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Seniors & Fire Safety – Part 1

Senior citizens are one of the largest growing demographic groups in our society today. Just look at how many retirement residents are being built throughout the Ottawa region, big business has seen the growth potential in this sector of the population. Evidence of this quick growth is that even with the many residents being built there is still a shortage of available spots as more people enter this age bracket and live longer lives. The reality is that our society will increasingly have more seniors per capita that ever before. With this change in demographics, society will in turn have to address the concerns of seniors more than it has in the past. As a fire department, our area of concern is obviously with fire safety, admittedly this is a sector that has not had a lot of attention in the past, however in 2008 this will all change. The Russell Fire Department is making a concerted effort to be more active in addressing fire safety concerns for seniors within our community. Over the next few weeks we will be targeting topics of particular interest to seniors and the families of seniors.


Burn and scald injuries are a serious concern for seniors, as we age our skin becomes thinner and burns can more easily become deep tissue injuries. Immune systems also weaken so dealing with a post injury infection can be a greater problem for a senior than a young person. The Ontario Fire Marshals Office has compiled statistics that prove seniors aged 65 and over have higher fatality rates than any other age group with regards to fire related injuries. Essentially fire safety should be a great concern for seniors, unfortunately many people become lax about their own safety once their children have grown up and left home.


With seniors, the most common cause of burn injuries involves cooking, and often it is their own clothing that fuels the fire. Loose grotting sleeves or bath robes catching fire as a person reaches over a burner is the usual cause in these cases, and once the clothing catches fire very few seniors think to “stop-drop & roll” as children are taught. The most common reaction is to panic and wave the clothing which further fuels the fire, also by remaining standing up, the fire will naturally climb the fuel source to the highest point, our face. Now anyone who has seen a kindergarten class do “stop-drop & roll” during a fire prevention week presentation knows that this is not for anyone over the age of 30, children will literally throw themselves to the ground, which is often a gym floor - can you say “broken hips & cracked ribs”. For adults and seniors we ask them to; “stop – lower yourself to the ground & cover your face and roll” not quite as catchy but essentially the same message. Loose grotting clothes - especially sleeves - around a stove is a bad idea whether you are young or a senior. Roll them up and pay attention to the task at hand, “stop – drop & roll” is a last resort, prevention is the key.


Next week we will be looking at other areas of the house that are common but often overlooked as potential burn hazards.

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