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Fire Safety for the Elderly

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It’s especially important for elderly people to practice fire prevention and to have a fire safety plan in place. Unfortunately, older people are statistically proven to be most at risk in the home than other groups. So stay safe by following a few precautions.

Preventing a Fire

There are many steps you can take in order to prevent a fire from starting in the first place. Little things such as closing doors behind you, and making sure you don’t leave candles or cooking unattended are just a few of the ways that you can stay safe at home. The kitchen is the most likely place for a fire to start, so play it safe and don’t take any risks. If there’s a power cut, try using torches instead of candles. Before you go to bed at night, make sure that all appliances are switched off, don’t leave them on standby. Read our key fire safety points and stay safe in your home. Fire Safety for Elderly
Smoke Alarms
Smoke alarms are essential for your home and of course, everybody knows to have a smoke alarm fitted – don’t they? Sadly it’s a fact that if you don’t have a smoke alarm, you’re twice as likely to die in a house fire as in a home that has a fire alarm installed. Yet still there are homes without a fire alarm, or the fire alarm is not working. Smoke alarms are reasonably priced, so don’t be tempted to skimp on a cut-price smoke alarm that won’t work when you need it. Buy your smoke alarm from a reputable source and ensure that it conforms to British Standard number BS5446 and that the Kitemark is showing. You should make sure that you have a smoke alarm fitted on every floor of your home. Once you’ve purchased your smoke alarm, don’t simply forget about it – test it regularly to see that it’s working. After all, there’s no point in installing a smoke alarm if it’s not working in an emergency. Change the battery annually and keep it free from dust so that there’s no chance of the sound being muffled. If your hearing is impaired, then invest in a smoke alarm that’s designed to alert you by vibrating. These smoke alarms are fitted underneath your pillow and will alert you to danger through vibration and strobe lighting if the sensors detect any smoke.
Smoking
If you’re a smoker, make sure you follow a few simple rules. Firstly, never smoke in bed – although you may not think it will happen to you, fires can easily start when people smoke in bed and then fall asleep with the cigarette still lit. If you’ve had a drink, be extra aware of this. Use an ashtray, don’t flick your ash in to a bin. You should use a deep ashtray so that you can safely extinguish your cigarette without fear of other materials igniting and try to keep your ashtray free from other debris and old cigarette butts. Take extra care to make sure that your cigarette is fully extinguished – often it will still smoulder because you haven’t put it out completely.
Your Fireplace
Lots of older homes have an open fire, which is very nice in the cold winter months but this can cause a fire risk if you’re not careful. Be sure to stay safe by using a fire guard to catch any sparks from the fireplace. Don’t be tempted to use the fireplace as a dryer for your clothes. Never dry you clothes in or near the fire. This also applies to heaters – it’s a dangerous practice to hang your clothes over a source of heat.
Electric Blankets
Fire Safety Hazard If you use an electric blanket, before you plug it in make sure that there’s no damage to the blanket. Remember that fire blankets that are damaged are responsible for more than 5‚000 house fires a year, so stay safe and adhere to a few instructions. Your electric blanket will come with its own set of instructions, so make sure that you read these first. But there are a few rules of thumb: don’t use both an electric blanket and a hot water bottle – this is asking for trouble, so just use one or the other. Check that the plug cord isn’t damaged and that there are no scorch marks on the blanket. If there are, it’s time to invest in a new one. Nearly all the fires caused by an electric blanket are due to the blanket being old, many of them are more than 10 years old. We’d recommend that you renew your old electric blanket or have it checked by an expert every three years to ensure that it’s safe to use. Don’t plug an electric blanket into a multi-socket block or adaptor with other appliances at the same time. If you’re about to buy an electric blanket, never purchase it second-hand – as with all electric appliances, play it safe and buy new! When it’s time to give your electric blanket a wash, make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions as most of them are not meant to be washed. If you do wash the electric blanket, or it gets wet, never switch the blanket on to dry it out, and never use it when it’s wet. When the blanket’s not in use, store it in a safe place and if you’re not using it, make sure that it’s unplugged and that the power is off. Don’t fold the blanket while you’re using it, spread it out flat so that the heat is dispersed.
Fire Safety Assessment
To make sure that your home is fire safe, your local fire brigade may be able to assess your property. Some fire brigades will provide a fire safety assessment service for residential properties to make sure that the risk of fire in your home is minimised. The contact details will be in the phone book or on the internet. Ask them if they can provide a home fire risk check for your home.

Fire Safety Procedures

Fire prevention is an important part of making your home safe from fire. But if the worst happens and a fire does occur at home, you should also have procedures in place so that you know what to do in an emergency. An important aspect of your fire safety plan is to map out your evacuation route, and to know the route like the back of your hand so that you can escape safely even if visibility is reduced. This can save you vital time – remember, every second counts when there’s a fire. If there’s a fire in your home, get yourself and your family out to safety as quickly as possible. Leave the building through the nearest exit. Don’t stop to call the Fire and Rescue service until you’re safely outside, then use a neighbour’s phone or the nearest phone to hand. And don’t return to the property under any circumstances until you’ve been told you may do so by the fire service staff. It’s also a good idea to plan an alternative escape route so that you can quickly revise your plans if your original exit is blocked for any reason. Just making a few checks can really save lives, so spare the time to make your home safe from fire because prevention is better than cure! Photo credit: Justin Gaurav Murgai & pedrosimoes7 via photopin cc
  2 COMMENTS
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  • Written by: Ken

    Great article, very glad you included the fact that elderly people may be hard of hearing and in need of a vibrating fire alarm. Some elderly people who use hearing aids don’t stop to think of the repercussions of taking out their hearing aid at night.

  • Written by: Nick

    Great post, specifically the part about electric blankets not having a hot water bottle too. As a lot of elderly people do this.

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