October is Fire Prevention Month, and let’s be real: You’re never too old to pay attention to fire safety.
Home fires are an unfortunately common occurrence. Maybe the scariest statistic is that our risk of dying in a home fire increases as we get older. Many of these are caused by cooking accidents. However, for adults 65 and older, one of the biggest safety issues is smoking indoors.
Luckily, once you know home safety techniques, it’s pretty easy to make sure you’re practicing them around the house. Here’s how to stay safe in every area of your home.
The kitchen is the biggest source of home fires. Be mindful of these pointers when cooking to prevent accidents.
- Don’t wander away from food when you’re cooking.
- Always keep a close eye on what’s inside your oven, especially when using the broiler. Food can go from bubbly or toasty to “oh no it’s on fire” in seconds.
- Keep flammable items like dish towels and utensils away from stovetop flames.
- Make sure pot and pan handles are turned in such a way that they won’t catch and get knocked off the stove.
- Always keep a pot lid near the stove. If something in a pan catches fire, immediately place the pot lid over it and turn off the burner.
Using Heating Elements
It’s harder to stay warm as you get older, meaning you may be running your heat more. While space heaters can easily become a fire hazard, you still need to pay attention to other heating methods as well.
- Always keep flammable items at least 3 feet away from radiators, space heaters, furnaces, and fireplaces.
- Only place space heaters on the floor, never on furniture, and make sure they sit on a level surface.
- If purchasing a space heater, make sure it has an automatic shut off.
- Never use your oven or stovetop to heat your home.
- Have a professional inspect your furnace or radiators every year, before you use them for the first time in the fall.
If you live in an older home, your wiring may not be equipped to handle newer appliances. This can become a fire hazard if it isn’t checked or updated.
- If your circuit breakers trip frequently, ask an electrician to check your wiring and fuses.
- Don’t rely on extension cords. They can also cause dangerous falls. Instead, consider having an electrician install extra outlets.
- Replace outlets if plugs feel loose.
- Be careful about using too many electronics at once. This can overload your circuits, causing your breakers to trip.
- Always use lightbulbs that match your lamps’ recommended wattage.
Candles are a great way to freshen up your home, but they can also be hazardous. For seniors who use oxygen, a wax warmer with a timer may be a better option.
- Use sturdy, stable candle holders that can’t be easily knocked over.
- Never leave candles unattended.
- Protect candle flames with a glass chimney or container, and make sure any flammable items are at least 12 inches away from a lit candle.
- Use flashlights in an emergency, as they provide better and more reliable light than a candle.
- Never light candles near medical oxygen.
Lastly, check your smoke alarms. Working smoke alarms can alert you to a deadly fire before you even see or smell it. Because of this, it’s one of the most valuable safety tools you can install in your home. Modern smoke alarms can even connect, so every room is alerted. If you struggle with hearing loss, replace sound only alarms with an alternative that flashes or vibrates.
When installing smoke alarms, make sure to place one on each level of your house. Install alarms in every bedroom and outside of sleeping areas. Finally, test and change the batteries regularly and keep alarms free of dust to ensure they’re in proper working order.