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Fire Safety and Prevention

Image shows a hand reaching up to touch the testing button on a smoke alarm mounted on the ceiling.

Older adults can be at higher risk for death from a home fire due to physical changes and homes that were not designed for their changing needs, among other factors. Having working smoke alarms and an escape plan that considers your changing needs and abilities can make the difference between life and death.

Have a plan

  • Have a fire escape plan: Draw a map of each level of your home showing all doors and windows.
  • Plan two ways out of every room.
  • If you share your home with others, go over your plan with them and have an outside meeting place designated.
  • If you have a landlord or building manager, include them in your plan. Older
  • Practice your fire escape plan with a home fire drill at least twice a year.
  • Plan around your abilities: Practice escaping with your wheelchair, walker or cane, if you use one. Notify your local fire department in advance if you require special assistance getting out of your home safely.
  • Keep eyeglasses and hearing aids next to the bed for quick access in an emergency.

Heating Safety

  • Have a professional clean and inspect your chimney and vents every year.
  • Keep anything that can burn (including clothing, blankets, furniture and curtains) at least three feet from heat sources.
  • Turn off heaters and extinguish chimney fires when you leave a room or go to bed - never leave them unattended.
  • If you must use space heaters, choose one that has been tested and certified to the latest safety standards.

Be smart with appliances and cords

  • Don't overload outlets. Plug heat-producing appliances directly into a wall outlet - do not use extension cords or outlet strips for heaters.
  • Only use extension cords temporarily. Have an electrician install additional wall outlets where you need them.
  • If extension cords or electrical cords on appliances and lamps are cracked or damaged, replace the extension cord or appliance. Do not try to repair cords.

Smoke Alarms

  • Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and on each level of their homes.
  • Mount smoke alarms on the ceiling or high on a wall.
  • At least monthly, test your smoke alarms and vacuum dust and cobwebs from your alarms.
  • Know the sound your smoke alarms make and know whether you can hear it at night.
  • Change the battery in your smoke alarms at least once each year and immediately if your alarms start to "chirp."
  • Replace smoke alarms after 10 years.

Get Help

Your area agency on aging can help you locate and access local resources to make your home safer as you age. Call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the agency serving your community.

For more fire safety tips and resources, visit the State Fire Marshal’s website or call your local fire department.