Fire Safety Tips for People with Disabilities
There are millions of people currently living with mental and physical disabilities. According to the US Fire Administration, every year there are approximately 2,400 home fires involving people with disabilities. Of these 2,400 cases, approximately 1,700 home fires involve people with mental disabilities and 700 home fires involve people with physical disabilities.
It is imperative that people living with a disability, along with their caregivers, have a clear understanding of proper fire safety should they be faced with a fire in their home. Coming up with an effective fire protection plan for the household is the first place to begin. It is important to know your risk and then build your fire protection plans around your abilities.
The U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) offer the following fire safety tips for people with disabilities:
Understand Your Fire Risk
- Living with mental or physical disabilities doesn’t mean that you are not able to keep you and/ or your family safe from a fire.
- Build your home safety plan around your abilities.
Install and Maintain Smoke Alarms
- Conduct an inventory to ensure smoke alarms are located on every level of your home including inside bedrooms and outside sleeping areas. Interconnect your alarms so that when one sounds, they all sound. This allows more time to escape.
- If there is currently not one alarm located on every level, ask a friend or relative or manager of the building to install the smoke alarms for you.
- If you are deaf or hard of hearing, install smoke alarms with a vibrating pad, flashing light, or strobe light. These accessories start when your alarm sounds. Smoke alarms with a strobe light outside the home can attract the attention of neighbors. Emergency call systems for summoning help are also available. A pillow or bed shaker device may be helpful for those who are deaf. The device is triggered by the sound of the smoke alarm.
- Test your alarms every month by pushing the test button. If you can’t reach the alarm, ask for help.
- Change smoke alarm batteries at least once a year. Smoke alarms with sealed (long-life) batteries work for up to 10 years which can be helpful for people who find it difficult to change batteries.
- Smoke alarms expire. Most will need to be replaced every 10 years.
Live Near an Exit
- Although you have a right to live where you choose, in terms of fire safety, you will be safest on the ground floor if you live in an apartment or multi-unit home.
- Make arrangements to sleep on the first floor if you live in a multi-story home.
- Living/sleeping on the ground floor and near an exit will make your escape plan easier to execute.
Home Fire Sprinklers
- Home fire sprinklers protect lives by helping to keep fires small and allowing more time to escape. When choosing an apartment or home, look for one that has home fire sprinklers.
Plan Your Escape Around Your Abilities
Include everyone in home escape planning. Each person should have input about the best options to escape. Home fire drills are important as well. Everyone who lives in the home should participate.
- Plan at least two exits out of every room.
- If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you can get through the doorways.
- Make any necessary changes such as installing exit ramps and widening doorways to make an emergency escape easier to execute.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
- Speak to your family members, building manager and/or neighbors about your fire safety plan and practice it with them. Make sure to let them know if you have any special needs that may require their assistance.
- Contact your local fire department’s nonemergency line and explain your needs. They can help provide escape plan ideas and may perform a home fire safety inspection for you if you ask. You can ask them to review your fire protection plan as well. If you have a service animal, agree on a plan to keep the animal with you during a fire emergency.
- Ask emergency providers to keep your special needs information on file.
- Make sure to keep a phone located near your bed and be ready to call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number if a fire takes place. If you have a hearing impairment, keep a telecommunication device for the deaf (TTD) phone in your bedroom close to your bed.
- Also keep the number of an emergency restoration company to start the repairs process as soon as the fire is extinguished. The smoke and soot will continue to spread and cause permanent damage if not removed right away.
Additional Fire Safety Tips to Consider
- Do not cook if you are feeling drowsy or have been consuming alcohol.
- If you are cooking food on a fire or electrical stove, always supervise the stove or enlist help if needed. Use a cooking timer to remind you when it is time to turn off the stove.
- Keep any wheelchairs, walkers, canes, hearing aids or glasses etc. in your bedroom when you sleep. This will allow you to quickly access them in case of an emergency.
- Always carry a phone or keep one nearby with emergency phone numbers. In case you are trapped in your home by a fire, you will be able to quickly call emergency personnel.
- Never smoke around oxygen. It is highly dangerous to burn anything near oxygen tanks.
- Make sure that your home’s windows haven’t been sealed shut with nail or paint so that you can easily escape through a window if necessary in case of an emergency.
You can help increase awareness about home fire safety by following these fire protection tips and by sharing them with others. Taking the time to establish an effective fire safety plan for everyone, including people with disabilities is extremely important. You may help save a life.
Fire Damage Restoration Services
These fire safety tips are brought to you by ServiceMaster of North Texas, an emergency damage restoration company located in the Dallas, TX area. Our technicians are both licensed, trained, and experienced to respond right away to all fire emergencies. Arriving with professional restoration equipment and cleaning products, we will conduct an immediate inspection, followed by property stabilization, and finally reconstruction.
All soot and smoke byproducts will be removed using environmentally-friendly products while restoring each surface to its original condition. We can also clean and restore personal items, such as valuables, documents, jewelry, and more.
In the event that your home has been severely damaged in a fire, don’t hesitate to give ServiceMaster of North Texas a call at (972) 362-0999. We are available 24/7 in the Dallas, TX area.