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Captain Jesse Schmidt speaking at a retirement community

Senior Citizen Fire Safety

Senior citizens are statistically more likely to die in home fires that the rest of the population. The risk more than doubles for people 75 and older.

There are several reasons why this is so:

  • The skin of older people is thinner and more vulnerable to fire.
  • As people age, their reflexes slow down.
  • Older people are more likely to be on medication that makes them drowsy.

Reasons 2 and 3 mean that the elderly have more trouble getting out fast if they have a home fire. Reason 3 is especially dangerous if the older person combines the medication with alcohol or smoking.


Smoking is the number one cause of fires that kill senior citizens.

Elderly people on medication tend to become drowsy and "nod off" with lit pipes, cigars or cigarettes. In some cases, they never wake up. Toxic fumes from the smoke can overcome the smoker before the fire even gets started.


Smokers should follow these rules carefully:

  • Avoid smoking when drowsy
  • Always check armchairs and sofas for lit embers and sparks after a person has been smoking. An ember can smolder for hours and burst into flames after everyone in the home has gone to bed.
  • Never smoke around flammable liquids and gases.
  • Always use large, deep ashtrays when smoking.
  • Remember that alcohol and smoking can be a dangerous combination, especially if the smoker is on medication.

People who live in high rise apartment buildings need to remember these special safety tips:

  • In the event of the fire, stay away from the elevators! Most elevators are designed to not operate during a fire situation.
  • Use the stairs. Stairs are the best means of exiting during a fire situation.
  • It's a good idea to memorize the number of doors from your apartment to the exit. You may need to count the doors if the hallway is black with smoke.
  • It's important to have a telephone in your apartment to call for help in case you can't get out.
  • If you wear glasses, keep them by your bedside at night.