Fire Safety Tips for Older Adults Aging at Home

When it comes to fire safety for older adults, what you don’t know can be deadly.

According the the Centers for Disease Control, adults age 65 and older are twice as likely as any other age group to die in a home fire. And for adults 85 and older, the fire-related death rate is five times the national average.

Protect yourself or your aging parent from with these fire prevention safety tips:

• Install working smoke alarms on every floor, outside every sleeping area, and inside every sleeping area. Warning from smoke detectors have been shown to almost double fire survival rates. Test all smoke detectors months monthly. Replace all batteries twice a year, when clocks are adjusted for Daylight Savings Time.

• Create an escape plan with your elderly parents. Practice it at least once a year. If your parents have limited mobility, hearing, or vision, your escape plan must take these limitations into account. Consider contacting your local fire department for suggestions.

Pay particular attention to the kitchen. Cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries for older Americans.

• Unattended cooking is the leading cause of cooking fires. If your aging parents cannot stay in the kitchen while cooking, get them easy-to-use timers. Another tip: Suggest they carry a spoon or potholder with them to remind them that something is still cooking.

• Check the burner, oven, and any overhead exhaust fan. Are they clean? Or are they grease fires waiting to happen?

• Is there a fire extinguisher in the kitchen? Is it still charged? Do your aging parents know how to use it? And CAN they still use it?

• Keep dish towels, paper towels, potholders and other flammable material away from the stove. And never ever cook over the stove with loose or dangling sleeves or scarves.

• Smother any cooking fire with a pot lid. Never throw water on a grease fire.

• Do not put metal objects or aluminum foil in a microwave. If a fire starts in a microwave, do not open the microwave door.

• Always check the kitchen stove and make sure all knobs are in the off position before you leave the house or go to bed.

• Never use a stove or oven to heat your home.

Losing a home to fire is a devastating event at any age. But it can be especially traumatic for the elderly, who may find it extremely difficult to cope with sudden displacement from familiar surroundings and the loss of irreplaceable family keepsakes.

For more fire safety tips to keep yourself or your aging parents safe, click here to download a copy of Fire Safety Checklist for Older Adults from the U.S. Fire Administration.