Department urges seniors to be fire aware

Vernon firefighters provide some timely advice for local residents

Fire safety is increasingly important as you age.

Senior citizens beyond the age of 65 are statistically more likely to die in home fires than the rest of the population and the risk more than doubles for people 75 and older.

“Health issues, such as reduced mobility, poor eyesight and bad hearing, can challenge a senior’s capacity to escape from fire,” said Lawrie Skolrood, a Vernon Fire Department deputy chief.

“As well, aging causes peoples skin to become thinner and more vulnerable to fire. Reflexes slow down and older people are more likely to be on medication that can cause confusion and make them drowsy. Seniors with compromised physical and possible mental abilities may find it harder to react to, or even realize there is a problem.”

The leading causes of fire deaths and injuries among seniors are smoking materials, the misuse of portable space heaters and cooking fires.

“The same rules of fire safety and fire survival apply for everyone,” said Skolrood.

• Install working smoke alarms in sleeping areas and on all levels of your home.

• Smokers should have a designated area away from combustible materials, flammable liquids or gases.

• Avoid smoking when drowsy and never smoke in bed.

• Provide more time to escape from a fire that occurs outside the bedroom by sleeping with the bedroom door closed.

• Space heaters should be well ventilated and keep them at least three feet away from flammable and combustible materials. They should be unplugged when not in use.

• Never leave cooking unattended. When you leave the kitchen, shut off the stove.

“Whether you are young, old or in between, it is the effort that you put in prevention and in your plan for escape that is going to make the biggest difference in decreasing your risk and being safe from fire,” said Skolrood.