Are there certain aspects of fire safety that pertain more to senior adults than to other age groups?
Actually, the same rules of fire safety and fire survival apply for everyone. However, there are some target fire safety hazards of which senior adults should be especially aware. For example, a leading cause of fire deaths among senior citizens is careless smoking. While some people will adamantly defend their "right" to smoke, the combination of smoking while sleepy, taking medications that tend to make one drowsy, consuming alcoholic beverages, or experiencing certain medical conditions that affect short-term memory and other normal brain functions often becomes deadly. Add to that, those who continue to smoke while confined to wheelchairs, bed, etc., who sometimes catch their clothing on fire but cannot escape because of their disabilities, and the results are most often disastrous. Cooking while wearing loose, flowing clothing that can easily catch fire; standing too close to heat sources such as heaters, space heaters, and stoves; and leaving heating pads and other electrical items on and forgetting about them are some other examples.
What are the fire survival rules that we should know?
If your clothing catches fire. Be sure to cover your face with your hands to help keep smoke and fire out of your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- GET DOWN AND CRAWL LOW UNDER SMOKE
All smoke contains invisible poisonous gases that cannot be seen or smelled. Since smoke rises, the good air for breathing will be found closest to the floor. If you were to remain in the smoke-filled air, unfortunately, your brain would become severely impaired after only a few breaths and then unconsciousness would soon set in. Smoke will also temporarily blind you. If you are confined to a wheelchair, cover your mouth and nose with wet towels or cloths and keep your head as low as possible.
- TEST YOUR SMOKE ALARM MONTHLY
Your home smoke alarm is your most important protection against fire because it can give you the critical "early warning" advantage to escape a fire while it's still fairly small in size. It can sense the products of combustion from a fire while they're still invisible!
- FEEL THE DOOR BEFORE OPENING IT
When your smoke alarm sounds, roll out of bed and crawl to your door. Reach up and feel the knob before opening it to see if it feels hot. If it does, keep it closed and use your alternate escape exit. If the doorknob feels cool, open the door carefully and be prepared to slam it shut again if you see smoke or fire. If your bedroom is on the second floor, use your escape ladder to escape, if necessary. If you live in a high-rise building and your door feels hot, remain in your room with the door shut. Seal off the crack under the door and any vents or air exchanges with wet towels or cloths.
- DON'T PANIC!
Call the Fire Department (even if you know they're already on the scene) and let them know you're trapped and give your exact location in the building. Meanwhile, stay low and don't panic! Your closed door will help keep you safe until the Fire Department can rescue you.
- CLOSED DOORS HELP SLOW THE SPREAD OF A FIRE
After you escape from your room, close, but do not lock, all doors tightly behind you wherever you can to help impede the spread of the fire.
- ONCE YOU'RE OUT, STAY OUT!
Go to a safe place, make the 9-1-1 call to report the fire, and then remain outside in a safe location until the Fire Department arrives. Never go back inside until the Fire Department has given its okay for you to do so.
- NEVER USE AN ELEVATOR IN A FIRE!
Always take the stairway DOWN (never up!) ensuring that the door into the stairwell is closed tightly behind you.
- HAVE AN ESCAPE PLAN!
Before a fire happens, make your own household fire escape plan showing two ways out of every bedroom. Also, designate a safe meeting place outside well away from the building, and be sure to include special provisions for helping persons who cannot escape on their own.