of the family. Draw a floor plan for the whole house showing at least two ways out of every room, then identify the two exits out of the house.
Designate a meeting place away from the house and plan to meet at a specific tree or at the end of a driveway to make sure everyone has gotten out safely.
Practice your escape plan at least twice a year. Remember fire will be black, not light, so don’t forget to practice your speed plan in the dark or blindfolded.
Practice crawling to and through exit ropes, sound the smoke alarm so that everyone knows what it sounds like. Be sure to teach children never to hide during a fire especially from firefighters.
Designate someone to be responsible for each small child, elderly or disabled person who may not be able to get out on his or her own windows and doors that will be used as an exit should be kept unobstructed.
If any windows have security bars be sure the bars are equipped with a quick-release mechanism.
ul-approved collapsible ladders are available for second-floor rooms. Be sure the ladder reaches the ground and can support the heaviest person in the home to leave a burning building that is filling with smoke.
Drop to your knees and crawl, there are less smoke and heat at floor level. Crawl to the nearest door or window that allows you to exit the building as quickly as possible.
Crouch at an interior door that is closed. Reach up as high as you can and feel the door with the back of your hand. If the door is still hot, just do not attempt to open it.
Heat and fire are probably on the other side and use another exit route. Brace your shoulder against the door and open it slowly and carefully close the door behind you.
This will help in slowing the process of spreading the fire. Leave the burning building as fast as you can. Do not stop for any reason.
Once you’re outside, go to the pre-arranged meeting place and stay there and do not go back into the building under any circumstances.
If emergency services have not been called, have one person go to the neighbor’s home and make the call. If you are trapped in a burning building, close all doors between you and the fire and stuff towels blankets or rugs in the space between the door and the floor.
This will help in reducing smoke from entering the room. If there is a telephone in the room, call 911 from exactly where you are if possible open a window and breathe the air from the bottom of the window.
You should wait near the window and send some sort of signal for help using a flashlight or any light colored cloth. If you are in a burning multi-story building that has an elevator, do not try to use it as you could become trapped.
Use the stairway instead. The best chance of surviving a fire for someone in a wheelchair is to choose a bedroom on the ground floor with a door to the outside.
Install Wheelchair Ramps at every exit – home safety fire prevention tips
Wheelchair ramp should be at every outside exit, a part of home safety assessment for seniors. Make it a point to meet your neighbors and become acquainted with them as they could assist you or the person you’re caring for in an emergency situation.
When caring for someone on bedrest, the wrap and slide technique is a safe way to move that person out of danger. Use a blanket or sheet to wrap the person’s body, support their head and shoulders as you gently slide them off the bed in the direction of the exit.
Oxygen equipment is one of the most potentially hazardous types of medical equipment in the home.
When you have home medical oxygen at your home, you want to make sure that there is no ignition source around, that means no smoking, no candles, no hair dryers, no electric razors around.
It is a highly flammable gas and can be very dangerous if you use it with an ignition source at all. It’s also highly under pressure.
Fire Prevention tips in the kitchen
Using the oven or stove as a heater in the kitchen can be dangerous. Do not store flammable items such as paper cloth or napkins in an oven.
Someone could accidentally turn the oven on while these items are stored there. Never pour water on a grease fire because it will cause the fire to spread.
Avoid cooking while wearing clothing with loose or dangly sleeves which could catch on fire.
Keep towels and pot holders away from the oven and burners to prevent burns. Turn pot handles inward away from the front of the stove so they’re less likely to be pulled down or bumped.
Never leave cooking unattended and always keep a multipurpose ABC model fire extinguisher in the kitchen that is easily seen and easy to get to.
Do not place anything on top of an electric blanket while it is in use as heat can build up and burn the person using the blanket or it can eventually ignite a fire.
Reduce the risks attached to an electrical fire – home safety fire prevention tips
Heating pads can cause serious burns or fires if left unattended even on low setting. Never sleep while using a heating pad. A flashlight walking aids and eyeglasses should be kept at the bedside.
A bill or whistle can be used to call for help in an emergency. Close the bedroom door before going to bed as a closed door helps to slow the spread of a fire if one starts, outdated household wiring, and overloaded electrical systems can cause fires to start.
One way to reduce the risk of an electrical fire is to never use fuses or circuit breakers that are rated for higher amperage than the circuit was designed for.
To quickly turn off the electrical power to the house, locate and label the main electrical switch at the circuit breaker box so that it’s easily visible during an emergency.
If you suspect an electrical fire, call 911 C number immediately, then turn off the main electrical supply to the house. Exposed wiring from switches and outlets is a shock hazard as well as a fire hazard and be sure all outlets and switches in your home have cover plates installed with no wiring exposed.
If young children are present, use outlet covers. If a cover plate of an outlet or switch feels warm to the touch, turn the switch off or unplug electrical cords from the outlet as this may be a sign of an unsafe wiring condition.
Get the wiring checked by an electrician as fast as you can. The grounding feature provided by a three-pronged plug and three hold receptacles is a safety feature designed to reduce the risk of shock.
Never remove the grounding prong. If your outlet does not have three holes, use an adapter to connect a three-pronged plug and make sure that the ground wire or tab is correctly attached to the outlet.
Electrical cords should not be covered by rugs carpet or any other material that can become fuel for a fire.
Never attach electrical cords to walls or baseboards with nails or staples as a staple or nail can puncture or damage wire insulation which is used to isolate one wire from another.
If you find a cord that is frayed or cracked, replace it immediately.
Extension cords are designed for temporary use and should not be used inside ceilings or run through windows walls floors or doors where they can deteriorate.
Unnoticed extension cords that are designed for interior use are not weather resistant and should not be used outdoors. Do not overload an extension cord as it can overheat and become a fire hazard.
Never piggyback extension cords. Power strips can be convenient to use when multiple appliances are needed in the same location. If you use a power strip, be sure it is ul listed and has a built-in circuit breaker that cuts off electricity to the power strip when it becomes overloaded.
Choose low wattage bulbs – home safety fire prevention tips
Lightbulbs generate heat sealing fixtures. Recessed lights and hooded lamps trap and retain heat if the wrong type of bulb is used or one with a higher wattage than recommended.
The light bulb and its fixture can overheat and start a fire. Use a bulb of no more than 60 watts If you cannot determine the correct wattage bulb for a particular fixture.
Halogen lamps generate much more heat than standard incandescent light bulbs. To avoid starting a fire, do not use halogen lamps in areas where wind could cause curtains or any combustible material to come in contact.
Most modern appliances are safe to use and will not cause a fire if you follow a few simple precautions. Appliances, when not in use, should be turned off. When you need to use the appliance, insert the plug completely into the outlet before turning it on and avoid leaving appliances overnight.
Do not try to be an Engineer if you are not
Do not try to repair an appliance yourself. Poking utensils or other objects into an appliance such as a toaster or hairdryer can cause a shock or ignite a fire. Keep appliances away from sink areas and hot surfaces and if you see smoke or smell an unusual odor coming from an appliance, unplug it immediately and call a qualified repair person to inspect it and repair it.
Clothes dryer vent hoses accumulate lint and should be inspected and cleaned twice a year.
Consider purchasing an iron with an automatic shutoff. Well, the primary difference between natural gas and propane is the fact that natural gas is lighter than air, so natural gas will ultimately rise and dissipate propane, on the other hand, is heavier than air and it will settle down at the floor level.
Both natural gas and propane and an odorant is added so that you can smell if there is a leak in your home. The other factor as you might hear gas escaping, if you have a leak well the odor actually in both cases smells a lot like rotten eggs but if you’re not sure what that odor is, you might contact your provider and find out if they can at least provide you with a sample of what that odor might smell like.
All propane tanks and cylinders have a main shutoff valve. Be sure you know where the shutoff valve is located and how to use it.
Don’t light any matches or don’t smoke. Don’t turn on any electrical switches or use the telephone or do anything else that’s going to cause a spark, also open any doors to the outside or any windows to allow fresh air in and the gas to escape, then evacuate the home of anyone that’s there and go to the neighbors and call the utility from their phone and keep people out of the home until the utility tells you that it’s safe.
To go back in alarm units that detect gas are available, wherever you can buy a smoke alarm. A pilot light is a constant burning flame that is fueled by gas. The pilot light eliminates the need to manually light the appliance, though most pilot lights are protected by a shield and you should still protect the pilot light from drafts and litter.
Do not store combustible liquids or materials near or on top a gas appliance a pilot light could ignite any flammable material. Keep your gas appliances reliable and safe by having them inspected and cleaned once a year by a qualified service professional.
Precautions with Space heaters
Do not use space heaters in areas of high traffic such as hallways as someone could trip over it causing a fire or a burn. Never leave a space heater on unattended such as when sleeping or when knowing his home some space heaters have safety features such as an automatic shutoff and a high temperature limiting device flammable materials such as bedding draperies, rugs, furniture, and flammable liquids should be kept at least 3 feet away from space heaters.
You may check out here for a safer option to buy.
Gas and kerosene space heaters use oxygen to operate and release carbon monoxide. Be sure to leave a window open to provide proper ventilation in order to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detector home depot is available for use with these types of heaters and never refuel a space heater while it is running as creosote buildup in a stove piper chimney can ignite and cause a flue fire.
You can reduce creosote buildup by burning seasoned wood rather than freshly cut wood. Having the stove piper chimney cleaned yearly will also reduce the chance of a flue fire.
Be cautious with fireplaces – home safety fire prevention tips
Do not overload stoves or fireplaces with wood. This can cause excessive creosote buildup from smoldering wood combustible material, such as towels drapes and newspapers should be kept away from stoves and fireplaces.
If a stovepipe or chimney fire should start, close off the air supply and call 911 services. Use a screen around the fireplace to keep jumping embers from landing on the floor or rug when cleaning out a fireplace or wood stove.
Place the ash and embers in a metal container and put them outside on a fireproof surface. Tree branches should be at least 10 feet away from the stove pipe or chimney kerosene gasoline paint thinners and other volatile materials should be stored in clearly marked sealed containers.
Keep your home and family safe by staying on top of these safety measures so you are prepared in the case of an emergency.
Protect your house from the fire as 43% of house fires begin in the kitchen as per a recent survey. Your first defense ought to be a readily accessible fire extinguisher in your kitchen but you ought to aim to own at least one on every floor of your home.
In case a fire starts in your house, you may have as little as two minutes to escape. Create a plan which includes escaping routes and a predetermined assembly point for your family.
Do not fall victim to carbon monoxide poisoning as it is a silent killer. Carbon dioxide is colorless and odorless so it’s essential to install a carbon monoxide detector near bedrooms.
All too often older adults expose themselves in their homes especially if they live in an apartment complex to fire hazard. They don’t do it maliciously or intentionally, it’s just carelessness.
For example, the number one cause of fires by older adults is related to smoking.
A person falling asleep with the lighted cigarette in their hand can result in a room being engulfed in flames and filled with thick choking black smoke in a matter of minutes.
But careless smoking is obviously not the only cause for fires in your home. The most common cause of fire among seniors is people smoking in bed or while lying down.
People think they’ll be able to stay awake long enough to finish their cigarette but they tend to nod off and the cigarette is still burning and catches either their bedding or a newspaper and other nearby combustible items on.
Fire space heaters are a problem for older adults because they get cold more easily. They end up placing a space heater next to a combustible object, a newspaper a blanket they might be using or even furniture.
Older adults tend to actually overload their electrical outlets or they use appliances that are plugged in through frayed cords which is also a fire hazard.
Candles left unattended are a problem because it is an open flame that can easily set a nearby object on fire especially if you have pets or grandchildren that can knock over the candle.
Older adults tend to wear looser fitting clothing while cooking or wear a towel over their shoulder and the loose clothes or towel tends to hit the hot surface starting a fire.
They also tend to have a combustible object such as cooking magazines or recipes near the hot surface or grease. Fires tend to start quickly and get out of control.
Wood-burning stoves and fireplaces are a fire hazard because creosote tends to quickly build up and can cause an out-of-control fire
Let’s take a look at how you can prevent fires in your home or and the event something does happen in a fire does break out we’ll have some pointers to help you avoid injury.
Quit Smoking at home
Well, of course, our first recommendation would be that you try to quit smoking. If you are going to smoke at home, you want to make sure that you have ample ashtrays available as phrases that are strong and sturdy and deep.
Maybe you can try keeping your smoking to the outside areas of the home. You want to be careful if you’re taking medications that make you drowsy or drinking alcohol.
We want to be sure of is that you never ever lay down while you’re smoking.
Be Extra Cautious with the Candles
Well, we want you to be careful with candles and they should be in obvious areas. you want to make sure that they’re on a strong base and have a drip tray and you don’t want to leave them unattended.
If you’re going to leave a room or you’re leaving your home, you want to make sure that you extinguish those candles before you leave.
Space Heaters – Safety devices for elderly
Space heaters are often used to heat a small area of your home and that may be a bedroom. We have to be really careful because they generate a lot of heat and you don’t want to have those extra bedding or clothing.
You have to be careful with newspapers and you don’t want a lot of clutter around that space heater.
You need to have about a two-foot clear space all around that space heater for it to be able to operate safely.
One of the safest option you may go for by getting one of these.
Take precautions while you Cook
When you’re cooking, one of the first things you want to be aware of is what you’re wearing.
You don’t want to wear clothes that have big draping sleeves. We have to be careful about aprons If you like keeping a towel over your shoulder.
We have to keep these areas away from the tops of the stove because they can catch on fire. You also want to be careful of the pot handles.
Make sure that those are turned inward and not hanging over the edge of the stove or they can get bumped. If you have a grease fire, the best way to try to extinguish the heat or bring it under control is to take the pot cover and place it on top of the burning pan.
Do not try to carry the burning pan through the kitchen sink. You want to be very careful with items that you have nearby.
You don’t want to have excess papers and all those things that are combustible. We want to keep away from the top of the stove.
You should never use your stove or oven to heat your home. The flames from on top of the stove or the electric element or the oven can easily spread to combustibles that might be in the kitchen and you may catch fire.
So when you go to bed at night, make sure that your stove and oven is turned off.
Don’t overload an electrical outlet – home safety fire prevention tips
Other precautions seniors can take is to not overload electrical outlets. If you overload electrical outlets, then you can cause a fire.
Another precaution a senior can take is to have their chimneys inspected and cleaned annually to prevent the build-up of creosote that can, in turn, cause a fire in the home.
Another way you can prevent a fire in the home is when you’re using your fireplace, have the screen pulled and the doors closed so that you can prevent sparks from coming out and starting a fire in your house.
Install a Smoke Detector
Smoke detectors are very important for senior citizens. Smoke detectors should be on every level of the home for the senior citizens so they can be alerted.
If there’s a fire in the home, a senior citizen should change their batteries in their smoke detector twice a year. A good way to remember that is when you change your clock, the senior citizen should make sure that they have an escape route just in case of a fire in their home.
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They should have two ways in and out of their home and once they are out of the building, they should stay out.
The advantage of having a phone in the bedroom for a senior citizen is that they don’t have to go to another place in the home and they can call 911 for emergency services.
Seniors often go on vacation, hence, it is important to have a lockbox with the keys to their home inside of the box, just in case the fire department has to get into their home only the fire department will have access to this key.
We recommend a vibrating smoke alarm as it works in conjunction with your standard smoke detector. When your smoke detector alarm sounds during the night, it will activate their alarm causing the pad to vibrate waking the person.
The key to fire prevention is paying attention to what you’re doing.
Do not leave anything unattended that could produce a high degree of heat or flames.
Remember the number one cause for fires with older adults – careless smoking.
Somebody falling asleep with a lighted cigarette is easy to prevent. Just quit looking around looking for things that could cause a fire and remove them then go on to safely enjoy your golden years.
I am sure by adopting the above guidelines, you can fire secure your house to a great extent.