It feels like there have been more house fires than usual. Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems that every time I watch the news, there is another story of a family or families becoming homeless because of a fire.
Statistically, seniors are more likely to die in a fire than people of other ages. According to one study, 32% of all home fire deaths involved people age 65 and older, despite the fact that this group represents only 13% of the U.S. population. The study’s findings indicated that frailty, especially among the elderly, may hinder the ability to escape and should be recognized as a key factor in home fire deaths.
The Massachusetts Department of Fire Safety offers the following suggestions to avoid injury from fire in your home:
Cooking fire prevention
Wear short or tight-fitting sleeves while cooking as loose sleeves easily catch fire.
Stand by whatever you are cooking and never leave it unattended.
Place the lid of a pot on the stovetop to put out a fire.
If your clothes catch fire, lower yourself to the ground, cover your eyes and roll to put out the flames. Don’t be afraid to “stop, drop and roll”; it could save your life.
You can use a dish towel, bathrobe or coat to also put out flames on yourself or someone else.
Electrical fire prevention
Don’t overload outlets or power strips.
Repair or discard anything with a frayed wire.
Use one appliance per outlet, especially if it’s a heat-generating appliance.
Don’t run electrical cords under rugs or let them get pinched by furniture.
Extension cords are for temporary use only and are not designed for long-term use.
Space heaters need at least 3 feet of space from anything that can burn.
Have a licensed electrician inspect your electrical system every 10 years.
Smoking-related fire prevention
Use large and sturdy ashtrays or a can filled with sand to put out cigarettes.
Be sure that matches and cigarettes are fully extinguished when throwing them away.
Never extinguish cigarettes in potted plants or mulch.
If you’re drowsy or falling asleep, put out your cigarette.
Never smoke while using oxygen or near an oxygen source.
There have been news reports recently of exploding “vape” devices. Vape devices, sometimes referred to as e-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes, are battery-powered smoking devices that have become popular in the past few years. Rather than inhaling smoke from a cigarette or cigar, the user inhales an aerosol.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it is unclear why some vaping devices have exploded. Some evidence suggests that battery-related issues may be at fault. Although rare, these explosions are dangerous.
Until all vapes and vape batteries conform to strong and consistent safety standards, the FDA recommends knowing as much as possible about your vaping devices. The agency offers these suggestions:
Make sure you read and understand the manufacturer’s recommendations for use and care of your device.
Don’t remove or disable safety features that are designed to prevent battery overheating and explosions.
Use only batteries recommended for your device. Don’t mix different brands of batteries, use batteries with different charge levels, or use old and new batteries together.
Charge your vape on a clean, flat surface, away from anything that can easily catch fire and someplace where you can clearly see it — not on a couch or pillow where it is more prone to overheat or get turned on accidentally.
Protect your vape from extreme temperatures by not leaving it in direct sunlight or in your car on a freezing-cold night.
Being prepared for a fire can help make the difference between inconvenience and tragedy. A quick internet search for “Massachusetts Home Fire Campaign” will direct you to an informational webpage of the American Red Cross.
In addition, the Red Cross and its partners can test existing smoke alarms and install up to three free smoke alarms where needed. For information on the Red Cross smoke detector program, call 800-746-3511.
Tracy Arabian is the communications officer at SeniorCare Inc., Cape Ann’s local area agency on aging.