Is your smoke detector working? [UPDATED]Published 9:55am Monday, November 19, 2012 Updated 12:02pm Monday, November 19, 2012
As we age, our risk of death from fire increases significantly.
Older adults represent one of the highest fire risk populations in the United States. Americans over the age of 65 are one of the groups at greatest risk of dying in a fire.
Every year over 1,200 Americans over age 65 die in fires. People over the age of 80 die in fires at a rate three times higher than the rest of the population.
Why are older adults at risk? Decreased mobility, health, sight, and hearing may limit a person’s ability to take the quick action necessary to escape during a fire emergency.
When a fire breaks out, you have only seconds to escape its heat, black smoke and deadly gases. You can dramatically increase the chances of surviving a fire simply by installing and maintaining working smoke alarms in your home.
Be sure to have smoke detectors outside or in all sleeping areas, and on every level of your home, including the basement. If you sleep in a room with the doors closed, install a smoke detector inside the room as well.
Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries once a year or when the detector is “chirping” to indicate that the battery is low.
If you are hearing impaired, use tested and approved smoke detectors that trigger a strobe light.
Properly installed and maintained smoke alarms in the home are considered one of the best and least expensive means of providing an early warning of a potentially deadly fire. Smoke alarms save lives, prevent injuries, and minimize property damage by enabling residents to detect fires early in their development. The risk of dying from fires in homes without smoke alarms is twice as high as in homes that have working smoke alarms.
Planning what to do in case of fire can make the difference between life and death. You should practice two ways out of every room in your home.
During practice, it is important to be aware of and remove obstacles that may prevent a quick and safe evacuation, such as blocked exits or jammed or barred windows.
Get out as soon as you discover a fire and do not try to fight the fire or gather possessions. Once out of the house, stay out.
Do not attempt to enter a burning home to gather possessions left behind. Immediately dial 9-1-1 for help, preferably from a neighbor’s phone.
If you use a wheelchair or walker, or otherwise might have a problem escaping from a fire, discuss your escape plans ahead of time with your fire department, your family, the building manager, and neighbors.
Let them know about your special circumstances and ask them to help plan the best escape routes for you.
With a little fire safety know-how, you can help save lives from unintentional fire death, including your own.
This article is made possible with Older Americans Act dollars from the Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging.
Call the Senior LinkAge Line One Stop Shop for Minnesota Seniors at 1-800-333-2433 to speak with an information specialist, or check out our website at www.MinnesotaHelp.info. www.MinnesotaHelp.info is an online directory of services designed to help people in Minnesota find local services and resources.
Karin Haugrud is a Senior LinkAge Line Specialist with Land of the Dancing Sky – West Central in Fergus Falls.