Ok so the fire alarm went off in our building yesterday (about 100 times – including a nice jolt at 1 am this morning) and we all had to eventually evacuate…Luckily it was simply a malfunction in the system so all is well. That being said, as my husband and I were slowly making our way down the stairs behind some of our older neighbors I began to wonder if they had an evacuation plan in place….Just at that moment a couple of other folks started running UP the stairs hysterically yelling that they were going to get “so and so” in condo #xxxx so nobody should worry. But were we worried? Did we even know that “so and so” (at 91 years old!) was living alone in that condo? Do we even know who might be in a wheelchair in our building? How about a small child that might need some extra care? It occurred to me that you can have a “plan” (per se) but is it really organized and does it take into consideration all of the potential circumstances? NO.
So, with that being said, I’m offering a few words of advice below (the extent of my knowledge to date) but I would love it if anyone who is reading this blog (and has actually thought about this topic previously) could provide a resource, blueprint or plan for how we should all move forward to create a “neighbor to neighbor” check-in procedure for fires and any other natural disasters that might be headed our way (especially when our older neighbors are involved). Just leave a comment – I thank you all in advance for your input!
In the meantime, do you have a fire escape plan? While 66% of Americans have an escape plan in case of a fire, only 35% of those have practiced the plan; and about 70% of adults 55+ claim they don’t have any type of escape plan in place. A house fire can spread rapidly through your home or condo, leaving you as little as two minutes to escape safely once the alarm sounds. It’s estimated that one-third of fire injuries experienced by adults 65+ occur as the victim is trying to escape. Those aged 65+ make up 32% of all fire deaths and 11% of fire injuries. Older adults’ ability to detect a fire and escape safely may be hindered by decreased mobility, vision, resistance to new technologies and hearing disabilities. Cooking fires are the leading cause of fire injuries among older adults – when using the stove one should never leave cooking food unattended or wear loose sleeves that might dangle over a stove.
Here are some fire safety tips for adults 65+:
- Make sure that smoke alarms are installed in every bedroom room and outside sleeping areas
- Test each alarm monthly and replace the battery at least once a year
- Have a telephone installed where you sleep in case of an emergency
- Conduct fire drills to make sure you know what to do in the event of a home or condo fire
- Make sure you are able to open all doors and windows in your home
- Change unsafe smoking habits
- Do not store newspapers, rags or other combustible materials near a furnace, hot water heater or space heater
- If you live in an apartment building, consider sleeping in a room on the ground floor in order to make emergency escape easier
Here are some U.S. fire statistics:
- Every 19 seconds a fire department responds to a fire
- Every three hours someone dies in a home fire
- More than half of all home fire deaths result from incidents reported between 11:00 PM and 7:00 AM because people are sleeping and do not hear the alarm
- December and January are the peak months for reported home fires and home fire deaths because of holiday decorations, alcohol consumption, portable heaters and fireplaces
To get more information about Fire Prevention Safety, call (800) 344-3555 or visit: www.nfpa.org