Chances are that you have senior-aged loved ones, whether they are dear friends, or family. Unfortunately, the elderly are at a great disadvantage when it comes to their protection against fire hazards. There are several reasons for this. For one, they are not as agile as other age groups, so escaping the scene of a fire may be difficult for them. Additionally, whether owing to long-term health conditions that affect their minds, or whether from the effects of medications they may be taking, their ability to assess danger and respond to it appropriately is frequently hampered.
We often worry about the well-being of our elderly friends and family—even moreso when they live away from us, and we cannot keep an eye on them from our own homes. However, this does not mean that there is nothing you can do to protect such persons from fire hazards, even if they live away from you.
The first step towards achieving elderly safety from fire hazards is to recognize the most frequent types of hazards they are affected by:
Food preparation – Food that is forgotten or left unattended in the oven or stove can quickly lead to fire. This accounts for the greatest number of fire occurrences in elderly households.
Smoking – Cigarettes and matches that land where they shouldn't can quickly ignite the materials they touch.
Space heaters – If possible, opt for central heating instead.
Fireplaces – Fireplaces that are not gas, and that use actual kindling and wood can be a great fire hazard for the elderly.
Bad wiring – Old appliances with frayed cords and old wires can start fires with no warning at all.
Oxygen tanks – if there is a fire, oxygen tanks can quickly escalate the situation. There should be signs in a home that has them, pointing them out.
Personal care items – Toiletries that have high alcohol content, like hand sanitizers, are flammable. If stored near a heat source, they can catch fire.
Clothes dryer – Forgetting to clean the lint trap of a clothes dryer can cause fire.
Once these hazards are pointed out and dealt with, ensure that all smoke detectors have fresh batteries, and are in a place where they will be heard. Choose a detector that has flashing lights for persons who are hard of hearing. Additionally, ensure that there are fire extinguishers wherever there are fire hazards.
Should a fire break out, be sure your loved ones know not to attempt to put it out themselves, but to leave as quickly as possible, closing the door to contain it. As soon as they are able, they should call 911. The best way to avoid smoke inhalation is to stay close to the ground, with mouth covered.
Knowing and reviewing these steps well in advance can prepare your loved ones to best prevent and deal with such a mishap if it happens.