Fire Safety for the Elderly: Why Photoelectric Alarms Matter



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Smoke Alarms, Fire Safety, and Seniors’ Homes

Fire safety is a concern for a caregiver every day of the year. Smoke alarms help many caregivers who are caring for elderly smokers. 

The fire risk is greater when a smoker may not realize the dangers or is careless with lit cigarettes.

 It’s a stressful situation at home if a loved one with dementia also smokes.

If you have noticed burn spots on your loved one’s clothing and furniture at home, immediately monitor and, if possible, stop the person from smoking carelessly. 

People who smoke cigarettes should not be permitted to light up in bed, and they should not smoke anywhere near the bedroom. There are too many risks of igniting a fire or having a smoldering fire there.

Handling Smoking

Find a porch outside with nothing that can catch fire, like foam or fabric, and only smoke there. 

If the smoker insists on smoking indoors, then ashtrays should be provided, and the smoker should be monitored to see that cigarettes are put out completely, and that clothing and furniture are not burned.

Of course, it would be best if the smoker would stop smoking completely. Ask your doctor to help the smoker reduce or quit smoking. 

It will improve the health of everyone in the household and eliminate hazardous fire hazards at home.

What a caregiver can do.

Caregivers, make certain you have working smoke alarms at home, with at least one on each floor, if not in every room. Certainly, put one wherever the smoker is likely to smoke. 

Two-thirds of residential fire deaths, according to experts, take place in homes without a smoke alarm or in homes where the smoke alarm is inoperable. Replace each smoke alarm every ten years.

What kind of smoke alarm is best?

Nearly 300,000 firemen in the United States and Canada are members of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), the largest firefighters union in the world. 

Since 2008, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) has pushed for only photoelectric smoke alarms to be used.

You probably don’t know what kind of smoke alarm you already have. If the label has an “I” or says it contains radioactive material, Americium-24, it is probably an ionization alarm. To be safe, replace any units with photoelectric-only alarms.

Synthetic Materials can Burn More Quickly.

Why? There are a lot of synthetic materials in homes and furniture today, like foam and particle board, which burn faster than the materials used in the past. 

These materials create more smoke and gases as they burn. 

A photoelectric alarm will sound off earlier than an ionization alarm and give you more time to help everyone around you get out of harm’s way as quickly as possible.

What you Should Do

Determine what kind of smoke alarm you have. Replace ionization alarms with photoelectric smoke alarms.

  • Put photoelectric alarms where smoke will probably occur: kitchens, bedrooms, and living rooms.
  • Check the manufacturing date on the alarm, and replace the alarms every 10 years.
  • Replace the batteries on a regular schedule.
  • Check the smoke alarms each month, so you know they do work.

A few moments of fire safety will ease your worries and protect you, your loved ones, and your property from fire dangers. 

For more fire safety tips, see the National Fire Prevention Association website.

Reference: Smoke Alarms and the Modern Residence Fire by UL, Northbrook, Ill., Copyright UL, 2012.