Fire safety is important at any age, but it’s especially top of mind as you grow older. For many people, aging comes with reduced mobility that affects how quickly you can react in an emergency. You may rely on mobility tools to get around, or you may simply move slower than when you were younger. In the event of a fire, you don’t have a second to waste; you need to respond calmly and get out quickly.
Sadly, many people over 65 fail to do that. Seniors account for 18 percent of fire-related deaths, as well as seven percent of all fire-related injuries. Luckily, the risk of becoming a statistic is preventable. You just need to prepare. With a fire escape plan and the right tools, you’ll be better equipped to survive a fire at any age.
Make a Fire Escape Plan
A fire escape plan is your exit strategy should your home or apartment go up in flames. It prepares you for the worst-case scenario, so you know how to react quickly and efficiently under pressure.
While it may be difficult to imagine yourself dealing with a dangerous fire, this brainstorming activity may save your life.
To make an escape plan of your own, go through your home to identify every possible exit and escape route. Fire safety experts recommend homeowners have two ways to exit every room. This requires you to think through your evacuation in case the fire blocks your usual points of exit. Look to your windows if you live on the main floor or if you have access to a fire escape staircase.
Invest in Emergency Tools
Having the right tools at your disposal will help you follow your plan more efficiently. But don’t worry — you don’t need a massive new toolkit to be safe. Here are some examples of equipment that may aid your escape, including those that make an evacuation unnecessary altogether.
In a tall building, an elevator makes getting down to the ground floor convenient — whether you live on the fourth or 24th story. Unfortunately, you can’t use elevators in a fire, which means you can’t rely on a lift in your fire plan.
Are you prepared to make a swift exit down several sets of stairs? If you have mobility challenges, this may be impossible for you to do safely.
Talk to your building supervisor about how they plan to accommodate your needs in an emergency. In many cases, there is legislation requiring apartment buildings and retirement homes to provide a safe exit for everyone. Look this up before you chat, so you know your rights.
If they don’t already have escape equipment, urge them to install an Evacuscape emergency chair at every stairwell. These durable, easy-to-use escape tools help anyone with reduced mobility to descend the stairs rapidly and safely in an emergency. Check out Evacuscape.com to learn more about how these emergency evacuation chairs might save your life.
Install Smoke Alarms
The shrill bleating of a smoke alarm when you burn dinner can be annoying, but don’t disable this tool. It stands a silent guard 24/7, warning you of the first signs of smoke.
In some cases, as in a failed cooking experiment, it gives you time to remove a burning pot from the stove before it ignites. In others, it alerts you to an ongoing fire, giving you a greater chance to avoid smoke inhalation and escape with your life.
Most fire-related deaths happen in homes where there are no working smoke alarms. Simply by installing these tools, you can reduce your risk of dying in a fire in half.
Generally, you’ll want a smoke detector on every level of your house, focusing on bedrooms and paths of exit. Check the batteries of these alarms regularly to make sure they’re working, and replace the alarm entirely according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Get Fire Extinguishers
A fire extinguisher is your first line of defense against flames. When used correctly, it can douse a small fire before it grows out of control to damage your property or risk your life.
This makes it incredibly important to have at least one fire extinguisher in your home. But before you rush out to get one, take care to read the label. Fire extinguishers come in four classes — A through D — and each one is designed to put out a different kind of fire.
An extinguisher shoots out foam, gas, and water that smothers the flames with fire-retardant chemicals. These chemicals differ depending on the kind of fire you’re fighting. Grease fires, for example, require a Class B extinguisher, while an electrical fire requires a Class C.
Generally speaking, most fires start in the kitchen, so it’s a good idea to place one Class B extinguisher in this room. Just be careful to store it away from the oven and other cooking equipment, so you may access it easily. You may also want to place an extinguisher anywhere else in the home that generates a lot of heat or electricity.
You should also take the time to learn how to operate these tools properly, so you won’t waste precious time fiddling with things as the flames grow. This includes when not to use them, too.
Having a fire extinguisher doesn’t override the need for a fire plan. Only use them when a small, localized fire starts — like in an oven or garbage bin. Otherwise, fall back on your escape plan and call the fire department for help.
Beef up Your Fire Security Today
As a senior, you face unique barriers every day, and your safety in the home is no different. Reduced mobility may interfere with your quick and careful escape from a house fire, but with appropriate planning, you may lower your risk of injury and death.
There are a variety of ways a fire might start in your home. You need to be prepared — whether it’s caused by an electrical shortage or cooking gone wrong. Have the right tools on hand and know your exit strategy inside and out. These tips may seem simple, but they help you be prepared for an emergency, and being prepared can help you escape with your life.