Home is where we feel safe, but it is also the place where we’re most likely to die in a fire. In a 2014/15 government report, it was found that 41% of all fatalities from fires in England were people aged 65 years old and over. This makes the elderly 10 times more likely to die in a fire than younger people.
There are many factors which contribute to older people being at greater risk from fire. As we age, our senses can start to deteriorate, which can affect awareness if there’s a fire. If your hearing is affected, you may not hear the alarm. If your sense of smell is impaired, smoke can go unnoticed.
In 2014, a resident in a care home who suffered with dementia died after her nightdress came into contact with a naked flame. The investigation found that there had been no risk assessment which identified her smoking as a risk, despite cigarette burns having already been found on the carpet in her room. The home in Southwark faced a fine of over £170,000 for contravening regulations, and they were responsible for a loss of live that could have been prevented.
Some of the most vulnerable people can have a slower reaction time to events such as a fire. As it progresses, conditions like dementia will cause confusion and forgetfulness, leading to ovens not being turned off, or cigarettes not being properly extinguished.
Impaired movement will hinder escape, and for someone who is bedridden, evacuation is clearly more difficult.
Common fire hazards in care homes
In general, care homes for the elderly are at greater risk of fire.This means ensuring fire safety precautions are in place is vital. In September 2015, the London Fire Brigade stated that it was dealing with over 10 fires a week in care homes and sheltered accommodation alone. One of the main hazards they found was fire doors wedged open.
Wedging open a fire door is a serious risk to people and buildings, as it allows fire and smoke to spread. With this in mind, the importance of fire doors becomes clear. But they can be heavy. They cause injuries for the less able-bodied and trap people in their rooms. They can make places difficult to move around in. Fire doors can be obstructive, so it’s easy to see why people wedge them open.
Keeping fire doors open makes life easier by improving access. It also improves ventilation and reduces injuries from handling a heavy fire door. Ventilation and air quality are boosted, and the risk of injury is reduced. Fire inspectors across the UK recognise the need to hold fire doors open with appropriate fire door retainers.
Ensuring a safer environment
There are now more people in the UK over the age of 60 than there are under 18. With an ever-growing aging population, fire safety for older people has never been more important.
What simple checks can you make? Making sure exits are clear, fire doors aren’t wedged open, and evacuation plans and risk assessments are up to date. These help provide a safer environment — one that can save lives.
Fireco makes compliance easy with simple solutions for difficult fire safety problems; making care homes safer, more accessible and ensuring compliance is one less thing to worry about.