IN THE MID-1960S, the Beatles jauntily sang about what life would be like “When I’m Sixty Four.” Now, more than a half-century later, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are around 80, and those who are 64 and older are continuing to increase in numbers. In fact, by 2050, one in five Americans could be older adults as the last of the baby boom generation hits their mid-80s.
U.S. Fire Administration statistics note that approximately 1,000 seniors each year die in fires. That’s why we are focusing on the safety of seniors this month.
Our older consumer-members are especially vulnerable when they’re cooking or if they aren’t using auxiliary heaters correctly.
The factors that increase their risk for danger include slower reflexes, which may also be impacted by medication, thinner skin and health issues.
One of the easiest ways to improve your chances of surviving a fire is to make sure the smoke alarm in your home is working. Change the alarm’s batteries twice a year—once in the spring and once in the fall.
That tip is important for everyone—not just older folks.
Tips for seniors (or anyone)
- Stay at the stove and keep an eye on the skillet when frying up that famous chicken or hash browns. Unattended pots and pans are a fire hazard.
- If something’s burning while baking, don’t open the oven door. Stay calm and turn the oven off. The fire should end on its own, but if it doesn’t, leave the house and call 911.
- Make sure portable heaters have emergency shut-off switches. These switches shut the heaters off if they tip over. Make sure heaters are used only in open, well-ventilated areas at least 3 feet from combustible materials like curtains, furniture and gasoline.
- Remember: A stove should be used for baking—not for heating your kitchen.
- Seniors who have trouble hearing should make sure their smoke detector provides a visual signal (such as a strobe light), as well as an audible one.
How to survive a house fire
- Have a safety plan. There should be two ways out of each room.
- If the smoke detector sounds when you’re in bed, get up—but then immediately get low to the floor. Smoke rises, so it will be easier to breathe the closer you are to the ground.
- When you make your way to the door, touch it. If it’s cool, open it slowly and head to the nearest exit. If it’s warm or hot, exit your room through the alternate escape route.
- Leave the house immediately. Don’t collect your belongings or search for your pets.
- If you can’t get out, call the fire department. Tell the dispatcher you’re trapped. If possible, seal your door with wet towels or duct tape to prevent smoke from entering the room.
- Once you’re out, stay out!