Helping Disabled People Practice Fire Safety
There about 3,500 fatalities in the US each year from fires, and about 18,000 fire-related injuries. Mentally or physically disabled people face special risks in addition to the risks all of us face, where fire is concerned. Staying safe from fire presents disabled people and their caretakers with serious challenges.
Responding quickly… Fires can develop and spread very quickly. It’s essential to think and move quickly to avoid injury or death. Physical disabilities restrict one’s ability to escape a fire. Lower functioning people often find it difficult to change established patterns of behavior and react to a new danger. For physically and mentally challenged individuals, the most important aspect of fire safety is training on how to get out of their homes as quickly as possible. Care takers need to help disabled people create and practice escape plans
Smoke Alarms: Every home needs smoke alarms, but the homes of disabled people may need different types of alarms. People with hearing disabilities need alarms that have a visible signal like a strobe light. For people with blindness, there are alarms that produce an unmistakable sound. It’s an excellent idea to select detectors that activate a strobe light on the outside of the home. Encourage neighbors to call 911 if the strobe light is flashing.
The living space: To the extent possible, disabled people should have apartments near the building’s exit or on the ground floor of detached homes. Locations like these make escaping a fire simpler and safer. Escape routes must remain free of clutter and must be large enough to accommodate walkers or wheelchairs. Safe, sturdy wheelchair ramps are a must.
Support networks: Like the elderly, many disabled people are isolated from others, raising their chances of injury or death in the case of fire. Care givers can lessen this risk by helping people connect to friends, church groups, neighbors and families to make it more likely that someone will interact with the disabled person occasionally. Family members or care givers should make sure the fire department and rescue squad people understand the nature of the person’s challenges and his or her location. Phone numbers for first responders should be easy to find and easy to see.