Fall and winter bring cold weather and, with it, a greater risk of house fires. The American Red Cross says home fires peak in December and January, which means now is a good time to brush up on fire prevention and safety. Fire safety is especially important for older adults, because people over 65 are injured or killed by fires at twice the rate of younger people, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Here’s a list of fire safety tips based on recommendations from the NFPA, the US Fire Administration, and Electrical Safety Foundation International that you can use now to keep yourself and your loved ones safer during peak fire season.
Take these steps to prevent fires
Don’t smoke or allow others to smoke inside your home. Outside, provide a deep ashtray to prevent grass fires. Never smoke around medical oxygen. You could cause an explosion.
When you cook, stay in the kitchen while the oven or stove is on. Wear shoes and snug-fitting clothes to reduce the risk of fires and burns. Always check to make sure burners and the oven are turned off when you finish cooking.
Know what to do if food catches fire in a pan. The National Fire Protection Association recommends sliding a lid on the pan and turning off the burner. If that doesn’t put it out, go outside and call the fire department.
Have fire extinguishers in your home, know how to use them, and check them regularly.
Protect electrical cords from damage and regularly inspect them for wear. Unplug items with damaged cords until they can be replaced. Remove cords that stretch across doorways, hallways, or run under carpets.
Give your space heaters 3 feet of clearance from nearby objects, people, and pets. Turn off your space heaters at night and whenever you leave the room.
Have a professional inspect your home heating equipment and fireplace at least once a year.
Limit the number of electrical devices you plug in to each wall outlet.
Follow the light bulb wattage limits for lamps and other light fixtures.
Prepare now for fire detection and escape
Keep your home’s pathways and exits clear in case you need to leave quickly due to smoke or fire.
Install smoke detectors on every level of your home, including in all sleeping areas and the kitchen. Check them monthly and replace the batteries as needed. Install carbon monoxide detectors as well. If you’re deaf or hearing impaired, install accessory devices that will alert you to smoke or fire.
Remember to “stop, drop, and roll.” If your clothing catches fire, lower yourself to the ground and roll over to smother the flames. Instead of dropping, you can also cover the flames with a blanket.
Keep any items you need to move safely, like your walker, cane or glasses, near your bed at night. Have a phone within reach as well.
Plan how you will get outside in case of fire. Have at least two ways out of each room and decide on an area outside where you will wait for the fire department. Never go back inside a burning building.
Explore these senior fire safety resources
Several groups offer detailed fire-safety guides for seniors, in-home caregivers, family members, and assisted living community managers.
- The National Fire Protection Association’s Remembering When program is meant for seniors living at home, and includes a comprehensive fire and fall safety checklist.
- Electrical Safety Foundation International’s 31-page online booklet for seniors provides detailed prevention and safety tips for cooking, electrical, and heating fires.
- The US Fire Administration’s Fire-Safe Seniors curriculum helps senior care organizations protect the older adults they serve.
Your local fire department can be a great resource, too. Most departments have outreach programs that include fire-prevention education, either at home, at the fire station, or at community events to help keep you and your loved ones safer.