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Fire Safety

Adventures in Eldercare February 2014

The horrendous fire at a Quebec Nursing Home this winter and the 25 deaths of elderly residents in that facility is on the top of the mind of everyone who works in eldercare. No matter who is found at fault in this tragedy the fact remains that our elderly citizens living either at home or in long term care facilities are extremely vulnerable due to their advanced age, possible dementia and/or their frail physical health. Prevention of fire is the only sure way to protect our elderly loved ones from such a gruesome fate.

I have re-produced information from the Fire-Chiefs of Ontario on winter fire-prevention for the elderly senior living at home. If you are an elderly senior living at home or the caregiver of such a senior it is essential that you go through this list and make any changes in the home that are necessary to ensure that the home is safe. There is no guarantee that a fire will not occur, but by complying with this check list you will be doing as much as possible and increasing the odds that your loved ones will survive. It is not the most pleasant of subjects, but action steps are required before a fire, they mean very little afterwards.

Smoke Alarms • Install smoke alarms outside each sleeping area and in each bedroom. • Test and vacuum your smoke alarms each month to make sure they are working. • Smoke alarms 10 years old or older need to be replaced with new units. Home Escape Plans • Know two ways out of every room. • Practice your escape plan at least twice a year. • Do not attempt to go back into a burning home.

Fireplaces and Woodstoves • Never burn gift wrappings, boxes, cartons, or other types of packing in the fireplace. They burn too rapidly and generate far too much heat. • Always use a screen in front of the fireplace to protect against flying sparks. • Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquids to start a fire. • Use only seasoned and dried wood. • Never leave the fire unattended or let it smolder. • Clean the ashes regularly. Place the ashes in a metal container and store outside away from flammable materials.

Heating • Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater. • Never use your oven to heat your home. • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions. • Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional. • Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed. • Be sure all furnace controls and emergency shutoffs are in proper working condition. • Leave furnace repairs to qualified specialists. Do not attempt repairs yourself unless you are qualified. • Inspect the walls and ceiling near the furnace and along the chimney line. If the wall is hot or discoloured, additional pipe insulation or clearance may be required. • Keep trash and other combustibles away from the heating system.

In the Kitchen • Be on alert! If you are sleepy or have consumed alcohol don’t use the stove or stovetop. • Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling, or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen for even a short period of time, turn off the stove. • If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you are cooking. • Keep anything that can catch fire — oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels or curtains — away from your stovetop


Other Important Tips:

Ensure all entry/exits in your home are cleared from snow to ensure you can get out in case of a fire. Make sure all windows are not frozen in case you need to use these as an escape mechanism.

If there is a fire hydrant near your home you can assist the fire department by keeping the hydrant clear of snow so in the event it is needed, it can be located.

In Norfolk County this winter the drifting snow against houses is the worst I have seen, make sure any intake or outflow pipes are open and not covered by drifting snow. This would include, HVAC, hot water heater and furnace exhaust and intake pipes.

Dr. Bruce Veltri operates Victoria Eldercare, a non-medical home care agency matching exceptional care-givers with elderly seniors, to help them maintain independence and remain safely in their own home. Victoria Eldercare is conveniently located in the new Roulston’s Wellness Centre on Donly Drive in Simcoe. Call 519-429-2644 or visit our web-site, for more information about our services.

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