Important Home Fire Safety Tips For The Elderly

Certified Senior Advisor®
senior man installing smoke detector as part of his fire safety plan

Seniors are especially at risk of injury - or even death - in the event of a fire. Decrease the risks by implementing a fire escape plan for elderly loved ones. Use the following fire safety tips for seniors to get your plan started today!

senior man installing smoke detector as part of his fire safety plan
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While household fires are always a risk, they pose a much bigger threat to seniors. Adults that are over 65 are twice as likely to perish in a fire. The risk is even higher for adults that over 85; they’re 3.8 times more likely to die in a fire. Thankfully, it’s easy to keep your loved ones safe from a fire by following a few basic safety tips. Keep these suggestions in mind if you want to protect your loved ones from fires.

Major Risks and Causes of Fires in Senior’s Homes

Most home fires are completely preventable. If you’re familiar with the most common causes of house fires, you’ll be able to reduce the likelihood that a fire will occur in the first place.

Cigarette Fires

Cigarettes are the primary cause of fatal fires involving seniors. If your family member smokes, you should encourage them to smoke outside of the home if possible. Smoking in bed is especially dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

Kitchen Fires

It’s also common for fires to start in the kitchen. If food is left unattended when it’s being cooked, it’s easy for a fire to start. If your family member is starting to experience cognitive issues that could keep them from cooking safely, you may want to consider in-home care. It’s possible to have someone visit the home and prepare meals for them.

Older appliances are more likely to cause fires, which is why it’s a smart idea to inspect kitchens from time to time. If an appliance is very old, it may need to be repaired or replaced so that it can be used safely. Replace these old units with dementia friendly kitchen appliances such as easy to use microwave ovens or other electric cookers for seniors.

You’ll also want to make sure that any potential fires can be dealt with quickly. You can demonstrate for family members how they can put out stovetop fires using a large lid. Keep the kitchen stocked with an easy to use fire extinguisher. Make sure that there’s a loud smoke alarms that seniors can hear in the kitchen and that the batteries in the device are regularly replaced.

Space Heaters

When temperatures drop, many people use space heaters to keep their homes warm. Unfortunately, these devices have been known to cause fires. If you have a senior in your family that likes to use space heaters, look for a safe heaters for seniors to use with less chance of injury or fire.. For example, some space heaters automatically shut off after a period of time, or turn off if they are tipped over.


Many people have candles in their home, but open flames can cause fires. Make sure that seniors in your family have a candle snugger so that they can safely and easily put out candles. Encourage them to use artificial candles if possible. Even if the candle is left on all night, it won’t be able to start a fire.

Fireplaces and Wood Stoves

Lastly, it’s important to make sure that homes are in good working order. Wood stoves and fireplaces should be inspected on a regular basis. In older homes, faulty wiring could cause a fire. It can be smart to have a home inspected by an electrician so that issues can be spotted before they cause a problem. Consult organizations who help seniors with home repairs.

install battery in smoke detector
Frequently checking the batteries of smoke detectors is an important part of a fire safety plan for seniors and the elderly.

Fire Safety in the Home for the Elderly

Preventing fires is essential, but it’s also important to make sure that seniors know what to do if a fire starts. It can be valuable to go over basic fire safety tips with seniors.

Clothing Choices

Many seniors wear loose-fitting clothing. This clothing can easily catch on fire in the kitchen. If this happens, seniors should follow the “stop, drop, and roll” method.

When clothing is on fire, it’s important to stay in place. Running around can feed the flames, which can make the fire more intense. Instead, seniors should fold their arms to their chests to protect their faces before dropping to the ground and rolling around. Once the fire is out, cold water should be applied to the burns. Seniors should also receive medical attention as soon as possible.

Keep a Fire Extinguisher Close By

Having a fire extinguisher in the home can help to put out fires, but it won’t do any good if someone doesn’t know how to use it. Everyone in the household should understand exactly how to use this device in the case of a fire. It’s important to find a fire extinguisher that is easy for seniors to use.

Be Able to Call for Help Quickly

You should also make sure that seniors have a simple phone that is able to quickly call emergency services if a fire breaks out. Many phones can be programmed so that it will be possible to call for help with the push of a button. If the fire department is called right away, they may be able to put out a fire before it has the chance to spread throughout a home.

Get Out Quick!

Above all else, you should emphasize that it’s important to leave the home quickly in the event of a fire. A fire extinguisher may be able to put out a small fire, but if the flames have already started to spread, exiting the home quickly should be the top priority. Let your loved ones know that they shouldn’t try to save valuables if the house is on fire. The most important thing is that they stay safe.

Prepare a fire escape plan for elderly people that includes night time routes.

Have a Fire Escape Plan for the Elderly

In the event of a fire, you may only have minutes or even seconds to escape your home. This can be difficult for seniors with mobility issues, which is why you’ll want to make sure you have an exit plan in place ahead of time.

Fires can block off exits, which is why you’ll want to identify multiple exits. For example, come up with a way for a senior to leave the home through both the front and back door. Talk to your family members about the exit plan. Make sure that exiting the home won’t be a problem.

Have a Plan for Every Room

Develop safety plans for every room of the home. Figure out the best ways to exit the bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom, and every other room of the home. You should always find multiple exits and practice leaving a room in different ways.

Keep Important Items Ready to Go

Glasses, keys, hearing aids, and phones should always be in easy reach. Encourage your loved ones to keep these important items on their nightstand. Many seniors rely on glasses to see, which is why you should make sure they’ll easily be able to find them if a fire breaks out.

Think About Mobility Needs and Challenges

It’s always important to consider someone’s abilities when coming up with an exit plan. If a senior uses a walker or a wheelchair, it’s likely that they’ll need assistance when escaping from a fire. If you live with an elderly family member, you’ll want to create an exit plan that involves the entire family. Make sure that you rehearse your exit plan so that everyone knows what they need to do in the event of a fire.

It’s best for seniors with use mobility aids to sleep on the ground floor of a home. Being on the ground floor will make it easier to reach an exit. The closer someone is to an exit, the more likely it is that they’ll be able to safely escape a fire.

Have Neighbors Available to Help

If your family member lives on their own or in an apartment building, you may want to talk to other people that will be able to assist them. You may even want to contact the local fire department so that they’re better equipped to help your loved ones in the event of an emergency.

When a fire breaks out in the home, people often panic. If you have a clear exit plan in place, everyone in the house will know exactly what they need to do. Having an exit plan in place will allow people to escape house fires, even if they don’t have a lot of time.

What To Avoid

Escape proof doors may seem like a good idea if a member of your family suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia. While securing the doors for seniors with dementia can keep them from wandering away from the house on their own, they can also trap them in the home in the event of a fire.

You’ll also want to make sure you’re not relying on alarms that won’t work the way they’re supposed to. Ideally, you should have a smoke alarm on every level in your home. There should also be alarms in the kitchen and in each bedroom. Once a month, all the smoke detectors in a home should be tested to ensure they are working correctly.

If you have a family member with hearing issues, an alarm may not be able to alert them in the event of a fire. Luckily, there are many other types of smoke alarms for the elderly that can be effective in a situation like this, including alarms that shake pillows or the beds and alarms that emit strobe lights. There are also alarms that produce low-pitched sounds that can easily be detected by people that are hard of hearing.

Wrapping Up

Fire safety is important for all households, but it’s especially crucial for seniors. Because fires are more likely to be fatal for the elderly, it’s all the more important to take the right precautions. Keep these tips in mind so that you can keep your loved ones safe in an emergency scenario.

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Scott Grant, CSA®, ATP

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Certified Rehab Technology Supplier (CRTS®)

I have been serving seniors and the elderly for over 20 years as a medical equipment and custom wheelchair specialist for a regional medical equipment company. I am also a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not helping older adult improve the quality of their lives, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

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