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Fire Safety and the Elderly

I know that there are more cheery things to think about as we venture into the coldest months of the year but our patients have a better chance of enjoying the Holiday season if we take steps to protect them from fire.

Facts & figures*

  • In 2003, there were 388,500 reported home fires in the United States, resulting in 3,145 deaths, 13,650 injuries and $5.9 billion in direct property damage.
  • Nationwide, there was a civilian home fire death every 3 hours.
  • The statistics below are based on NFPA´s most recent analyses:
  • Almost half of all home fire deaths in 1999 resulted from fires that were reported between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Only one-quarter of the home fires occur during these hours.
  • In 1999, January was the peak month for home fire deaths. December ranked second, and March was third.
  • Smoking was the leading cause of home fire deaths overall, but in the months of December, January and February, smoking and heating equipment caused similar shares of fire deaths. Cooking was the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries year-round.
  • Although children five and under make up about 7% of the country’s population, they accounted for 14% of the home fire deaths, assigning them a risk twice the national average. Based on 1995-1999 annual averages, adults 65 and older also face a risk twice the average, while people 85 and older have a risk that is four-and-a-half times more than average.

    • Roughly 30% of the home fire deaths in 1999 were caused by fires in which a smoke alarm was present and operated.
    • Most fatal fires kill one or two people. In 2003, 15 home fires killed five or more people. These 15 fires resulted in 86 deaths.**

    A great teaching tool for patients can be found here.

    If you have any questions, please call your local fire department. Many times, the fire departments will provide and install smoke detectors for patients. For goodness sakes, don’t call us about fire safety because our area of expertise lies elsewhere!

    But we love your comments below and your emails at

    * From national estimates reported to U.S. municipal fire departments based on NFIRS and NFPA survey. Excludes fires reported only to federal or state agencies or industrial fire brigades.
    ** From “The Catastrophic Multiple-Death Fires of 2003,” September 2004.
    Note: Homes include dwellings, duplexes, manufactured homes, apartments, rowhouses, townhouses and condominiums.

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