When it comes to fires, older adults are at higher risk of injury and loss of life than younger people. In fact, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) says seniors are 2.5 times more likely to lose their life in a home fire than other age groups. Depending on where they live, an older adult might be at risk for another type of fire: wildfires.
In recent years, seniors have lost their lives in wildfires in frighteningly high numbers. During the 2017 wine country wildfires in California, for example, the majority of the 44 deaths were older adults. Fast-moving wildfires make it especially difficult for seniors to evacuate.
The USFA says the key to surviving a wildfire at any age is preparation. We have some suggestions adult children and family caregivers can use to create a safer environment and a solid emergency plan for a senior.
Maintain Your Yard
From California to Texas to North Carolina, wildfires occur in many states. Dry grass and dead vegetation act as fuel for these types of fires. By taking precautions around a senior’s home and yard, you may lower the risk it will be consumed in a wildfire.
Here are some tips from the USFA on how to prepare your home for wildfires.
- Keep leaves raked and gutters cleaned.
- Immediately dispose of lawn waste after cutting.
- Prune trees so branches are six to ten feet off the ground.
- Water the lawn to prevent grass from drying out.
- Don’t store flammable products (e.g., propane tanks and grills) within 30 feet of the home.
- Make sure shingles on the roof and garage are in good shape to prevent embers from entering the house.
Visit the National Fire Protection Association to learn more ways to create an ignition-free zone around a senior’s home.
Creating a Wildfire Safety Plan for an Older Adult
It’s also important to create a wildfire safety plan and practice it a few times a year. Precautions include:
- Packing an emergency kit: Assemble an emergency suitcase your family elder can quickly grab in the event of a fire. When a wildfire requires evacuation, every second counts. Pack items such as a supply of prescription medications, copies of personal and legal documents, and a few small, favorite mementos. Store the emergency kit in a spot they can quickly access. Some find it helpful to keep these items locked in a fireproof safe in the car’s trunk.
- Establishing good practices: Developing precautionary habits can keep an older adult safer when it comes to a home fire or a wildfire. Put glasses and hearing aids on the bedside table. Always have cell phones charged. If an older adult uses a wheelchair, walker, or cane, encourage them to keep it nearby.
- Purchasing an emergency radio: In the event of a power outage, an emergency radio allows older adults to stay connected. Whether it is a crank radio or a battery-operated one, there are a variety of options to choose from. Some emergency radios accommodate cell phone charging.
- Planning evacuation routes: It’s also important to plan escape routes from every room in the house. For rooms upstairs or homes on a higher elevation, you may want to order fire escape ladders that attach to windows. If your loved one may have trouble climbing down a ladder, they should stay close to the ground floor. Once you have your routes established, make sure you practice them over and over until they become routine. You should have at least two escape routes from the home, in case one is blocked.
- Creating a neighborhood escape plan: Just like you need two escape routes from the senior’s home, you also need two separate ways out of their neighborhood. If one is blocked by fire, they won’t lose time trying to figure out what to do. When the order comes to evacuate, it’s also important to know where a safe place to retreat is. Call the local fire department or safety services office to find out where the nearest shelters are located.
Comprehensive Emergency Plans at Sunrise Communities
At Sunrise Senior Living communities, our teams are always well-prepared for emergencies. Whether it is a tornado in the Midwest or a wildfire in the southeast, we are ready. If a senior in your family is in the path of a natural disaster or becomes displaced, a respite care stay at one of our communities might be a good solution.
Call us today at 888-434-4648 to learn more about these short-term stay programs.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living