Home Fire Prep for Older Adults

Preparing For and Preventing Home Fires

Home fires can be fast, hot, dark, and deadly.

A fire can become life-threatening in just two minutes. A residence can be engulfed in flames in five minutes.

  • Fire is FAST! In less than 30 seconds a small flame can turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for thick, black smoke to fill a house or for it to be engulfed in flames.
  • Fire is HOT! Heat is more threatening than flames. Room temperatures in a fire can be 100 degrees at floor level and rise to 600 degrees at eye level. Inhaling this super-hot air will scorch your lungs and melt clothes to your skin.
  • Fire is DARK! Fire starts bright, but quickly produces black smoke and complete darkness.
  • Fire is DEADLY! Smoke and toxic gases kill more people than flames do. Fire produces poisonous gases that make you disoriented and drowsy.

Fire Safety for Older Adults

Fire safety for older adults is important because their risk of dying in a home fire is greater. In 2020, older adults (65+) in the United States had a 2.5 times greater risk of dying in a fire than the total population. Knowing what to do if there is a fire can make a big difference.

Watch this YouTube video from FEMA on Fire Safety for Older Adults:

Learn How to Operate Your Fire Extinguisher (P-A-S-S)

Remember the acronym PASS for operating your fire extinguisher:

    • Pull the pin.
    • Aim low at the base of the fire.
    • Squeeze the lever slowly.
    • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.

For the home, select a multi-purpose fire extinguisher [can be used on all types of home fires] that is large enough to put out a small fire, but not so heavy as to be difficult to handle. Choose an extinguisher that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.

A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire, or containing it until the fire department arrives; but portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the #1 priority for residents is to get out safely.

 Watch this FEMA YouTube video to see P-A-S-S in action:

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Install and test carbon monoxide alarms each month.

After installing Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors, test them monthly. Ideally, each floor of the home needs a separate detector. If you’re getting a single carbon monoxide detector, place it near the sleeping areas and make certain the alarm is loud enough to wake you up.

Grilling Fire Safety

Follow these grilling safety tips:

  • Only use your grill outside.
  • Keep it at least 3 feet from siding, deck rails and eaves.
  • Keep an eye on your grill, fire pit or patio torches.
  • Don’t walk away from them when they are lit.
  • Keep a 3-foot safe zone around your grill. This will keep kids and pets safe.

Click this link to download a FEMA Electrical Fire Safety Infographic PDF »»

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Adapted from FEMA, Fire Safety Administration website content.