California is battling several dangerous wildfires throughout the state. Does your senior parent live alone? Older adults are at an increased risk of dying in a fire, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. In 2015, seniors suffered 40 percent of all fire deaths, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
As your senior parent ages, poor eyesight, loss of hearing, arthritis, dementia, and medication side effects can make it more difficult for them to react to a fire. If your senior parent lives alone, share the following fire escape instructions provided by the U.S. Fire Administration.
- Stay calm when the smoke alarm sounds. Get out fast and stay out. Never go back inside for people, pets, or belongings.
- Feel the doorknob and the cracks around a door before opening. If you feel any heat, leave the door closed and use an alternate escape route.
- Close doors as you leave to help stop the spread of the fire.
- Smoke is poisonous. If you must escape through smoke, get low and go under the smoke to your exit.
- If you can’t get out, keep the door of your room closed and cover vents and cracks around doors with cloth or tape to keep smoke from entering the room.
- If you can’t get out and there is a phone in the room, call 911 or your local emergency number for your fire department. Stay where you are, and signal for help at the window with a light-colored cloth or flashlight.
Help ensure that your senior parent has an evacuation plan in case a wildfire threatens their home. Here are a few tips to practice with your senior parent to ensure they know how to escape safely:
- Know and practice two ways out of every room in your senior parent’s home.
- Make sure all doors and windows that lead outside open easily.
- Clear all clutter that may block your aging parent’s escape route or make them trip or fall.
- Have an outside meeting place a safe distance in front of your parent’s home where first responders can see them.
- Practice your senior parent’s home fire escape drill at least twice a year.
- If your senior parent lives in an apartment, they should use the stairs to escape, not the elevator.
- Keep eyeglasses, keys, hearing aids, and a phone within reach next to your senior parent’s bed.
If you or your senior parent smokes:
- Never smoke when you are lying down, drowsy, or in bed. Smoking is the no. 1 cause of home fires that kill older adults.
- Use large, deep, tip-resistant ashtrays and place them on a flat surface. This will keep ashes from falling onto a nearby area that might burn.
- Wet cigarette butts and ashes before emptying them into the trash.
- Smoke outside.
- Never smoke near oxygen tanks.
If you or your senior parent use the stove to cook:
- Wear short sleeves or roll them up so they do not catch on fire.
- Move things that can burn away from the stove.
- Do not cook if you are drowsy from alcohol or medicine.
- Use oven mitts to handle hot pans.
- If a pan of food catches fire, slide a lid over it and turn off the burner.
If you or your senior parent use a space heater:
- Keep the heater 3 feet away from anything that can burn, including you.
- Unplug heaters when you are not using them, including when you leave your home or go to bed.
- Use heaters that are designed to turn off if they tip over.
Does your senior parent live in an older home? Older homes are more likely to catch fire from electrical causes than newer homes. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that older wiring “may not have the capacity to safely handle newer appliances and equipment and may not have updated safety features.” If your senior parent lives in an older home, have a licensed electrician inspect their electrical system for fire safety. Also encourage your senior parent to have their home heating system inspected by a qualified heating and air professional once a year.
In addition to these safety precautions, specialized smoke alarms should be installed in your senior parent’s home. Specialized smoke alarms can be equipped with flashing lights, vibration, and sound in order to effectively alert your aging parent of a fire, even if your senior parent has hearing, vision, or mobility issues.
Once you educate your senior parent living at home with fire safety tips, also reference the following checklist to identify other possible fire safety problems in their home. If you check NO to any question, the potential hazard should be corrected to reduce your senior parent’s risk and increase their preparedness for fire.
- Do you have at least one operable smoke alarm?
- Do you have at least one operable carbon monoxide alarm?
- Are all electrical cords in good condition (not frayed or cracked)?
- Are all electrical cords in the open, not run under rugs or through doorways?
- Are space heaters placed at least 3 feet from combustibles?
- Are space heaters plugged directly into wall sockets and not into extension cords?
- Is your apartment door fireproof and self-closing?
- Is your fire escape window clear and unobstructed?
- Can all windows be opened easily from the inside?
- Are building stairways free of storage and rubbish?
- Are stairway fire doors fireproof, self-closing, and kept closed?
- Are exit lights in the stairway in good working order?
- Do you have operable flashlights handy?
- Do you have a fire escape plan?
Is your senior parent sensitive to smoke? Smoke can cause coughing, a scratching throat, irritated sinuses and headaches and, if you have heart or lung disease, smoke can rouse chest pain, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath and fatigue. People likely at risk of suffering these symptoms include older adults and people with heart or lung disease, such as congestive heart failure, angina, COPD, emphysema, or asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Protect your senior parent from poor air quality caused by wildfire pollution by following these CDC’s tips:
- Pay attention to local air quality reports. Listen and watch for news or health warnings about smoke.
- If you are advised to stay indoors, keep indoor air as clean as possible. Keep windows and doors closed unless it is extremely hot outside. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere.
- Do not add to indoor pollution. When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces or gas stoves. Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.
- Follow your doctor’s advice about medicines and about your respiratory management plan if you have asthma or another lung disease, and call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
- Do not rely on dust masks for protection. Paper “comfort” or “dust” masks commonly found at hardware stores are designed to trap large particles, such as sawdust. These masks will not protect your lungs from smoke.
If your loved one lives alone and is at fire risk, call SYNERGY HomeCare of Corona, Riverside, or Anaheim Hills to help keep your parent living well. We at SYNERGY HomeCare of Corona, Riverside, and Anaheim Hills can help your parent age at home and maintain independence while catering to their health needs and ensuring that they live in a safe and healthy environment.
About SYNERGY HomeCare of Anaheim Hills
SYNERGY HomeCare of Anaheim Hills is the name you can trust in Anaheim, Anaheim Hills, Yorba Linda, Tustin, Santa Ana, Orange and Placentia for personal home care. SYNERGY HomeCare of Anaheim Hills is part of a national franchise of non-medical home care offices dedicated to providing exceptional and affordable service to anyone of any age. SYNERGY HomeCare caregivers are available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, to those in need - including seniors, expectant moms, those suffering from sports injuries and debilitating illnesses, and more. SYNERGY HomeCare of Corona & Riverside can be found online at http://www.synergyhomecare.com/agencies/ca/anaheim-hills/ca25 . The location also hosts active social media pages on Facebook and Twitter. Ken and Anna can be reached at 714- 706-1613 and [email protected] .