Fire Safety Tips for Seniors
Senior citizens are at an increased risk of dying in home fires or from carbon monoxide poisoning—but some additional considerations can help keep you safe. Follow these guidelines to ensure your smoke detectors and fire escape plans are a good fit for your needs and abilities.
Special Considerations for Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Seniors should have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors installed. To ensure these crucial devices are always functional, replace all batteries twice per year (doing this on the days you change the clocks for daylight savings time makes it easy to remember). If smoke detectors are in a difficult-to-reach place, you may be tempted to postpone or shrug off this important task. Don’t wait until it’s too late—and don’t put yourself in danger on a ladder, either. Instead, schedule a standing “appointment” with a relative or neighbor who can help, or hire a handyman.
If you have (or are developing) hearing loss, this is also a good time to test the alarms to ensure you can still hear them. Are the alarms loud and clear enough that you can hear them in the entire home? Would they be able to wake you up in the middle of the night? If not, you’ll need to add visual and/or vibrating alarms, such as strobe lights or a bed shaker.
Fire Escape Plans for Seniors
If you’ve lived in your home for many years but never made a fire escape plan, that doesn’t mean you don’t need one now. If you did make a fire escape plan but it was long ago, consider whether that plan is still realistic today. Even a small loss of mobility should prompt you to rethink how you’d escape in the event of a home fire. Things to consider include:
- Do you have a fire escape plan for each room of your home? The majority of home fires begin in the kitchen, but remember that you could be anywhere in the home when it happens.
- Are your fire escape plans realistic for your level of mobility? If, for example, you can only navigate the staircase with a stair lift, it would be safer to move your bedroom to the ground floor of the home.
- Are your fire escape plans realistic for the condition of your home? If your fire escape plan includes a path from your bedroom to the back door, is that path easily navigable and free of clutter?
- Does your fire escape plan cover both day and night? If there was a fire in the middle of the night, would you have everything you’d need (e.g., eyeglasses, walker or cane) within arm’s reach?
Practice Fire Safety Every Day
Seniors tend to spend more time at home than other age groups—making it extra important to take steps to help prevent residential fires. In the kitchen, for example, never cook when you are feeling drowsy, and never leave food unattended while cooking. If you smoke, consider establishing an outdoor smoking area. Even simple fire safety practices can prevent a tragedy.