When it comes to older adults and fire deaths, the statistics are alarming. They’re probably all the incentive most of us need to take steps to protect the older loved ones in our lives.

Here’s a brief rundown of the statistics that highlight fire hazards for seniors.

Fire Dangers and Older Adults

This is what we know about older adults and fires:

  • Although adults over the age of 65 represent less than 15 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for nearly 40 percent of all fire deaths in 2014.
  • This same group of older adults was over 2.5 times more likely to perish in a fire than the rest of the American population.
  • Worse still, persons over 85 were four times more likely to die in a fire than the general population.

These deaths are often quite preventable by taking a few precautions. Since October is Fire Prevention Month, we thought it was a good time to review fire safety for seniors.

Let’s first talk about fire prevention tips that older adults and their caregivers need to know. And address how you can help save lives in the event a fire occurs.

Fire Safety Tips Older Adults Should Know

Fire safety starts with education. Here’s what you should know:

  • Space heaters should be placed at least three feet from curtains, furniture, or any type of flammable material. Make sure heaters are turned off whenever you leave the house.
  • Be sure working smoke detectors are installed on every level of your older loved one’s home. At a minimum, there should be functioning smoke detectors in the kitchen, hallways, bedrooms, and other often used living areas. Just as important, smoke detectors should be tested at least twice a month.
  • Have an escape plan in case a fire occurs. For older adults, a fire escape plan must be designed around their abilities and limitations, including mobility aids like wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. These devices should all be stored within easy reach at all times, especially during sleeping hours. Whenever possible, create an alternate escape plan just in case the main one is inaccessible.

Preventing Smoking-Related Fires

Smoking-related fires are the most common cause of fire deaths among both the general population and older adults. In fact, smokers are nearly seven times more likely to become victims of home fires than nonsmokers.

Five smoking safety rules seniors should never ignore include:

  • No smoking in bed or while lying down, ever
  • Use only large, heavy ashtrays and never leave them sitting on the arm of a chair or any other piece of furniture
  • Make sure that all cigarette butts are extinguished before disposing of them by wetting them thoroughly with water
  • Check between and under furniture cushions for smoldering butts before going to bed or leaving the house
  • Never smoke anywhere near an oxygen tank, not even in the same room

Preventing Electrical Fires

Electrical problems are another common cause of fires. These tips can help you identify potential hazards, such as:

  • Prevent appliances from overheating by making certain computers, stereo equipment and TVs have plenty of room for air to circulate
  • Never use or plug in an appliance that has a damaged cord
  • Keep all electrical cords where they can’t be walked on or damaged in any other way

Heritage Senior Communities Keeps You Informed

Part of our mission is to do all that we can to protect older adults from fires and other preventable tragedies. Hopefully, this information will help you and your family stay safe.

Please feel free to contact us any time for more information about senior living and to visit our blog frequently to stay updated on issues related to aging and caregiving.


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