Please Do Me a Favor – Fire Proof Your Home

Please Do Me a Favor – Fire Proof Your Home

Recently a family that attends my church lost their home in a fire. I do not know this family personally but I have been involved in the efforts to find them temporary housing and get them food and clothing and the other essentials they need daily.

The fire started during the night. The parents awoke about 6 a.m. to a home filled with smoke.  At that point all they could do was to get themselves and their kids out.

They Lost Everything

The fire totally destroyed the home and everything in it:

  • Clothes,
  • Furniture,
  • Food,
  • Driver’s licenses, Social Security Cards, Birth Certificates, etc,
  • All of their valuables, and
  • Family pictures and Keepsakes

Everything they and their kids had prized and accumulated over the years.

Having to Start Over

They are now in the process of starting all over – starting from nothing.

The tragedy of that fire has really affected me. I realized if that happened to me, I would be devastated. Sure, I could replace much of what I lost.  That would take months. I would never be able to replace many of those things which I prize most.

That led me to wonder how severe a problem a fire like this is on older people. I researched it and the information I found was startling.

I found this on the U. S. Fire Administration’s website:

Older adults face the greatest relative risk of dying in a fire. In 2015, older adults:

  • Represented 15 percent of the United States population but suffered 40 percent of all fire deaths.
  • Had a 2.7 times greater risk of dying in a fire than the total population.
  • Ages 85 and over were 3.8 times more likely to die in a fire than the total population.

Almost daily there are reports of fires in the news. There have been so many I have not paid attention to them. Until now, I have never thought about the impact of fires on their victims

By Chance, Are You Like Me?

Have They Had the Same Effect on You?

It’s tragic older people die so much more frequently in fires. One main reason so many older people die than younger ones is their health. They are at a stage in life when their health is declining.

  • Many with breathing problems die of smoke inhalation more quickly than those without.
  • People using wheelchairs and walkers cannot get out of a burning place as quickly as a younger person.
  • People with bad eyesight may become disoriented by a smoke-filled home and not be able to find the exit.
  • People hard of hearing may not hear the smoke alarm and not realize there’s a fire until it’s too late.

Fire prevention actually starts with each of us.

You and I Have to Take the Steps to

Make Sure Our Homes are Safe

We may not be skilled to do a proper Safety Check. So, it‘s best for us to have a qualified person walk through our homes and do it.

Here are some of the items to check. There may be more important ones that I am overlooking. Feel free to add them to your list.

  • Are your smoke alarms working? We are all reminded to replace the batteries in them every 6 months. Have you ever checked to see if your alarm works? Check it. Then recheck it every month.
  • If you use a wheelchair, walker or cane, make sure your exit routes are not blocked. If there is a fire, you don’t want anything blocking your way out.
  • Make sure your electrical outlets are not overloaded. Many times, older homes don’t have enough outlets. Older people get in the habit of finding ways to plug in many appliances into a single outlet. That can cause fires.
  • If an outlet or light switch is hot to touch, don’t use it. Call an electrician to check it out. Also call an electrician if you hear a cracking sound coming from the Breaker box. (Years ago, Breaker boxes were called fuse boxes.)
  • Use extension cords properly. These are only supposed to be used temporarily. Don’t plug too many things into them. Unplug them when not in use. Don’t run them under rugs or carpets. Don’t hang them from nails.
  • Make sure you use the right light bulbs in your lamps and other light fixtures in your home. If a lamp specifies a 60 watt bulb, don’t use a 100 watt bulb.
  • Leave enough space around televisions and computers so that air can circulate freely. This will keep them from overheating.
  • Look to see if every electrical product has the Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) seal.
  • Don’t tuck an electric blanket in at the sides of the bed. Just use the blanket to warm your bed before getting into it. Turn it off before going to sleep.
  • If a door or window is in your escape route, make sure you can unlock and open it easily.
  • If you are hard of hearing make sure to get a smoke alarm with a flashing light.
  • You may need to move your bed closer to an exit. If your bedroom is on the second floor and you have trouble getting up and down the stairs quickly it may be time to move your bedroom to the first floor.
  • Practice your escape route frequently and memorize it. If there is a fire, you won’t have to think about where to go. You will just use it automatically. You may not be able to see where you are going or you may be panicking.

Make a list of all of the important documents and papers you have.  Also make copies of your driver’s license, social security card, credit cards, birth certificate and will. Keep the list and the copies in a place outside your home.

If you have a safe deposit box, keep your list and those copies in it. If you don’t, you may want to ask a relative or close friend to keep it in a safe place for you.

If you can’t ask a relative or friend to store it for you, you may want to get an account with Drop Box or Google. You can keep the list and copies in Drop Box or in your Google Drive.

Each one of us is going to get older. As we do, most probably our health is going to decline. As it does, anticipate changes which you will have to make to insure your safety in the event of a fire.

If there is a fire, your number 1 concern is to get out safely.  You can replace most of what you may lose in the fire. Sure, it may be difficult and may take time but you can do it.

You may be a younger person reading this and have an elderly parent or elderly parents living alone. Please make sure to do this Safety Check for them periodically.  If you’re not qualified, get someone to do it who is. The most painful call anyone can get is one about how a loved one died tragically.