Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Fire Safety Tips for the Season

by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern

The holidays and colder weather are fire season for many areas of the United States. According to an article by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), house fires increase markedly from December through February. Handling fire safely and escaping in an emergency can seem more challenging for those with vision loss. Fortunately, many precautions can be taken, with the main point to review and practice fire safety plans and procedures frequently. A United States Fire Administration (USFA) report on fire risks for the blind or visually impaired states that individuals with vision loss are less likely to have fire safety education targeted towards them, less able to extinguish small fires safely, and their senses may be overwhelmed in an emergency. Here are some of the recommendations, along with some from other sources listed below, that complement general fire safety tips:

– Live near an exit if possible, either on the ground floor or near a stairwell to which you know the route.

– Have working smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area and, in some jurisdictions, in every bedroom. Deaf-blind people should have a bed-shaker smoke alarm. An article with safety tips from Disability Navigator notes that most audible alarms have small silences between cycles when you can communicate with others. According to a Business Watch article on smoke alarms, many also have a “hush” feature where pressing the “test” button on the front of the device acknowledges and silences the horn. While this lowers the sensitivity of the smoke sensor and is meant to reduce false alarms, it can also be used once everyone in the household is evacuating the building so a person’s hearing is not overwhelmed.

– Develop a fire safety and escape plan and practice it often, preferably every six months. Have other members of the household help. If necessary, contact your local fire department to alert them of your needs in the event of a fire.

Tips for handling fire safely include:

– Do not wear loose-fitting clothing around open flames;

– When cooking, extinguish a grease fire by sliding a lid over the pot or pan and turning the heat off;

– Keep space heaters at least three feet away from other objects or people;

– If your clothes catch on fire, remember to stop, drop and roll; and

– Fireplaces should be guarded by a glass screen or a hearth. People who are visually impaired can learn to build a so-called “tepee fire,” placing newspaper around the bottom with stick layered above. Then light the fire, being sure to extinguish the match.

Many more facts and tips are included in the links above. Stay safe this winter.