Fire Tips for Older Adults and Those with Disabilities


  • Prevention is the best way to keep your home safety from fire.
  • Be Kitchen Wise: Never leave cooking unattended. Use oven mitts and wear clothes with tight-fitting or rolled-up sleeves when you cook. Use a kitchen timer and remind yourself to turn off burners and the oven.
  • Keep stove surfaces free of clutter and built-up grease. Don't cook if you've been drinking alcohol or taking medication that makes you drowsy.
  • Be Smoker Wary: Provide smokers with large, deep, non-tip ashtrays.
  • Empty ashtrays often, wetting the contents before dumping them. Never smoke in bed or while drinking alcohol or while you are on medication that could make you drowsy or disoriented.
  • Give Space Heaters Space: Keep portable heaters and space heaters at least three feet (one meter) from everything --- including you. Just brushing against one could set your clothing on fire.
  • Install Smoke Detectors: Be sure to have smoke detectors outside or in all sleeping areas, and on every level of your home, including the basement. Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries once a year or when the detector is "chirping" to indicate that the battery is low. If you sleep in a room with the doors closed, install a smoke detector inside the room as well. If you are hearing impaired, use tested and approved smoke detectors that trigger a strobe light.


  • Know Two Ways Out: Plan two escape routes from every room in your home.
  • Know How to Unlock Doors and Windows: Windows should open easily and fully, to allow escape. All security-barred windows and doors needed for escape should be equipped with quick-release devices that every household member can operate.
  • Know All Building Exits: If you live in an apartment building, count the number of doorways between your apartment and the two nearest exits.
  • No matter where you live, be familiar with all exits, including windows. If you have trouble with stairs, it may be best to sleep on the first floor.


  • Remain calm.
  • Close all doors between you and the smoke.
  • If there is a phone in the room, call the fire department and tell the dispatcher where you are trapped. Call the fire department even if you can see fire trucks through your window.
  • Stuff rags, towels, or clothing in the cracks around doors to keep smoke out. Wait at a window; signal the fire fighters by waving a light colored cloth or flashlight and wait to be rescued.


  • Test Doors Before You Open Them: Kneeling or crouching at the door, reach up as high as you can and touch the door, the knob, and then space between the door and its frame with back of your hand. If the door is cool, open it cautiously and continue along your escape route. If it is hot keep the door closed and seek an alternative escape route or stay in your room.
  • Crawl Low Under Smoke: If you must exit through smoke, crouch or crawl. Heat and smoke rise; cleaner air will be 12-24 inches (30-60 cm) above the floor.
  • Get Out and Stay Out: Leave the building as quickly as you can. Call the fire department from a neighbor's phone. Do not go back into the building for any reason.
  • Stop, Drop, and Roll: If your clothing catches fire, stop where you are; drop gently to the floor or ground, cover your face with your hands to protect your face from flames, and roll over and over to smother the flames. If you cannot drop to the floor smother the flames with a blanket or towel.
  • Smother a Grease Fire: If a pan of food catches fire, using a pot holder, carefully slide a lid over it and turn off the burner.

Reprinted from the NFPA pamphlet "Fire Safety Tips for Older Adults"

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