‘Tis the Season for Fire Safety at Senior Facilities

 

Candles, homemade cookies, hanging lights – they bring magic to the holidays, but can prove dangerous in senior care facilities and residential homes. 

Thirty percent of U.S. fires occur the months of December, January, and February[1]. With seniors 2.7 more likely to die in a fire than the total population[2](that number jumps to five for seniors 85 and older[3]), the statistics add up to one thing: The need for effective fire prevention and preparedness in the shared places that seniors call home. 

The key word here is effective. Sharing fire safety tips is one thing; making sure they’re seen, heard, and absorbed is another. To help seniors stop fires from starting – and understand what to do if one does– leadership and operations teams at senior facilities should consider the following: 

  • Post signage in can’t-miss places. A colorful front door poster full of tips will be noticed. Small text hanging behind the front desk? Not so much. Look around and take inventory of high-visibility messaging opportunities in high-traffic areas, from lobby flat-screens used for announcements to dining room menus to bulletin boards. 
  • Consider abilities. Do some residents have impaired eyesight or hearing? Make sure tips are accessible to all abilities. Connect individually with residents who need customized fire information delivery or customized fire instructions.
  • Keep it simple and clear. Conversational language goes a lot further than wordy manuals or “fine print.” 
  • Make it a gathering and make sure it’s not boring. If it’s been awhile since a town hall or community meeting (and even if it hasn’t) gather residents, employees, and staff for a refresher course on fire prevention and preparedness during the holidays. Mandatory or not, take steps to make it fun. Not sure where to begin? AllRisk complimentary Lunch & Learns take pressure off of your staff with highly engaging fire prevention and preparedness sessions that we bring to you.  
  • Include everyone. Fire safety essentials aren’t only for residents. Leadership and staff should take part and brush up on their procedures, too. 

 

Once you decide how to share fire safety essentials, divide the information into two areas: Prevention and preparedness

Prevention tips should be tailored to your facility, but should always include do’s and don’t’s (universal and facility-specific) for common holiday hazards: 

  •     Cooking
  •     Candles and open flames 
  •     Space heaters 
  •     Lights and electric decorations

 

In terms of fire preparedness, outline what to do in the event of a fire on site, remembering the following:  

  • Evacuation procedures can feel counterintuitive. In multi floor and hi rise buildings, for example, residents are advised to close their door and remain inside their unit when a fire alarm sounds, staying there until responders reach them or give the all clear. Address the fact that the best course of action might differ from instincts in emergency moments. 
  • When to act vs. when to call for help. Kitchen fires in particular are sometimes better handled by professional responders – but in the moment, how can a senior be sure? It’s always better to be safe than sorry. When in doubt? Call 911. Scenario planning imparts a clearer sense of what steps can or cannot be taken (ie. “Should I at least shut off the gas range before pulling the fire alarm?”). An educational video explaining why you should not attempt to put out a grease fire with water is an impactful way to drive home this key “don’t” and avoid this common mistake. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6E2d-bVKfNk
  • Residents might not know what’s expected of them. If your independent living residents are largely responsible for their own comfort, health, and safety in the event of an emergency, make this clear – and help them prepare accordingly. Offer guidance and checklists for emergency kits, personal evacuation plans, and contact lists.

 

 

A lot on your plate this season? Lean on the team who’s seen every type of residential fire – and wants to make sure you never do. AllRisk’s complimentary Lunch & Learns save senior facilities time and money, helping you, your team, and your residents avoid the preventable and mitigate the unavoidable. Fire prevention and preparedness Lunch & Learns are customizable for your senior audience, for the holidays, and for your facility’s specific needs. Reach out to us at info@allriskinc.com to learn more.

[1]https://www.esfi.org/resource/holiday-data-and-statistics-359

[2]https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/older_adults.html

[3]https://agesafeamerica.com/home-safety-seniors-statistics-solutions/

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