Fires can occur when you least expect it, leaving little time to plan your escape, so the time to prepare for an emergency isn’t when your alarm sounds. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), only 32% of American households have actually developed and practiced an emergency escape plan. Make time to sit down with your family to plan and practice what you would do in case of a fire or carbon monoxide (CO) emergency.
Consider the following tips when helping to prepare yourself and your loved ones:
1. Map it out. Begin thinking about a home fire escape plan by first drawing a map of your home, making sure to label each window and door. Identify two ways out of each room and walk through your home to make sure the doors and windows you’ve chosen as exits open easily. If your family’s home has a second floor, consider having escape ladders in each room. You can find templates online to help you get started.
2. Choose a meeting spot. After you have mapped out all of the ways you can exit, pick an outside meeting spot a safe distance away from your home, such as across the street, at a mailbox or in front of the neighbor’s home. Be sure that your family knows that once they are outside, they need to call 911 and stay outside. Additionally, explain it is important that everyone knows never to re-enter the home for any reason and to let a firefighter know if someone is missing.
3. Help your loved ones. Assign someone in your family who can assist infants, seniors or pets during a fire. The responsible person should be in good health and be able to provide the assistance needed.
4. Check your smoke alarms. Having working smoke alarms on each level of the home and in every sleeping area is key to having a safe home. Check that you have alarms properly installed throughout your home and remember to test all of the alarms regularly and replace them at least every 10 years. If you have children, consider installing a First Alert Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm with voice and location technology throughout your home, and especially in their bedroom. This alarm will notify your child of an emergency, distinguishing between a fire or carbon monoxide incident, in a human voice as opposed to a regular alarm. This is especially helpful if a fire strikes at night.
Studies have shown children may have an easier time waking up to the sound of a human voice rather than an alarm. Smoke alarms are designed to give early warning in case of fire, and making sure your home has properly installed and maintained alarms is the best defense against one, said Tarsila Wey, director of marketing for First Alert. As far as CO is concerned, the only way to detect this fatal gas is with a CO alarm, so have one installed on each level of the home and near every sleeping area.
5. Plan. Practice. Repeat. Once your escape plan is finalized, your job is not done. Gather your family together and put your plan in action. Practice this plan at least twice a year, so if disaster strikes, your family will feel confident in their ability to exit the home safely. To make the drills as realistic as possible, conduct them both during the day and at night. Planning ahead can save a life, added Wey. Talk with your family to make a plan that fits all of your needs. For more information about escape planning and fire safety tools, visit www.firstalert.com.
Whether they are coming for an afternoon or a week, taking some steps before your grandchildren arrive can help keep them safe during their visit. Adopt any of the following precautions from this grandparents guide to child-proofing that are appropriate for your young visitors’ ages and abilities.
- Gather essential telephone numbers ahead of time. These should include the numbers of the children’s parents, their pediatrician, and your area’s poison-control center.
- If you have a gun, make sure it’s not loaded. Keep it locked up and store the ammunition in a separate place.
- Keep small and sharp objects off the floor and out of reach.
- Put safety plugs in wall sockets.
- Don’t let electric cords dangle where children can reach them.
- Lock doors that go outside, to stairs or to garages.
- Don’t leave children alone in a room with a burning fireplace or plugged-in space heater.
- Make certain curtain and blind drawstrings are secured and out-of-reach.
- Use your stove’s back burners and keep pot handles turned to the back of the stove.
- Keep hot foods and drinks away from the edges of tables and counters.
- Don’t allow children under 10 to use a microwave oven.
- Don’t leave a baby alone in a highchair. Always use the safety straps.
- Don’t use tablecloths. Children can pull down plates, hot foods and liquids on themselves.
- Keep cleaning products, knives, matches, and plastic bags out of reach.
- Don’t leave children in the tub or shower. Small children can drown in two inches of water within seconds.
- Keep medicines, vitamins, and soap where they can’t be reached. Buy medicines with child-safety caps.
- Always check the bath-water temperature with your hand before putting children into the tub.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the best way to dispose of old medications. Do not toss them in the wastebasket.
- Don’t keep any medications, vitamins, or other medicines on or in your bedside table. Children often swallow pills because they look like candy. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, grandparents’ medications account for nearly 20 percent of drug ingestions by children.
A baby’s bedroom
- Keep the crib away from window blinds and drapery cords.
- Put the baby to sleep on his or her back in a crib with a flat, firm mattress with no soft bedding underneath. Doing so reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
- In case of emergency, take the following steps if a grandchild swallows something dangerous or is burned or injured in any other way.
- Call 911 or your community’s emergency medical response number.
- Call the child’s parents.
- Call the child’s pediatrician.
Source: Stanford Children’s Health
Increased awareness can prevent clothes dryer fires in your home or senior community. The leading cause of home clothes dryer fires is failure to clean them. It is important for everyone to know how to keep themselves safe from fire.
Fact is 2,900 home clothes dryer fires are reported each year and cause an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss. Failure to clean the dryer (34 percent) is the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires. More home clothes dryer fires occur in the fall and winter months, peaking in January.
Clothes dryer do’s
- Have your clothes dryer installed by a professional.
- Make sure the correct electrical plug and outlet are used and that the dryer is connected properly.
- Read manufacturers’ instructions and warnings in use and care manuals that come with new dryers.
- Clean the lint filter before and after each load of laundry. Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer where lint can build up. In addition, clean the lint filter with a nylon brush at least every six months or more often if it becomes clogged.
- Clean lint out of the vent pipe every three months.
- Have your dryer cleaned regularly by a professional, especially if it is taking longer than normal for clothes to dry.
- Inspect the venting system behind the dryer to ensure it is not damaged or restricted.
- Put a covering on outside wall dampers to keep out rain, snow and dirt.
- Make sure the outdoor vent covering opens when the dryer is on.
- Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid, non-ribbed metal duct.
- Have gas-powered dryers inspected every year by a professional to ensure that the gas line and connection are together and free of leaks.
- Check regularly to make sure nests of small animals and insects are not blocking the outside vent.
- Keep the area around the clothes dryer free of items that can burn.
- If you will be away from home for an extended time, unplug or disconnect the dryer.
Clothes dryer don’t’s
- Don’t use a clothes dryer without a lint filter or with a lint filter that is loose, damaged or clogged.
- Don’t overload the dryer.
- Don’t use a wire screen or cloth to cover the wall damper. They can collect lint and clog the dryer vent.
- Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber or plastic. An example of an item not to place in a dryer is a bathroom rug with a rubber backing.
- Don’t dry any item for which manufacturers’ instructions state “dry away from heat.”
- Don’t dry glass fiber materials (unless manufacturers’ instructions allow).
- Don’t dry items that have come into contact with anything flammable like alcohol, cooking oils or gasoline. Dry them outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, away from heat.
- Don’t leave a clothes dryer running if you leave home or when you go to bed.
5 Warning Signs it’s Time to Clean Your Clothes Dryer Vent.
1. Drying time for clothes takes longer and longer.
When a dryer vent is clogged, the drying cycle can double or triple in time. You’ll notice that clothes are not completely dry at the end of a regular cycle. A dryer is designed to push out the hot moist air for clothing to dry. If your vent is blocked by lint, the air will stay in your dryer keeping your clothes hot and moist. And when it takes twice as long to dry clothes, your dryer runs longer, putting more wear and tear on it and therefore cutting the machine’s life in half.
2. Your clothing and the outside of the dryer are very hot.
Do you notice that your clothing is very hot at the end of a cycle or the dryer is hot to touch? This warning sign means the vent is not exhausting properly. If your system is clogged, it not only wastes energy, but can cause the heating element and blower in the dryer to wear out faster.
3. You notice a burning smell.
When you run your dryer do you smell a burning odor? Lint, which is very flammable, can build up in the exhaust tube, lint trap and even in the drum casing. If it gets too hot, it can catch on fire, causing a burning smell. (Remember to empty the lint trap often). Discontinue use of your dryer and have it inspected as soon as possible.
4. The vent hood flap doesn’t open properly.
Another visual red flag that you’re due for a cleaning: You can see lint or debris around the dryer hose or outside vent opening: or the duct hood flap does not open as it is designed to do. An outside vent that doesn’t open when the dryer is running means air flow has been restricted due to lint buildup.
5. It’s been longer than a year since your last inspection.
Dryer vent ducts should be inspected at least once a year to reduce the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. If you hire a professional to clean your vent, expect to pay between $75 to $150, depending on the length and location of the vent. If the exterior exhaust vent is easily accessible, you can try cleaning it yourself with a brush kit. Some of the DIY cleaning kits do not always properly clean the vent duct. One advantage to hiring an experienced professional is he or she has likely seen just about every make and model of dryer and has the appropriate brush and equipment to effectively do the job.
As the seasons of fall and winter progress, there are rituals and celebrations that dominate our lives. For the many aging in place professionals that we train, their clients have family members who will fuss over them, include them in dinners and outings, spend time in their homes and add joy to their lives. And for some, none of those experiences will happen.
Caregivers are often the family members all year long but find the work especially poignant this time of year. So what are some great ways to support your client or loved one through the winter season?
Keeping them safe and positioned to thrive is the best gift! We can suggest these helpful tips to family members looking to find the best way to help professional caregivers provide quality care.
Certainly, the gift of time and communication is always the most appreciated. Setting a regular time or day of the week for a phone call, Skype or Facetime visit for non-local family members can be invigorating and improve our overall wellbeing.
There are also some practical safety tips for your client or family member during this time of year. The first is home maintenance; cleaning gutters, clearing pathways of leaves, debris or snow, checking fireplaces, dryer vents and furnace filters – even de-cluttering, taking magazines and papers off the stairs, and checking batteries in motion-sensor or dusk to dawn lights. Doing these activities safely often involves the right equipment and tools. Getting help with these tasks for your client or loved one may be the most important gift this year!
Remember, too, that the changes from daylight savings time to standard time means we need to check the lighting inside the house because it is dark earlier.
We should also check the outside lighting, too. If solar lights are the primary path lights, check the batteries and the placement to ensure that the lights can collect as much sunlight as possible to work effectively.
The longer, darker hours can create a greater sense of isolation so plan for additional activities or again, this may be a good time to embrace the technology of communication to help your clients stay connected to others. We can wrap our care around clients and family members with a personal emergency response system (PERS) too. This will improve peace of mind for your client or loved one as the weather gets colder and more challenging. You can learn more about personal emergency response system here: https://agesafeamerica.com/medical-alert-products/ and you can fill out the form for more information or assistance.
For even more safety tips on these topics and more for clients, yourselves and your families, too, please go to AgeSafeAmerica.com.
Fritzi Gros-Daillon, MS, CSA, CAPS, UDCP, SHSS
Director of Education and Advocacy
Age Safe® Live Well.
Fall is here, which means, like it or not, cold weather is just around the corner. While most of us would prefer not to think about turning on our heat just yet, this is actually the best time to check your heating to ensure everything is operating as it should. Neglecting to winterize your home and letting small issues pile up can have big repercussions. Ahead of the winter season, make sure you’re aware of three major things that may go wrong if you don’t winterize your house or neglect your heating system.
- Your utility bills may skyrocket. Utility bills often jump up in the winter due to the increased hours of darkness and the cost to heat your home. But if your heater is on the fritz or your filters are clogged, you could be in for an even bigger surprise. Dirty filters cause your furnace to work harder, which leads to inefficiency and a shortened lifespan for your heating system. Replacing filters is often an easy task for homeowners. A yearly tune-up is an inexpensive way to help prevent a costly system breakdown in the coming months. Also, keep in mind that some warranties require annual tune-ups, so don’t let your warranty go invalid by skipping this year’s tune-up.
- The threat of carbon monoxide is very real. Do you know how old your furnace is? Do you know how long it’s been since a professional checked it over? Carbon monoxide poses a health threat when the heating system flue, vent or chimney becomes blocked from debris or other material. During a heating system tune-up, a professional service technician can check to make sure all your vents are not blocked and are working properly. Drains and traps also need to be checked and combustion gases should be analyzed and compared to the specifications of your furnace or boiler to make sure everything is running safely. Installing a carbon monoxide detector in your home is another smart way to help with early detection.
- Water pipes can burst. It’s not just your heating system that needs to be winterized. All too often it happens – we wake up to realize our pipes are frozen, or even worse, leaking. Before the cold sets in, make sure outside hoses are put away and water is turned off. Evaluate which pipes are at the greatest risk for freezing during cold weather. For example, if your water pipes come up from an un-insulated crawl space, or if they are in or close to an uninsulated outside wall or vent, they are more likely to freeze and burst in low temperatures. Inside pipes should be covered in insulation to keep pipes warmer longer. Pipe insulation is easy to apply and available at most hardware stores and home centers.
By having an annual tune-up in the fall, you can catch small issues now, instead of experiencing bigger problems in the dead of winter. A tune-up with a reputable local company can also save energy, reduce heating costs and prevent a system breakdown in the coming months.
A firefighter helps an elderly couple plan for their escape from a home fire. Credit: US Fire Administration
Age Safe America announces Fire Prevention Week, October 6-12 from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). This years theme is “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!”. This year’s campaign recognizes the everyday people who motivate their households to develop and practice a home fire escape plan; these seemingly basic behaviors can have life-saving impact. For those of us who are older adults or care for older adults, this message is vital.
“This year’s campaign works to celebrate people of all ages who learn about home fire escape planning and practice, bring that information home, and spur their families to action,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA.
“Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!” also focuses on what a home escape plan entails and the value of practicing it. These messages are more important than ever, particularly because today’s homes burn faster than ever. Carli notes that synthetic fibers used in modern home furnishings, along with the fact that newer homes tend to be built with more open spaces and unprotected lightweight construction, are contributing factors to the increased burn rate.
“People tend to underestimate their risk to fire, particularly at home. That over-confidence lends itself to a complacency toward home escape planning and practice,” said Carli. “But in a fire situation, we’ve seen time and again that advance planning can make a potentially life-saving difference.”
A home escape plan includes working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom, and near all sleeping areas. It also includes two ways out of every room, usually a door and a window, with a clear path to an outside meeting place (like a tree, light pole or mailbox) that’s a safe distance from the home. Home escape plans should be practiced twice a year by all members of the household. If you are an older adult, a family or professional caregiver, the escape routes may be different and the traditional escape routes, such as the windows, may not be feasible. So it is vital to identify the routes that will work with the challenges. Remember to notify local fire and emergency personnel if someone in the home has special equipment or difficulty leaving the home. Many fire departments have special lists for individuals in their territory who may require additional assistance.
A new study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) shows scientifically for the first time that an individual’s ability to respond quickly to a residential fire determines who dies and who gets injured. Home fire deaths, the NIST researchers state, are more likely among those they define as frail populations—persons who are not in robust health and primarily age 65 and older—while nonfatal injuries occur more often in adults ages 20 to 49.
For more information about Fire Prevention Week and “Not Every Hero Wears a Cape. Plan and Practice Your Escape!,” along with a wealth of resources to help promote the campaign locally, visit fpw.org.