Fire Safety for people with disabilities
According to the National Fire Protection Association Roughly one in every 320 households per year had a reported home fire during this five-year period. These fires caused an estimated average of 2,570 civilian deaths, 13,210 civilian injuries, and $7.2 billion in direct property damage per year.
Of these, One-quarter (25 percent) of the home fire deaths resulted from fires that originated in the bedroom, another quarter (24 percent) from fires in the family room, living room, or den, and 16 percent from fires starting in the kitchen. Half of home fire deaths were caused by incidents reported between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
Does your family have a fire escape plan if a fire were to start in your home? Do your kids or parents know how and have a safe escape route in the event of a fire?
While fires are dangerous for everyone involved, people with disabilities face unique challenges in a safe escape during a fire emergency. Taking the time once per year to prepare a plan to escape in the event of a fire could help save lives. This guide will highlight several safety measures for those living at home with common disabilities such as: poor vision, hard of hearing, and other physical disabilities.
Fire Safety Tips for the Visually Impaired
The National Federation of the Blind reports that there are roughly 7.3 million people in the United States with visual disabilities, with nearly 3 million of them being adults age 65 or older. Because of this impairment, these individuals are also at a much higher risk for both starting accidental fires and becoming injured as a result of trying to extinguish fire.
Additionally, people rely mainly on their sense of sight to assess danger. Those who experience blindness or visual impairment have to rely on other senses, which may not always be the best to safely assess an emergency situation. Therefore, the best way to guarantee the best chance for fire safety is to practice fire prevention. Individuals who are visually impaired should perform at least an annual survey of their home to assess the following questions:
- Are your wall outlets overloaded? Do you have excessive extension cords running to multiple electrical outputs?
- Are your electrical appliances in good condition? Are any of the electrical wires or or frayed?
- Are you replacing light bulbs with the correct wattage?
- Are your outlets and appliances grounded?
- Are your chimneys and space heaters properly cleaned and maintained?
- Do you use a time when baking in the oven? Is the space around your oven kept free of paper and flammable debris?
Take a look around your home for potential problems. Unless you are a confident trained electrician, it may be best to have someone more experienced or an electrician over to diagnose and fix some of your homes shortcomings.
Fire Safety Tips for those with Hearing Impairments
While people with hearing impairments can see and smell the signs of a fire, they are more susceptible to discovering the fire too late. People who are hard of hearing may not be able to hear traditional smoke alarms, especially in cases where they do not sleep with hearing aids. When it comes to fire prevention and safety, people with hearing impairments should follow the same fire safety and prevention strategies as everyone else, but should also ask themselves the following questions:
- Are my fire alarms able to wake me up when I am sleeping? Does my fire alarm have a flashing strobe? Does my fire alarm vibrate?
- It is essential that people with hearing disabilities install specially designed smoke and fire alarms.
Fire Safety Tips for those with Physical Disabilities
Unfortunately, individuals with physical disabilities have one of the highest risks of starting or being injured or dying in a home fire. The NFPA reports this to be caused by disabilities which can delay or prevent an individual from escaping a fire. If your home is not designed for a person with a physical disability, it can be very difficult to safely escape when a fire is started. If you or someone you know experiences a physical disability, help them walk through some of the questions and suggestions below:
- Do I live or sleep on the ground floor near an exit?
- Do I have a ramp accessible by my nearest exit?
- Can my walker or wheelchair fit through all the doors and hallways leading to the emergency exit closest to me?
- Can my doors or windows be easily opened?
- How can I contact emergency services with my physical disability?