The facts speak for themselves: Americans over the age
of 65 are one of the groups at greatest risk of dying
in a fire. Every year more than 1,000 Americans over
age 65 die in fires. People over the age of 80 die in
fires at a rate three times higher than
the rest of the population. Many of these fatalities
occur where there is no working smoke detector.
However, there are a number of precautionary steps
older Americans can take to dramatically reduce their
chances of becoming a fire casualty.
East Side Fire Department offers these safety tips to
help reduce the threat of fire for older Americans.
UNDERSTANDING THE RISKS
Why Are Older People at Risk? Older Americans are at
risk for fire death and injuries for a number of reasons:
They may be less able to take the quick action
necessary in a fire emergency.
Often, they are on medication that affects their
ability to make quick decisions.
Many older people live alone and when accidents happen
others may not be around to help.
WHAT FIRE HAZARDS AFFECT OLDER PEOPLE?
Cooking accidents are the leading cause of fire
related injuries for older Americans. The kitchen is
one of the most active and potentially dangerous rooms
in the home. Cooking can mean danger where a loose
sleeve could catch fire from the stove, or a pot left
on a burner can become a major fire if forgotten.
The unsafe use of smoking materials is the leading
cause of fire deaths among older Americans.
Heating equipment is responsible for a big share of
fires in seniors' homes. Extra caution should be used
with alternate heaters such as wood stoves or electric space heaters.
Too often the heaters become a fire hazard,
particularly when newspapers and other combustibles are nearby.
Faulty wiring is another major cause of fires
affecting the elderly. Older homes can have serious
wiring problems, ranging from old appliances with bad
wiring to overloaded sockets.
SAFETY TIPS FOR OLDER AMERICANS
Kitchen Fires. Most kitchen fires occur because food
is left unattended on the stove or in the oven. If you
must leave the kitchen while cooking, turn off the
burners and take a spoon or potholder with you to
remind you to return to the kitchen. Never cook with
loose, dangling sleeves. Robes and other loose-fitting
garments can ignite easily. Grease is extremely
flammable; keep all cooking surfaces clean. Heat
cooking oils gradually and use extra caution when
deep-frying. If a fire breaks out in a pan, put a lid
on the pan. Never throw water on a grease fire. Turn
pot handles toward the side of the range, and always
use a potholder when reaching for handles. Never use a
range or stove to heat your home.
Space Heaters. Buy only UL-approved heaters. Check
your heaters often to make sure they are in good condition.
Burning fuel can produce deadly fumes; only use them
in well ventilated areas. Use only the manufacturer's
recommended fuel for each heater. Do not use electric
space heaters in the bathroom or around other wet
areas. Do not dry or store objects on top of your
heater. Keep combustibles away from heat sources.
Wiring. Regularly inspect your extension cords for
fraying, exposed wires or loose plugs. They are not
intended for use as permanent wiring. Unplug them when
not in use. If you need to plug in two or three
appliances, do not use a simple extension cord. It's
better to get a UL-approved unit that has built-in
circuit breakers. Never run electric cords or
extensions under rugs or in high traffic areas.
Smoking. Don't leave smoking materials unattended.
Don't put ashtrays on arms of sofas or chairs where
they can be easily knocked over. Use safety ashtrays
with wide lips. Empty all ashtrays into the toilet or
a metal container every night before going to bed.
Never smoke in bed. Burning sheets and blankets may
create a fire from which escape may be impossible.
Finally, having a working smoke detector dramatically
increases your chances of surviving a fire. And
remember to practice a home escape plan frequently
with your family.
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