Seniors Safety

Older adults are more likely to be killed or injured by fire. About 30 per cent of fire related deaths in Ontario involve people 65 years of age and older.  It is important to give seniors the education and tools they need to plan around their abilities and have a home free of fire hazards.

Richmond Hill's Fire and Emergency Services department has a Safety for Seniors Program. The program is for local seniors to teach them about possible safety issues around their home.  

 Home Safety Check

Our home safety check program helps older adults, who live in their own homes, to: 

  • install and maintain smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
  • identify fire hazards
  • find solutions to lower the risk of fires 

You can apply for a free home safety check if you: 

  • Are a Richmond Hill resident
  • Live alone or as a senior couple in your own home
  • Are at least 55 years of age 

Contact the Richmond Hill Fire and Emergency Services, Fire Prevention Division at 905-883-5444 to request a home safety check. 

 Seniors' Fire Safety

Knowing what to do in the event of a fire is particularly important for older adults. At age 65, people are twice as likely to be killed or injured by fires compared to the population at large. And with our numbers growing every year it's essential to take the necessary steps to stay safe. Follow these safety tips to stay safe.

 Keep It Low
  •  If you don't live in an apartment building, consider sleeping in a room on the ground floor in order to make emergency escape easier.
  • Make sure that smoke alarms are installed in every sleeping room and outside any sleeping areas.
  • Have a telephone installed where you sleep in case of emergency.
  • When looking for an apartment or high-rise home, look for one with an automatic sprinkler system. Sprinklers can extinguish a home fire in less time that it takes for the fire department to arrive.
 Sound the Alarm
  •  Install smoke alarms on each level of your home and inside and outside sleeping areas.
  • Test them monthly and replace alkaline batteries at least once a year.
  • Caregivers are encouraged to check the smoke alarms of those who are unable to do it themselves.
  • If anyone in your household is deaf or if your own hearing is diminished, consider installing a smoke alarm that uses a flashing light or vibration to alert you to a fire emergency. Find out more.
  • Always choose equipment that has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Make sure everyone in your home understands and reacts to the signal (light, vibration, or sound) used in their situation.
  • All smoke alarms should be tested at least monthly. Replace smoke alarms and equipment for people who are deaf or hard or hearing according to manufacturer’s recommendations.
 Do The Drill
  • Have at least two exits from every room.
  • Plan your escape around your abilities. Have necessary items near your bed such as glasses, wheelchair, walker, scooter or cane.
  • If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure that you can go through the doorways.
  • Conduct your own, or participate in, regular fire drills to make sure you know what to do in the event of a home fire.
  • If you or someone you live with cannot escape alone, designate a member of the household to assist, and decide on backups in case the designee isn't home.
  • Fire drills are also a good opportunity to make sure that everyone is able to hear and respond to smoke alarms.
 Stay Connected
  • Know your local emergency number (911).
  • Keep a telephone nearby, along with emergency phone numbers so that you can communicate with emergency personnel if you're trapped in your room by fire or smoke.
 Home Fire Prevention
  • Give space heaters space. Keep them at least 1 meter away from anything that can burn – including you!
  • Stay in the kitchen when cooking. If you leave the kitchen, even for a short period of time, turn off the burner and move the pan to a cooler burner.
  • Don’t cook if you are drowsy from alcohol or medication.
  • If a pan of food catches fire, slide a lid over it and turn off the burner.
  • Careless smoking is a leading cause of home fire deaths among older adults. If you must smoke, never smoke in bed.
Medical Oxygen

If a fire should start in an oxygen-enriched area, the material burning will burn more quickly. Homes where medical oxygen is used need specific fire safety rules to keep people safe from fire and burns.

Safety Tips:

  • There is no safe way to smoke in the home when oxygen is in use. A patient on oxygen should not smoke.
  • Candles, matches, wood stoves and even sparking toys, can be ignition sources and should not be used in the home.
  • Keep oxygen cylinders at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) from a heat source, open flames or electrical devices.
  • Body oil, hand lotion and items containing oil and grease can easily ignite. Keep oil and grease away where oxygen is in use.
  • Never use aerosol sprays containing combustible materials near the oxygen.
  • Post No Smoking and No Open Flames signs in and outside the home to remind people not to smoke

Careless smoking is a leading cause of home fire deaths among older adults.

  • If you must smoke, smoke outside and never smoke in bed. Most deaths result from fires that started in living rooms, family rooms and dens or in bedrooms.
  • Use only fire-safe cigarettes
  • Never smoke when oxygen is in use.
  • Use a deep, sturdy ashtray. Place it away from anything that can burn.
  • Do not discard cigarettes in vegetation such as mulch, potted plants or landscaping, peat moss, dried grasses, leaves or other things that could ignite easily.
  • Before you throw away butts and ashes, make sure they are out, and dousing in water or sand is the best way to do that. 
 Fire Safety for Caregivers

When it comes to fire, the elderly are one of the highest risk groups. Sometimes special considerations need to be taken to compensate for deteriorating senses and physical disabilities, and some behaviours need to be changed altogether. That's why it's so important for caregivers to have a thorough understanding of fire safety for the elderly.

 General Safety
  • Always be aware of loose clothing around heat sources like candles and stoves.
  • With the wrong clothing, one slight misjudgement can result in a fire causing serious burns.
  • If space heaters are used in the home, make sure they are kept at least one metre (three feet) away from anything that can burn, such as furniture, curtains, paper or people.
  • Can everyone hear the smoke alarm? If not, consider another type of alarm, like one that has a different sound or one that comes with a bed shaker or strobe light.
  • Make sure people who use a wheelchair or a cane can get to them and get out quickly. Tell them to keep glasses or hearing aids next to the bed.
  • If the person you care for doesn't live in an apartment building, consider having them sleep in a room on the ground floor in order to make emergency escape easier.
 Smoking and Cigarettes
  • If the person you care for is a smoker, make sure that they use a large, deep, non-tip ashtray.
  • Keep an eye on them if they are drinking and smoking, to make sure they don't fall asleep with a lit cigarette.
  • Empty ash trays often, wetting their contents before dumping them.
  • After an elderly smoker has left the room, make sure you check the cushions around where they were sitting for smouldering cigarette butts.
  • Caregivers may be able to discourage smoking by removing visible reminders, such as cigarettes, matches, lighters and ashtrays. 
 Kitchen Safety
  • Clear the Clutter! Keep an eye out for clutter around stoves—as some people get older, they get less adamant about keeping their stove area clear.
  • Combustible items, such as wooden or plastic cooking utensils, dish cloths, paper towels, and pot holders, can easily ignite if they are too close to a burner—or if they're resting on a wrong burner that is turned on by accident.
  • All combustibles should be a safe distance from the stove.
  • If the person you are caring for is not capable of cooking, removing the fuses or knobs from the stove will prevent its use during unsupervised times. Other appliances, such as toasters and electric kettles, should be unplugged and stored out of sight when not in use.
 Are Your Loved Ones Protected?

If you are considering a care, long-term car or retirement home in Ontario for a relative or friend, here are some important questions to ask?

  • Has the facility had a fire safety inspection from the local fire department?
  • Is the building well maintained? Are the doors and hallways free of obstructions?
  • Are there fire safety features in place, or scheduled to be in place, such as:
    • alternative exits
    • smoke alarms
    • fire extinguishers
    • emergency lighting
    • self-closing devices on doors
    • a fire alarm system and sprinklers?
    • Is there a fire safety plan (approved by the fire department) in place and is it reviewed regularly?
    • Have staff received fire safety training?
    • Are fire drills held regularly?
    • Is the room/floor of the building suitable given your loved one’s ability to evacuate in the event of a fire?
    • Are there enough staff available to carry out an evacuation/escape plan if there is a fire?
    • Are there guidelines for people who smoke such as a designated outdoor area, separate room, and/or staff supervision?

You have a right to get answers regarding the fire safety conditions that affect your loved ones.

If you have any concerns about fire safety, contact the local fire department.

Seniors' Presentations and Workshops 

We offer lectures and workshops on a number of safety topics, including: 

  • Fire prevention
  • Fall prevention
  • Escape planning
  • Emergency preparedness 

Contact us to book a presentation.