This site was created in cooperation with the Regional Homeland Security Coordinating Committee, and is supported by funding from the Department of Homeland Security.
People over the age of 65 are one of the groups at greatest risk of dying in a fire. Every year more than 1,000 people 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. Many of these fatalities occur where there is no working smoke detector. But there are a number of precautionary steps senior citizens can take to dramatically reduce their chances of becoming a fire casualty.
Understanding the risks
Why are senior citizens at a higher risk? There are 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 people. The kitchen is one of the most active and potentially dangerous rooms in the home. Cooking can mean danger where a loose sleeve could catch fire from the stove, or a pot left on a burner can become a major fire if forgotten.
Unsafe use of smoking materials is the leading cause of fire deaths among older people. Often, medication can lead to drowsiness.
Heating equipment is responsible for a big share of fires in seniors’ homes. Caution should be used with alternate heaters such as wood stoves or electric space heaters. Too often the heaters become a fire hazard, particularly when newspapers and other combustibles are nearby.
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.
Floyd Peoples, Chief Fire Marshal, Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department, 816-784-9100
Heart of America Metro Fire Chiefs Council, 9550 W. 95th St., Overland Park, Kan. 66212