Focus on fire safety: As we age we must adjust emergency planning

  • Published
  • By Edwards Air Force Base
  • Fire Prevention Division
Each year an estimated 2,655 deaths and 13,025 injuries occur as the result of residential building fires.

The risk of death or injury from fire is even greater for people who are aging. Hopefully we are all recognizing that as we age, we may need additional help reacting to emergencies.

With increased age comes decreased mobility, vision and hearing. Taking action by ensuring you have, and practice, a home fire escape plan relevant to your needs is part of aging gracefully in your home and at your office. With spring just around the corner, and everyone's requirement to "spring" our clocks forward, this is a good time to ensure that working smoke alarms are installed on every level of the home.

Why is an aging population at risk?

- Decreased mobility, health, sight and hearing may limit your ability to take the quick action necessary to escape during an emergency.

- You can take action to protect yourself, your family, your neighbors and your co-workers from the dangers of disaster by discussing any special requirements you or they might have to evacuate in an emergency.

- As we age we get fiercely dependent, especially if we are experiencing any symptoms of age. We are typically fiercely independent and do not wish to alter our lives. However, this stubborn ferocity can lead us to ignore or overlook our needs in responding to an emergency. As with most plans, we might need to practice our emergency procedures, especially if we are particularly feisty and independent.

Listed below are a few points to remember for a sound fire safety and escape plan:

- Know at least two exits from every room.

- Live near an exit: although you have the legal right to live where you choose, you'll be safest on the ground floor if you live in an apartment building.

- Plan your escape around your abilities: take whatever actions are necessary to ensure the survival of yourself and those around you. Ensure that exit ramps and wide doorways are available to facilitate everyone's safe exit and emergency escape.

- If you use a device to assist in your mobility (e.g. a walker, wheelchair, etc.) check all exits to make sure you can get through the doorways.

- If you have a service animal, ensure that you can get it out safely with you.

- Practice opening locked or barred doors and windows.

- Ensure your home address is clearly marked and visible from the street.

- Know which local emergency services are available and have those numbers posted or memorized.

- Inform others of your needs. You might even contact your local fire department on a non-emergency line and explain your requirements.

- Involve your building manager, family member, colleague or neighbor to practice your fire escape plan.

- Remember not to use an elevator during a fire, unless your building's elevators have been authorized for use during an emergency by the fire department.

- If you are evacuating do not spend time saving property. Leave any dangerous situation to those trained to deal with emergencies.

- Once you are out, stay out!

Aging American workers are a growing population here at Edwards, as well as across our communities. Ensuring that the workplace is safe is everyone's responsibility. Help yourself and your family members, neighbors and colleagues identify potential hazards in your environment and how to deal with them to protect everyone.

The Edwards Air Force Base Fire Department can help you with all of these topics. We may also perform a workplace fire safety inspection. Contact the Edwards Fire Prevention office at 277-3643 for more information.