Fire safety tips for senior adults

According to the office of the Ohio State Fire Marshall, a fire occurs in an Ohio residence every 30 minutes. The fire marshall’s office reports that one-third of those who die in Ohio fires are aged 60 and over. 

Chief Dave Freeman of the Cleveland Heights Fire Department reports that the most common causes of house fires are overheating cooking oil or forgetting that something is on the stove, letting candles burn down to a flammable surface, falling asleep while smoking, using extension cords on a regular basis and overloading them, and forgetting to have the fireplace flue cleaned, or forgetting to open the damper when using the fireplace.

People of all ages should install and maintain smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all floors of the home and in each sleeping room. Batteries should be changed twice a year, when you change your clocks. Changing the batteries requires getting up on a ladder, so ask a family member, neighbor or friend to change the batteries for you. Special detectors are available for those who are hard of hearing.

The state fire marshall’s office recommends having two escape routes from your house in case of fire, and to practice using them on a regular basis. Designate a meeting point outside, so family and friends will know where to find you. 

Never stay inside a burning house to call for help. Go to a neighbor’s house or use your cell phone once you are safely outside. Get an inexpensive cell phone to use for emergencies.

If a fire occurs on the second floor and you are unable to get down the stairs, Freeman recommends closing the door to your bedroom, placing a wet towel in the crack under the door, calling the fire department, and then opening or breaking the window and yelling for help. You can also call attention to yourself by blowing a whistle or waving a brightly colored piece of clothing out the window.

Other fire safety recommendations include keeping a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, having your furnace serviced regularly, never smoking in bed or in an easy chair, setting a timer to remind you to check on your cooking, never leaving candles unattended, and keeping flammable items at least three feet away from space heaters. It is also a good idea to keep your eyeglasses, a flashlight, a whistle and your cell phone near your bed.

Make sure that your address is clearly marked on your home in numbers large enough for the fire department to see from the street.

In an emergency, always call 911. To learn more about fire safety, you can contact our local fire departments at the following nonemergency numbers: Cleveland Heights, 216-291-2673; University Heights, 216-932-7800, ext. 208. Those with Internet access can visit the National Fire Protection Association website at and click on the Safety Information tab.

Judith Eugene

Judith Eugene is a native of Cleveland Heights who provides life-enrichment classes and activities for senior adults and those with physical and mental challenges. She can be reached at 216-408-5578 or

Read More on The Senior Section: a resource guide for senior adults
Volume 6, Issue 3, Posted 11:51 AM, 02.28.2013