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Safety Tips for the Seniors/Disabled

Senior/Disabled man using walker

Live longer... and double your chances of surviving a home fire

If a fire occurred in your home tonight, would you know what to do?

  • People between 65 and 74 are TWICE as likely to die in a fire.
  • People between 75 and 84 are nearly FOUR times as likely to die in a fire.
  • People ages 85 and older are more than FIVE times as likely to die in a fire.

With a few simple steps older people, and those who care for them, can dramatically reduce their risk of death and injury from fire.

Why Are Older People at Risk?

Older Americans are at risk for fire death and injuries for a number of reasons:

  • They may be less able to take the quick action necessary in a fire emergency.
  • They may be on medication that affects their ability to make quick decisions.
  • Many older people live alone and others may not be around to help.

Most residential fires occur between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and deaths from residential fires occur in greater numbers between midnight and 4 a.m. when most people are asleep. The  Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service has designed the following safety checklist just for you! Please take time to review these tips and eliminate any potential hazards today. By creating a comprehensive fire emergency plan, you and your family can greatly reduce your chances of being injured in a fire.

Smoke Alarms

Over seventy-five percent of senior citizens who die each year in fires do not have working smoke alarms in their homes. Smoke alarms are designed to wake occupants if a fire starts in your home at night. It is a dangerous risk to assume that the smell of smoke or the heat of the fire will wake you up. Just a few breaths of the smoke will endanger your life and by the time the heat wakes you up your means of escape may be gone.

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service offers a smoke alarm program for senior and low-income homeowners. Please call  311 for more information or to schedule a free home safety evaluation.

Plan your escape

If you don't have an escape plan, how are you going to safely escape your home when a fire occurs? Where is the proper place to call 9-1-1? Just a few minutes of planning can prevent a tragedy.

Draw a map of your house marking all windows and doors, and plan two routes out of each room. Make sure to regularly practice your escape plan. Preventable fire deaths can be reduced if families equip themselves with a map and a plan:

  • Designate a meeting place outside and take attendance. Get out and stay out. Never return to a burning or smoky building. Pets are intuitive and will likely find a way out.
  • Remember to escape first, then call 911.

It is a good idea to keep a pair of slippers, eyeglasses and a flashlight by your bed at night. If you hear your smoke alarm at night you will be prepared to get out of your home quickly. Once you hear the sound of your smoke alarm ~ every second counts for your escape. Remember that a fire grows very quickly.


Elevators should never be used in a fire emergency. Everyone must use the stairwells to leave the building. If you are unable to use stairs, you should stay in an area of refuge. An apartment is a good example of an area of refuge. It has a door to keep the smoke out, a phone from which to call 9-1-1 for help, and windows to signal from. Know your building's evacuation plans and procedures.

Give Space Heaters Space

Portable space heaters can quickly warm up a cold room, but they have been the cause of many serious home fires. Keep fixed and portable space heaters at least three feet from anything that can burn and follow all manufacturer instructions. Never dry wet clothing or shoes on space heaters and always turn them off when leaving the room or going to sleep.

Change Unsafe Smoking Habits

man smoking a cigar

Sitting in your favorite chair and having a cigarette after dinner seems to some like a great way to relax - but cigarettes and relaxing can be a deadly mix. Falling asleep while smoking can ignite clothing, rugs and materials used in upholstered furniture. Using alcohol and medications that make you sleepy compounds this hazard.

Careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths and the second leading cause of injuries among people ages 65 and older.

Cigarettes continue to burn when they are not properly extinguished. When a resting cigarette is accidentally knocked over, it can smolder for hours before a flare-up occurs. Before you light your next cigarette, remember:

  • Put your cigarette or cigar out at the first sign of feeling drowsy while watching television.

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