October 31, 2022
Fire Safety for Older Adults

At age 65, people are twice as likely to be killed or injured by fires compared to the population at large. At age 75, the risk increases by three times that of the general population and increases to four times by age 85 (NFPA). While fire prevention and safety measures are critical for all individuals and families to consider, the need for additional precautions increases as we age. 

Since 2013, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has offered specific tips and considerations for older adults and their support personnel through the Remembering When™ program. Remembering When™ is a fire and fall prevention program that is geared toward older adults and offers key safety measures for both fire and fall prevention. The recommendations specific to fire prevention are summarized below: 

  1. If you smoke, smoke outside. Consider using deep, sturdy ashtrays and wetting cigarette butts or burying them in sand.
  2. Give space heaters space. They need to be at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, including you.
  3. Stay in the kitchen when frying food. Turn off the burner if you need to leave the room for a moment.
  4. If your clothes catch fire: stop, drop, and roll. If you use a mobility device such as a wheelchair or scooter, be sure to lock the wheels first. If unable to get to the floor, grab a blanket or towel to smother flames.
  5. Smoke alarms save lives. Smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home, and outside all sleeping areas. Test the alarms monthly and replace any that are 10+ years old. If you are hard of hearing, consider purchasing a strobe alarm and/or bed shaker. If you need help with your smoke alarms, such as testing or changing batteries, call you local fire department main office line for help. If you cannot afford smoke alarms, contact your local fire department to see about free or subsidized programs in your area.
  6. Plan and practice your escape from fire and smoke. If possible, plan two routes and practice them to get out of your home. Consider the accessibility of your escape routes – can you easily open and get out of the window? Is the pathway to the door clear?
  7. Know your local emergency number. In Island, San Juan, Skagit and Whatcom counties, the number is 9-1-1. Consider keeping a phone list by your bed, or in medical alert jewelry, to have key phone numbers available to you such as neighbors, family, etc.
  8. Plan your escape around your abilities. Keep necessary items such as glasses, walker, scooter, cane, wheelchair, and medications close to your bed. Consider keeping a flashlight and a whistle nearby in order to signal for help.

The full Remembering When™ program can be accessed by clicking https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Specific-groups-at-risk/Older-adults, or by reaching out to NWRC.


“Remembering When Program.” NFPA, https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Teaching-tools/Remembering-When. 

About Northwest Regional Council:

Since 1971, Northwest Regional Council has been helping older adults, people with complex medical conditions, and their families, obtain resources and assistance that promote optimal health, well-being, and independence to improve quality of life in Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties. For more information visit our website at nwrcwa.org   

Written By: 
Sarah Silvas
Human Resources Manager