October is Fire Safety Month


October is National Fire Prevention Month. There are a number of factors that increase the risk of fire death and injury in seniors, according to the U.S. Fire Administration website.

For instance, seniors may not be able to take quick action in a fire emergency and they may take medication that affects their ability to make split-second decisions. Many seniors live alone, especially in a rural setting, and have no one around to assist them in an emergency.

Reportedly, approximately 1,100 seniors aged 65 and older die as a result of a home fire.

The verdict has been in for a long time that smoking is dangerous but the unsafe use of smoking materials is the leading cause of fire deaths and the second leading cause of injuries among people ages 65 and older. 

A dropped cigarette can ignite clothing, rugs, upholstered furniture and other materials such as nearby newspapers and magazines. A cigarette can smolder for hours before a fire breaks out.

Immediately extinguish your smoke if you begin to feel drowsy and check around furniture for discarded cigarettes that may have fallen. Use large deep ashtrays and before tossing the butts in the trash, soak the ashtray to be sure all smoking materials are completely extinguished. And never walk away from smoking materials and never ever smoke in bed.

The leading cause of fire related injuries for seniors is cooking accidents, the most common problem being leaving the area to do other things. Best advice, try to stay put and focus on what’s cooking so you can react quickly if necessary. If you do need to leave the stove, turn it off first. 

In the case of a grease fire, smother the flame with the lid of a pot. Never try to extinguish it with water and it is best not to use baking soda which can splash back. Small five-pound fire extinguishers are readily available and are a good investment.

Probably everyone has boiled a pot dry at least once. Keeping burners clean and clear, even of the trusty teakettle is safest as it’s too easy to turn on the wrong burner or forget to fill the kettle with water.

Wear tight fitting or short sleeves when cooking to prevent igniting your clothes on a burner. Also, keep towels, potholders, and wooden spoons away from burners as they could easily ignite. Tragically, there are reports of elderly people dying when their clothing catches fire while cooking.

Be sure to have working smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed. 

The U.S. fire Administration reports that heating is the second leading cause of fire death and the third leading cause of injury to people ages 65 and older.

While space heaters can take the chill off they need at least three feet of distance between them and everything else. Do not place them near anything flammable such as papers or clothing and keep an eye on heat-seeking pets that can get too close as they attempt to stay warm. And be sure your space heater automatically shuts down if it’s knocked over.

Have an escape plan and make sure visitors, especially children, are aware of it.

Burn candles on the stovetop or better yet get flameless or wickless candles. They have great fragrances and are not danger as they’re operated by batteries or electricity.

Finally, make sure that wood stoves and chimneys are properly maintained and have a sturdy screen to catch any escaping sparks. The “cleaning logs” advertised on television should not be substituted for a professional good cleaning.

If there is a fire, get out first and then call the fire department. No fire is too small to call 911.

For more information from the U.S Fire Administration, log on www.usfa.dhs.gov/citizens/older/ or contact your local fire department.