Older adults are face an increased risk of dying in a fire. In fact, the U. S. Fire Administration (part of FEMA) reports that, “In 2020, the relative risk of dying in a fire for older adults was 2.5 times higher than that of the general population, as it also was in 2019.”
So today we’re going to tackle a topic that’s incredibly important, especially for our senior community – a fire escape plan. I know, it might sound a bit daunting, but stick with me.
As we age, our needs change, and so do our safety measures. That’s why having a fire escape plan tailored for the elderly is not just a good idea, it’s essential.
Whether you’re a senior citizen, a caregiver, or a loved one, this guide will help you understand and create a plan to get out in the event of a fire – and one that takes into account the unique needs and challenges that come with aging.
So, let’s get started.
How Do You Create A Fire Escape Plan?
Aside from having the necessary tools to put out a fire, such as a fire blanket or fire extinguisher, and following kitchen fire and home fire safety tips, having a well thought out, easy to follow plan can make all the difference during a fire emergency.
Creating a fire escape plan involves several key steps. Here’s a simple guide to help you get started:
1.Identify Exits: Start by identifying two escape routes out of each room in your home. This could be doors, windows, or any other safe and accessible exit on a ground floor.
If you have a multi-story home, you’ll likely need a fire escape ladder for the upper floors. Remember, the main exit you use daily might be blocked during a fire, so have a backup.
2.Draw a Floor Plan: Once you’ve identified the exits, draw a floor plan of your home. Mark the locations of each exit and make sure it’s clear and easy to understand.
3.Choose a Meeting Spot: Decide on safe, accessible meeting places outside your home, then choose one where everyone can gather after escaping. This could be a neighbor’s house, a street light, a mailbox, or a specific tree.
It should be far enough away from the house to avoid danger but close enough to reach quickly. It should also be easy to find, even in the dark.
4.Include Special Needs: Not everyone can move quickly in an emergency. If you or a family member has special needs, such as mobility issues or are wheelchair users, make sure to include necessary accommodations in your plan.
This might mean planning for wheelchair access or having necessary medical supplies ready to grab and go.
If you have a service animal, don’t forget to include them in your plan (more on this topc below, so keep reading)!
5.Communication Plan: Make sure everyone knows how to call 911 or your local emergency number and what information to provide.
Include important numbers in your plan, such as close relatives or neighbors who should be notified, as well as your insurance company.
6.Practice: An escape plan is only as good as your ability to execute it.Regularly practice your fire escape plan, just as they do with fire drills at work or at school.
Make sure everyone knows their routes, the meeting spot, and what to do once they’re there.
This helps everyone remember what to do and can highlight any potential issues or obstacles in your plan that you might need to address.
7.Review and Update: As things change in your home, make sure to update your plan. If you move furniture, do renovations, or if someone moves in or out of the house, it’s time to review your plan.
Regular reviews will ensure your plan is always up to date
Remember, the goal of a fire escape plan is to get everyone out of the house as quickly and safely as possible.
It might seem like a lot to consider, but taking the time to create and practice your plan can make all the difference in an emergency.
Detailed Fire Escape Plan For Elderly
Not many families or homeowners in the general population put together an emergency escape plan but ideally, we all know we should.
Surviving a fire takes quick action, and creating such a plan and periodically rehearsing it can save your life and the lives of your loved ones.
With a little help from the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), I put together the following comprehensive fire escape plan for seniors and families.
- Include all household members in creating and regularly rehearsing the escape plan through regular fire drills. I would also recommend to include family and friends who live nearby.
- Draw a map of your home – make sure to include all doors and windows.
- Go to each room of your home and identify two ways to get out. Remember that normal evacuation routes, such as a front or back exit door, could be blocked during a fire, so you’ll want to know alternate ways to
- Make sure that all your windows can open and that they open easily.
- Make sure that wheelchair users have easy access to exit ramps.
- Your home should be equipped with smoke alarms. For senior citizens who cannot hear the sound of the smoke alarm, I would recommend smoke detectors that include a flashing light or strobe lights like this one from Amazon. You can also get ones with voice alerts for older adults who have visual impairments.
- Smoke alarms should be placed as follows:
- one in each of the bedrooms / sleeping areas
- one outside the bedrooms (usually the adjoining hallway)
- one on each floor of your home
- I would recommend one in or near the kitchen as well but install it 10 feet or more from the stove and/or oven.
- Install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors with flashing lights for the hearing impaired and / or
- Test smoke alarms once a month.
- Install an alarm that can detect gas – I like the Nighthawk Plug-in Carbon Monoxide and Explosive Gas Alarm. It plugs into any standard outlet and detects natural gas, propane gas, and carbon monoxide.
- Keep bedroom doors closed at night. It’s an extra barrier against the fire and it can give you the extra time you need to escape safely through your bedroom window or other exit.
- If the room you are in is filling up with smoke and if you are physically able – get onto the ground and crawl your way out of the room and the house.
- Have a designated safe place to meet outside the home for all family members to meet in case you get separated during an escape from a fire.
- Your house number should be clearly seen from the street to make it easier for firefighters and emergency personnel to identify your home.
- If you live in an apartment building, there should be a smoke alarm outside your front door in the hallway or catwalk.
- Contact your local fire department or rescue service – they may keep a directory of households in their area that require extra help to escape from a fire.
Fire Escape Plan For Two Story House
An escape plan in case of a fire in a two story home is the same as any other fire escape plan. The difference is the addition of equipment that’s needed to get out of a second story.
The main item that’s obviously needed would be a fire safety ladder. You should have one for every level of your home if it is multi-story.
The best one that I can recommend is one that comes in sizes for two stories up to six stories.
It’s easy to use and store away and only weighs about 13 pounds.
It’s the Isop Emergency Fire Escape Ladder – you can check it out at Amazon.
Another safety product for seniors living in multi level homes are emergency evacuation chairs. They make it easier for someone to get a disabled person out of multi level home when they can’t use the stairs.
Of course, evacuation chairs and fire escape ladders can only work if you are able to physically use it.
For older adults who may be in a wheelchair, have mobility issues or who are physically compromised, the best advice is to do everything possible to prevent a fire in the first place.
Some recommendations concerning fire safety for seniors with physical limitations are:
- A working smoke alarm
- Indoor automatic sprinkler systems
- Flame resistant blankets
- Telephone with speed dial to 911
- An Amazon Echo in every room (yes, you can use Alexa to call 911) (read more about what Alexa can do here)
- Medical alert products
- Emergency alert app on smartphone including the Jitterbug phone
How Do You Get Pets Out Of A Fire?
Getting pets out of a house or apartment fire can be a challenging task, but with a little preparation, you can increase the chances of their safe escape. Here’s how:
- Include Pets in Your Fire Escape Plan: When you’re creating your fire escape plan, include your pets. Know where they like to hide, especially when they’re scared, as these are the first places you should look if you have time to help them escape.
- Prepare a Pet Emergency Kit: Have a kit ready with a leash for dogs or a carrier for cats, as well as any necessary medications your pet might need. Keep this kit near an exit if possible.
- Train Your Pets: Train your pets to come when called, even in stressful situations. This can help you get them out more quickly. Additionally, consider training them to go to their carrier or to a specific location when a specific alarm or sound is triggered.
- Use a Pet Alert Window Cling: These are stickers you can place on a front window that let firefighters know there are pets in the house. Include the number and types of pets you have to help firefighters in their rescue efforts. You can get free stickers here from the ASPCA.
- Never Delay Your Own Escape: While it’s natural to want to save your pets, never put your own life at risk to do so. If you can’t find your pet or if you can’t reach them, leave immediately and inform the firefighters that your pet is still inside.
- After the Fire: Once you’re safely out of the house, call your pet softly. If they’ve escaped, they may be hiding nearby and come out when they hear your voice.
Remember, the best way to protect your pets from a fire is to prevent fires from starting in the first place.
Keep them away from open flames and electrical cords. Also consider using flameless candles and replacing stove knobs with removable ones to reduce the risk of accidental fires.
Wrapping Up On A Fire Escape Plan For The Elderly
We’ve walked through the crucial steps of creating a fire escape plan tailored for the elderly. Remember, the key to a successful plan is not just creating it, but also practicing it regularly. It’s about making safety a habit.
While we hope you’ll never have to use this plan, having it in place can provide peace of mind for you and your loved ones. It’s like an insurance policy – you might not ever need it, but if the time comes, you’ll be glad you have it.
So, take some time, sit down with your family or caregivers, and map out your escape plan. Consider any special needs or accommodations, choose a safe meeting spot, and practice, practice, practice.
Remember, safety isn’t about age, it’s about preparation. And with this guide, you’re well on your way to creating a fire escape plan that works for you.