fire safewty for elders

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.