Adults over 75 have higher risk of death in home fires

Published on April 21, 2010
NFPA report finds that home fire deaths for older adults have increased

April 21, 2010 – A report released today by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Characteristics of Home Fire Victims, and Injuries, finds that adults over the age of 75 are nearly three times as likely to die in a home fire as the general public. Adults 85 and over have more than three and a half times the risk of fire death as the general public.

The report (PDF, 510 KB) also found that from 1980 to 2007, the share of home fire deaths accounted for by older adults, age 65 and over, increased from 19 percent to 29 percent.

To help keep older adults living safely at home for as long as possible, NFPA offers the program Remembering When™:  A Fire and Fall Prevention Program for Older Adults, which includes the following eight fire prevention messages:

  • Plan and practice your escape from fire
    If possible, you should know two ways out of every room in your house and two ways out of the home. Also, make sure windows and doors open easily. 
  • Plan your escape around your abilities
    Have a telephone in your bedroom and post the local emergency number nearby in case you are trapped by smoke or fire. 
  • Smoke alarms save lives
    Have smoke alarms installed outside each sleeping area, on every level of your home, and in each bedroom. Have someone test each alarm at least once a month. 
  • Give space heaters space
    When heaters are on, keep them at least three feet away from anything that can burn. Shut off and unplug heaters when leaving the room or going to bed. 
  • If you smoke, smoke outside
    Use deep, sturdy ashtrays and wet cigarette butts and ashes before throwing them out. Never smoke in bed. Never smoke if you use medical oxygen.
  • Be kitchen wise
    Wear tight-fitting clothing or short sleeves when cooking and use oven mitts to handle hot pans. Never leave cooking unattended and do not cook if you are drowsy from alcohol or medication. If a pan with food catches on fire, slide a lid over it and turn off the burner. 
  • Stop, drop, and roll
    If your clothes catch on fire: stop, drop gently to the ground and cover your face with your hands. Roll over and over or back and forth to put out the fire. Use cool water for 3 to 5 minutes to cool the burn. Get medical help immediately. 
  • Know your local emergency number
    It may be 9-1-1 or the fire department’s number. Once you have escaped a fire, call the fire department from a neighbor’s phone. 

Other key findings of the report:

  • From 1980 to 2007, the share of home fire deaths of children under 5 declined from 18 percent to 9 percent. Despite this decline, children under 5 are still one of the highest risk groups, being almost one and a half times as likely to die in a home fire as the general public.
  • Adults between 20-34 years old have a risk of injury 28 percent above the all-ages average.
  • Adults between 35-49 years old have a risk of injury that is 17 percent higher than all-ages average.
  • In the U.S., males have a 29 percent higher risk of home fire death than females and a 16 percent higher risk of non-fatal home fire injury. Males are also more likely than females to be injured while fighting the fire or rescuing others from it. 

NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.

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 Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275