Moving your parents in with you, or moving in with them, means setting new ground rules and schedules for chores, bills, caregiving, and more. Add one other topic to that list: fire safety. The National Fire Prevention Association says that with more than 4 million multigenerational households in the US now, families need to review and adapt their fire prevention habits to take everyone’s needs and abilities into account. Here are the basics on fire prevention for families with seniors living at home.
Many homes lack basic fire protection
The NFPA says that about 2,500 Americans perish in house fires every year, and the US Fire Administration says that adults over 65 are 2.6 times more likely to die in a house fire than the general population.
Sadly, many fire deaths in the US might be prevented by basic safety equipment, the kind every home is supposed to have. According to the NFPA, “three of every five home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.”
The first and most important step in making your multigenerational household more fire-safe is installing smoke alarms in the right locations and maintaining them.
- Install a smoke alarm in each bedroom or sleeping area (including home offices and basements if people sleep there).
- Insure there’s at least one smoke alarm on each level of your home, including the basement.
- Install one smoke alarm outside each separate sleeping area, such as on stair landings or in hallways.
- Add a monthly smoke alarm test to your to-do calendar, and replace smoke alarm batteries often.
- Replace your smoke alarms if they’re more than 10 years old.
If your family can’t afford to replace or install smoke alarms, call your local fire department or 311 line. Many fire departments will install free smoke alarms for you if you’re unable to buy your own.
Other fire-safety basics include working fire extinguishers in the kitchen and garage and a fire ladder for second-floor window access. You’ll also need an escape plan that your family practices several times a year. That plan should include at two escape routes from each room and a place to meet outside while you’re waiting for firefighters to arrive. If you have in-home caregivers for your parents, make sure they know your family’s fire safety plan and have their own copy of it.
Multigenerational homes need customized fire safety protection
Hearing loss and mobility issues add fire-safety challenges for seniors, the very young, and people with disabilities. Here are some NFPA recommendations for adaptive, inclusive fire safety.
- If you have family members who are heavy sleepers or hearing impaired, you can install smoke alarms that shake the bed or flash bright lights in an emergency.
- Handrails on both sides of the stairs can reduce the risk of falls in an emergency.
- Bright lighting in the stairwell can reduce falls, too.
You can find the complete fire safety program for multigenerational households program on the NFPA website. You’ll find more senior safety tips on everything from childproofing and kitchen safety to password security on the SeniorAdvisor.com blog.