MCFRS News Release
Reduce the Risks in 2006
October is Fire Prevention Month
Older Residents may be in Danger!
The best protection a family can have in order to survive a home fire is the combination of a residential sprinkler system and working smoke alarms. Since January 2004 all newly built single family homes in Montgomery County have been required to have residential sprinkler systems. It is recommended that a smoke alarm be installed on every level of a home and families have and practice a home escape plan. The simplest thing a family can do to protect themselves is to have a working smoke alarm and an escape plan. Get out and stay out!
The leading causes of fire are improperly discarded smoking materials, heating equipment (including those associated with space heaters and fireplaces), cooking, arson and electrical (not necessarily in that order). Improperly discarded smoking materials and/or careless smoking is the leading cause of fire fatalities, followed by cooking. In Montgomery County, all five (5) residential fire fatalities in 2005 and two (2) so far this year occurred to persons older than age 75.
The facts speak for themselves: Montgomery County residents over the age of 65 are one of the groups at greatest risk of dying in a fire. For that matter, on average, nearly 1000 Americans age 65 and over die in fires each year. People over the age of 80 die in fires at a rate three times higher than the rest of the population. Both residential fire fatalities this year involved seniors, age 78 and 84 and of the five (5) fire fatalities in Montgomery County last year, all were over the age of 75 years old, one was 80 years old and two were over 90 years old. However, there are a number of precautionary steps older Americans can take to dramatically reduce their chances of becoming a fire casualty.
UNDERSTANDING THE RISKS
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 when accidents happen others may not be around to help.
What Fire Hazards Affect Older People?
- Cooking accidents are the leading cause of fire related injuries for older Americans. The kitchen is one of the most active and potentially dangerous rooms in the home.
- The unsafe use of smoking materials is the leading cause of fire deaths among older Americans and the leading cause of fire fatalities in Montgomery County in 2005 and 2006.
- Heating equipment is responsible for a big share of fires in seniors' homes. Extra caution should be used with alternate heaters such as wood stoves, electric space heaters and fireplaces.
- Faulty wiring is another major cause of fires affecting the elderly. Older homes can have serious wiring problems, ranging from old appliances with bad wiring to overloaded sockets.
SAFETY TIPS FOR OLDER AMERICANS
- Kitchen Fires. Most kitchen fires occur because food is left unattended on the stove or in the oven. If you must leave the kitchen while cooking, take a spoon or potholder with you to remind you to return to the kitchen. Never cook with loose, dangling sleeves that can ignite easily. Heat cooking oils gradually and use extra caution when deep-frying. If a fire breaks out in a pan, put a lid on the pan. Never throw water on a grease fire. Never use a range or stove to heat your home.
- Space Heaters. Buy only Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) approved heaters. Use only the manufacturer's recommended fuel for each heater. Do not use electric space heaters in the bathroom or around other wet areas. Do not dry or store objects on top of your heater. Keep combustibles away from heat sources. Give space heaters space!
- Smoking. We prefer that you don’t smoke at all, but if you must - Don't leave smoking materials unattended. Use "safety ashtrays" with wide lips. Empty all ashtrays into the toilet or a metal container every night before going to bed. Never smoke in bed. Don’t smoke when drowsy.
Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. And remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your friends and family.
Recent fires throughout Montgomery County have often been the result of food left cooking unwatched, candles left burning unattended, combustibles too close to a heating system, discarded smoking materials, misplaced fireplace ashes and a malfunction with heating systems. Improperly discarded smoking materials and careless smoking have been the primary cause of the most recent residential fire deaths. Many of these fires could have been prevented.
It is important that all residents know to have a working smoke alarm on each level of a home, have an escape plan (know how to get out quickly) and call the fire department from a safe area, preferably a neighbor’s house. Do not delay!