Seniors: How can I be Fire Safe?


Yes! Seniors are the fastest growing segment of the population. You are also among the most vulnerable to fire injury and death. As a senior you must take special precautions to care for yourself.


Install and maintain smoke alarms

  • Install smoke alarms on all floors.
    Install smoke alarms, on every floor of your home and outside each sleeping area. For maximum protection, install smoke alarms in every bedroom.
  • Test smoke alarms monthly. For battery operated smoke alarms change the batteries at least once a year, or immediately if the smoke alarm makes a chirping sound indicating that the batteries need replacing. Testing smoke alarms may be difficult for some seniors. Rather than standing on a chair to push the test button, remain on the floor and use a broom handle to push the test button. Smoke alarms with a flashlight test are available.
  • Smoke alarms should be cleaned at least once every six months by gently vacuuming the exterior.
  • Smoke alarms do wear out and should be replaced at least every ten years.
  • Special communication aids, which convert the sound of a smoke alarm into flashing lights or vibrations, are available for hearing impaired people.
  • Smoke alarms installed in or near the kitchen should include a pause feature.
  • If you have hard wired smoke alarms, install battery operated smoke alarms on every floor in case of a power failure.

Prepare and Practice a Home Fire Escape Plan

  • Draw a simple plan of your home and identify two ways out of every room.
  • Never use elevators in a fire.
  • Determine a meeting place outside your home. Practice your escape plan at least twice a year.
  • Make sure you can unlock and open all windows and doors quickly, especially those with security bars and deadbolts.
  • If you are escaping from a second storey or higher, plan a safe way to the ground.
  • If you live in an apartment, familiarize yourself with your building floor plan and evacuation procedures. In a fire emergency, NEVER use the elevator. Use the exit stairways and close all doors behind you.
  • If you are dependent on eyeglasses or essential medication, keep these items by your bedside for easy access in the event of an emergency. Be sure to take them with you.


Be Careful When Smoking

  • Never smoke in bed.
  • Use safe ashtrays. Large, deep, sturdy ashtrays are best. Soak smoking materials with water before discarding.
  • Keep smoking materials including matches and lighters out of reach of young children.
  • Smokers must remember that alcohol and medications can make you less alert.

Take Care of Heating Equipment

  • Keep heaters properly maintained. Only use space heaters that have a protective screen covering the elements.
  • Keep all combustibles away from space heaters. Space heaters need at least one metre (3 feet) of clearance.
  • Don't dry wet items such as shoes, towels or clothing on space heaters.
  • Always turn off or unplug space heaters before leaving the house or going to bed.

Think Safety in the Kitchen

  • Never leave cooking unattended. Turn off appliances as soon as you are through using them.
  • Prevent burns by using oven mitts or potholders when cooking. Wear tight fitting sleeves to prevent them from dangling into flames or onto hot burners. Always turn pot handles to the back of the stove so that pots cannot be pulled or knocked off.
  • To extinguish a grease fire, use a pot holder or oven mitt to slide a lid or cookie sheet over the flames and then turn the heat off. Never carry a burning pot!
  • Keep appliances and cooking surfaces free of spills and grease that may catch fire. Keep paper towels, dish towels, potholders and other combustibles away from hot surfaces.


  • When the smoke alarm sounds, check the door. Stay low behind the door, reach up and feel the door and the door handle for heat.
  • If the door feels cool, brace yourself against it and open it slowly.  If safe, leave the building and go directly to your meeting place. If you encounter smoke, crawl low under the smoke. Cleaner air is down low near the floor. Once you are out of the building go directly to your planned meeting place. Do not re-enter the building. Go to a neighbour's house and call the fire department.
  • If the door feels warm or if you see smoke or flames on the other side of the door, shut the door and use your second exit. If you are trapped, seal the openings around the door and vents with wet bedding or towels. Call the fire department using 9-1-1 or your local emergency number to notify them of your location. Open a window and signal for help.


  • If your clothes catch on fire, STOP where you are, DROP to the floor, cover your face with your hands, and ROLL over and over until the flames go out.
  • If you get burned, immediately cool the burn by placing it under cool water for 10-15 minutes. Cool water reduces skin damage and minimizes pain. NEVER use butter, lotions, ice or ointments on a burn. Don't break blisters as this could cause infection. Seek medical attention if any burns char the skin, blister, look white or become infected.
Treat burns with cool water.

Sponsored By:
Greater Vancouver Fire Chiefs Association Public Education Committee