Fire Safety Tips for Seniors Who Live in California
Fire is a very real threat to health and safety. This is especially true in California, which gets more than its share of wildfires every year. That's why it's important for California residents - and seniors in particular - to understand how to prevent fires, as well as how to evacuate if necessary.
Fires are a bigger danger for seniors than for any other segment of the population. There are a couple of reasons why. First, many seniors live alone, which can make it difficult for them to notice and respond to emergencies quickly. Second, some seniors have mobility issues or cognitive problems that can make it hard to get out of a dangerous environment. These fire safety tips for seniors can help you or a senior you care about prevent house fires and stay safe in the event of a wildfire.
1. Hire a home caregiver.
It's all too easy to forget food in the oven or overlook a frayed electrical cord. This is especially true for seniors who have cognitive problems or who don't have the mobility to manually inspect their house for safety hazards anymore. Unfortunately, it only takes one overlooked hazard to start a fire.
For seniors who live alone, a good first step towards better fire safety might be to bring in some extra help around the house. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one, and a home caregiver will be able to help notice and prevent any fire risks before they cause an actual fire. A home caregiver can also be a big help if a wildfire causes an evacuation.
2. Sleep on the first floor.
Whenever possible, seniors should sleep on the first floor of their home, even if that means converting a den or office into a bedroom. People who sleep on the second floor are more likely to get trapped if the house catches on fire. Having a first floor bedroom makes it easier to get to a door or climb out of a window. In California, which has both fires and earthquakes, sleeping on the first floor will enable seniors to evacuate more easily and will also allow first responders to have an easier time reaching the senior.
3. Keep smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in good working order.
Most houses already have smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in them. Seniors who don't have these devices in their home should get them installed as soon as possible. Once they're installed, test them every month to make sure they're still working. Replace the batteries every year.
People who are deep sleepers or have hearing impairments should take extra precautions to make sure their smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are loud enough to wake them up. For extra safety and peace of mind, it may be a good idea to install fire alarms that use flashing lights or vibrations, instead of relying on sound alone.
4. Plan escape routes ahead of time.
Preparation can make the difference between being trapped in a burning house and escaping to safety. Seniors should identify all the different routes they could take to get out of their house if it caught on fire, including windows. It's also a good idea to create several worst-case scenario plans for how to get out if a fire occurs. A home caregiver can help create an evacuation plan.
It’s also good to routinely check windows to make sure they actually open. If a window is painted shut, for example, it won't be any use as a fire escape route.
5. Use appliances safely.
Ovens, heaters, hot plates, and dryers all pose a potential fire risk. Seniors who use heat-generating appliances regularly should take care to never leave them unattended. For instance, don't walk out of the kitchen while cooking something on the stove, and don't leave the house to run errands while the dryer is on. Space heaters should have at least three feet of space on each side, to prevent nearby objects from getting too hot and catching fire.
If seniors are having trouble performing household tasks and chores, it may be time to hire a home caregiver. Seniors who have cognitive issues and memory problems are at risk for leaving burners on and creating other fire hazards. A home caregiver can help prevent these hazards from occurring.
6. Have a means of communication at the ready.
Regardless of escape plans, it's important for seniors to be able to call for help if they do get trapped during a fire. Seniors should have at least two phones in the house: one in their regular living space, and one in their bedroom. Corded landline phones are a good option, since many of them will continue to work if the power goes out (be aware, though, that cordless phones won't work in a power outage). Cell phones can also be a good option if they're kept charged at all times.
7. Never smoke inside.
Smoking inside is a major — and completely preventable — fire hazard. Of all the fire safety tips for seniors on this list, this may be the most important one to remember, as well as the easiest to implement. Most clothes, furniture, and blankets are highly flammable, and a single stray ember can quickly start an uncontrollable blaze.
There's really no safe way to smoke indoors, so it's better not to do it at all. Don't feel bad about asking friends, family, and other visitors to smoke outside, too.
Extra Precautions when Evacuating
Evacuating from a wildfire can pose extra logistical problems for many seniors. People who no longer drive, who have trouble getting around on their own, or who have cognitive impairments like dementia may struggle to stay safe if they need to leave the area quickly.
The best way to ensure seniors stay safe and accounted for during an evacuation is to use the buddy system. Seniors can talk with their family members, neighbors, or home caregivers to make a plan for how to handle an evacuation. For this system to work, it's important for everyone to be on the same page, so clear communication is a must. It's a good idea to put the emergency plan in writing and give everyone a copy.
It's also a good idea to test plans with an evacuation drill. Going through the motions ahead of time will help seniors and their loved ones find and correct any snags in their emergency plan before a real disaster occurs.
Do you need home care services in California?
Fire safety matters for everybody, especially in California. Seniors are especially vulnerable in a fire, so it's important for them to know how to keep themselves as safe as possible. Family members and home caregiving services can also play a big role in helping seniors prevent house fires and evacuate from wildfires safely.
Home caregivers at Alegre Home Care receive the best training in the home care industry. If you or your loved one needs home care services, please contact us at one of our many locations in California.