Fire Prevention Week is October 8 – 14, 2012 “Have “Two Ways Out”
Although it’s important for everyone to have a fire escape plan, the need may be even greater for people with physical, mental or sensory disabilities. Because their disabilities could slow down the escape process, extra precautions should be taken to ensure a safe and expeditious exit if a fire occurs. This is Fire Prevention Week, a reminder to all that taking a few necessary precautions and planning a well-thought-out escape plan are well worth the effort. That’s why we’d also like to take this opportunity to encourage disabled individuals and their home care providers to prepare accordingly. Here are a few tips to consider:
• Choose to install special fire warning devices based on your needs. For instance, individuals who are hearing impaired would be best suited with smoke alarms that have vibrating pads or flashing lights. In addition, an exterior smoke alarm that triggers a strobe light grabs the attention of neighbors and passersby.
• Check your smoke alarms regularly. Everyone knows that smoke alarms save lives. In fact, they cut the risk of dying in a reported fire in half. But, they can’t do much if they’re not working properly. A monthly test and a yearly battery replacement are the recommended norm. Remember, smoke alarms should be installed on every level of your home—especially where people sleep.
• Live and sleep on the ground floor. If possible, this makes it easier to escape since you eliminate the need to navigate stairs or a second-floor window. If a fire strikes, every minute counts. Individuals with disabilities may not be able to react or move as quickly as others. A first-floor exit is typically quicker and easier not only for the disabled person, but also for the assisting caregiver.
• Implement a fire escape plan based on your disabilities. For example, if you use a wheelchair or walker to get around, make sure the exits are wide enough to accommodate you. Realize that an exit ramp may be necessary.
• Sleep near a phone. Keep a land line or charged cell phone near your bed at all times. If a fire breaks out, you can call 9-1-1 immediately for assistance.
• Listen to your local fire professionals. These individuals can provide you with fire escape tips that are specifically tailored to your needs. They may be willing to conduct a home fire safety inspection, providing you with much-needed peace of mind about a fire escape plan that takes your disability into consideration.
• Speak up! Individuals with disabilities need to communicate their special needs to others, including their caregivers, neighbors, family members and even the local fire department. Let them know what you need to ensure a prompt escape, and make them aware of your situation so they can assist you if a fire occurs.
• Practice for added peace of mind. Just like everyone, people with disabilities need to be prepared for a fire escape. Conduct regular drills so you can be sure that there are no glitches in your emergency escape plan if a real fire occurs.