Falls Prevention is also fire prevention
Fifty-two million Americans aged 65 or older make up 16 percent of the total US population. Yet they experience disproportionate injuries and deaths from fires and falls—twice the general population when it comes to fires. Falls are the leading cause of death from unintentional injuries for older adults, with nearly 1 in 3 seniors—that’s 17 million people—suffering a fall each year.
This year’s Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW™) theme “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™” pays particular attention to the needs of older adults in planning to safely escape their home in the event of fire. Preventing slips, trips, and falls when evacuating is of key importance considering people may have as little as 2 minutes to safely escape their home. Key fall prevention for safe home escape tips for older adults include:
- Remove clutter in the hallways, stairways, and near exits/windows for a clear, safe path out of your home. Make sure all windows and doors can open in an emergency.
- If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you can fit through the doorways.
- Keep your walker, scooter, cane, or wheelchair by your bed/where you sleep to make sure you can reach it quickly.
- Keep your eyeglasses, mobile phone, and a flashlight by your bed/where you sleep to be able to reach them quickly in an emergency.
- Consider sleeping in a room on the ground floor to make emergency escape easier.
Fire service, elder care, and public health professionals have a unique opportunity to work together to reduce the growing incidence of injuries and deaths from fires and falls among older adults. As such, NFPA has undertaken a set of enhancements to our legacy Remembering When™ Older Adult Fire and Fall Prevention program, now called Steps to Safety™: Prevent fire and falls at home.
Coming out later this fall, Steps to Safety™ is still focused on pairing fire service with community partners to deliver group presentations, conduct home visits, and create a community network of resources to support older adults and their caregivers. Enhancements include a new online learning curriculum, new videos, and new social media assets. The program remains rooted in key fire and fall prevention messages, with updated messaging on the role of medications in fire and fall risk. All training and program materials are currently being finalized and will be available on our website at a date to be released in the coming months.