Column: Fire safety is vital

• Originally published in the Kane County Chronicle on March 30, 2009

At least four fires broke out across the area on Monday. Sadly, one of them claimed the life of 69-year-old Geneva resident Nancy Schultz.

As we all know, fire can happen anywhere at any time. Tragically, it sometimes leads to death, even to those who are prepared.

According to http://www.FireSafety.gov – which includes information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the U.S. Fire Administration – deaths from fires and burns are the fifth most common cause of unintentional injury deaths in the United States and the third leading cause of fatal home injury.

Though those numbers have decreased in recent years, according to the Web site, fire safety remains vitally important.

Sometimes there is nothing we can do. We can be as prepared as possible and still be the victim of a fire.

But extra preparation can’t hurt.

This is especially true for older adults, who are particularly at risk.

According to statistics provided by http://www.FireSafety.org:

• Older adults (ages 65 and older) are twice as likely as any other age group to die in a home fire.

• Older adults are also at higher risk of injury from fires.

• The fire death rate for people 85 and older is five times the national average.

As we get older, our senses weaken. It’s an unavoidable part of life. We must be even more diligent with fire safety.

FireSafety.org is a good starting point and has some excellent tips specifically for older adults. Most of the advice works for people of any age:

• If you’re hearing-impaired, install smoke alarms with flashing lights or vibrating signals.

• Make an escape plan. Ask your family, building manager, or neighbors to help you practice your plan.

• Consider sleeping on the ground floor to make escape easier.

• Keep a phone and emergency numbers nearby so you can call for help.

• Cook safely. Use a timer, and if you must leave the kitchen while cooking, take along a pot holder or dish towel to remind you to go back to the kitchen.

• Have an electrician check your home’s wiring every 10 years. Never overload outlets or extension cords.

• If you have a disability, are hard of hearing, or have vision problems, ask emergency providers to keep your special needs information on file.

Again, this is just a starting point. Contact your local firefighters for more information on how to be safe in case of a fire.

Some of our local fire departments even have programs especially for older adults. The St. Charles Fire Department, for example, has a Safety for Seniors program. Anyone interested in learning more about the program may call the St. Charles Fire Department at 630-377-4457 and leave your name and telephone number. A representative from the St. Charles Fire Department will contact you after that.

We can’t always prevent a fire or escape one, but a little preparation could possibly go a long way.

Joe Grace is the editor of The Chronicle. Write to him at jgrace@kcchronicle.com or call him at 630-845-5368.

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