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The importance of fire safety at your assisted living community

Posted by Dude Solutions Canada, Inc. | Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The importance of fire safety at your assisted living community Everyone remembers fire drills from when they were in school. But you may not fully understand the importance of keeping up with the practice into adulthood and even retirement.

Fires pose a huge safety risk to everyone, but especially seniors who may have difficulty moving quickly due to age, illness or injury. Having a fire safety plan is essential for keeping your residents and staff safe. A good plan should consist both of response and prevention integrated together into a comprehensive strategy. When updating your residence's fire safety plan, here are some pointers to help guide your efforts.

Know the danger

Fires are incredibly destructive, posing risks not just to your community's residents and workforce, but the building itself and any equipment. Even in situations where there are no injuries, you could still be facing a whopping financial burden thanks to repair costs.

The National Fire Protection Association reported that between 2006 and 2010, 6,240 fires occurred just in health care facilities alone - and 46 percent of those affected nursing homes. With 171 injuries to civilians and more than $52 million in damage caused by these blazes, it's clear that fires are a threat you can't afford to ignore. 

Control the causes

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety, 38 percent of fire-related fatalities among seniors in 2014 were due to electrical fires. In a residential setting like a retirement community, where dozens of residents and staffers are living in the same area, there is increased potential for an accidental blaze due to an electrical snafu. If your building is older, have the wiring inspected, as faulty or deteriorating electrical wiring can cause fires without warning. 

It's also important to control risk factors that you do have power over. For example, you can encourage your residents to reduce the risk of electrical fires by highlighting the importance of not overloading outlets with multiple-plug adapters, or of not overusing extension cords or running them where they can be stepped on or pinched.

Evacuation assistance

All preparations aside, it's important to recognize that you can't completely prevent fires from happening, and so having a feasible evacuation plan in place is essential. This can prove challenging within a senior living community, as many residents may suffer from injuries or illnesses that can make moving around freely difficult. You can help ameliorate this process by ensuring that your residents' apartments are all located on the ground floor of you living center, so nobody has to struggle with stairs. Also ensure that exit routes are clearly marked and signs are visible and well-lit so that seniors will be able to follow the evacuation plan effectively.

Improving alerts

By far one of the most important facets of your fire safety plan is your alert system. After all, if residents aren't aware that a blaze has broken out, it can delay their evacuation efforts, which can put people in serious danger. Your fire alarm should be hooked into your community's public address system, if there is one, so that regardless of where people are they can be alerted to a fire as soon as it becomes apparent. There are also many digital and mobile-optimized tools that can make this process easier. Mass notification text-messaging systems and even some smartphone apps can be used to effectively coordinate your evacuation efforts, communicate with staff members and keep track of all of your residents during an emergency. 

Check your equipment

Inspect your smoke alarms regularly. If these essential pieces of equipment are allowed to run out of battery, it can have disastrous consequences. The Massachusetts DPS reported that 15 percent of senior fire-related deaths involved a missing or malfunctioning smoke detector. Keeping smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in proper working order is quick, easy and cheap - failing to do so can result in consequences that are anything but. 

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