Home-fire deaths for older adults increase

A report recently released by the National Fire Protection Association, Characteristics of Home Fire Victims and Injuries, finds that adults over the age of 75 are nearly three times as likely to die in a home fire as the general public.

Adults 85 and over have more than three and a half times the risk of fire death as the general public. The report also found that from 1980 to 2007, the share of home-fire deaths accounted for by older adults, age 65 and over, increased from 19 percent to 29 percent.

To help keep older adults living safely at home for as long as possible, the NFPA offers the program Remembering When: a Fire and Fall Prevention Program for Older Adults, which includes the following eight fire-prevention messages:

• Plan and practice your escape from fire — If possible, you should know two ways out of every room in your house and two ways out of the home. Also, make sure windows and doors open easily.

• Plan your escape around your abilities — Have a telephone in your bedroom and post the local emergency number nearby in case you are trapped by smoke or fire.

• Smoke alarms save lives — Have smoke alarms installed outside each sleeping area, on every level of your home and in each bedroom. Have someone test each alarm at least once a month.

• Give space heaters space — When heaters are on, keep them at least three feet away from anything that can burn. Shut off and unplug heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.

• If you smoke, smoke outside — Use deep, sturdy ashtrays and wet cigarette butts and ashes before throwing them out. Never smoke in bed. Never smoke if you use medical oxygen.

• Be kitchen wise — Wear tight-fitting clothing or short sleeves when cooking and use oven mitts to handle hot pans. Never leave cooking unattended and do not cook if you are drowsy from alcohol or medication. If a pan with food catches on fire, slide a lid over it and turn off the burner.

• Stop, drop, and roll — If your clothes catch on fire: Stop, drop gently to the ground and cover your face with your hands. Roll over and over or back and forth to put out the fire. Use cool water for 3 to 5 minutes to cool the burn. Get medical help immediately.

• Know your local emergency number — 911. Once you have escaped a fire, call the fire department from a neighbor’s phone.

Other key findings of the report:

• From 1980 to 2007, the share of homefire deaths of children under 5 declined from 18 percent to 9 percent. Despite this decline, children under 5 are still one of the highest risk groups.

• Adults ages 20 to 34 have a risk of injury 28 percent above the all-ages average.

• Adults ages 35 to 49 have a risk of injury that is 17 percent higher than all-ages average.

• In the United States, males have a 29 percent higher risk of home-fire death than females and a 16 percent greater risk of non-fatal home-fire injury.

Males are also more likely than females to be injured while fighting the fire or rescuing others from it.