What You Should Know About Fire Safety Precautions and Preventative Measures

 By: Dr. Victor Marchione
Did you know that people who are 85 and older are five times more likely than younger people to die in a fire? At least, that's according to a recent statistic that was posted on the FireSafety.gov web site.

There are many reasons why seniors are at an increased risk for death or injury in a fire. Seniors' reflexes may be slower due to age and/or medical conditions. Seniors are also more likely to have a "lag" in their response time. Difficulties with vision and/or hearing could also contribute to a delayed response to fire. Many medications have a sedative affect and could hamper decision-making abilities during a crisis such as a fire.

Living Alone Increases Risk
Another common risk factor when it comes to seniors and fire is living alone. Without someone else around, seniors living by themselves don't have any help when it comes to preventing and reacting to situations that can cause fires to start, such as cooking and accidents.

One of the most common causes of house fires-smoking-is also a particular hazard for seniors. Unsafe use of cigarettes and other smoking materials could ignite surrounding materials and spread quickly if no immediate action is taken.

Here's another common risk factor: improperly used or maintained heating equipment. If you have a wood-burning stove, make sure that a professional technician tests the equipment on a regular basis.

If you use a space heater, follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding fire safety. Don't use your heater near flammable materials or leave the heater on full-blast when you aren't around to keep an eye on it.

Wiring in older homes could also be a fire hazard. Many seniors live in dwellings where the wiring is outdated and unsafe. A short in a wire could spark a fire that will quickly spread through combustible materials within the walls of your home. If you can afford it, hire a licensed electrician to rewire any troublesome spots in your home. It may be unnecessary to rewire the entire house, and the cost may be cheaper than you expected.

Candle-safety Guidelines
- Don't burn candles right next to each other, or near doors or windows where a draft may blow them over, or on a surface that may catch fire or melt from the heat
- Keep the candle's wick trimmed to about one-quarter of an inch
- Light a candle in an area that is far from flammable materials, such as drapes, bedding, furniture, paper or wallpaper
- Make sure that a burning candle can't be reached by children or pets
- Never leave a room with a candle still burning
- Only burn a candle that is in a sturdy, non-flammable base

One of the best preventative measures that you can take against fires is to install a working fire alarm on every floor in your home. Install an alarm in your bedroom, where you will hear it even if you're sleeping-and don't forget to put one in the basement. It's a good idea to install fire alarms away from doors or windows, where air drafts can hamper their performance and detection of smoke.
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