State Fire Marshal Stresses Importance Of Fire Safety For Older Illinoisans

People over the age of 65 face the greatest risk of dying in a fire.

Bernie Tafoya
February 14, 2020 - 2:13 pm
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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office is encouraging older people to take extra precautions to prevent fires in their homes, especially in light of how many older Illinoisans are victims of fire.

Fire Marshal Office spokesman J.C. Fultz said that in 2018, out of 118 people killed in fires in Illinois, 44 percent of them were people ages 60 and older.

That’s why Fultz said older Illinoisans, especially, should come up with an escape plan keeping in mind any physical limitations they may have. He said people should remove from their paths any items that could block them from getting out of their homes.

"You need to keep important things around such as eyeglasses, keys, hearing aids, phones within reach of your bed," Fultz added.

He said the leading cause of fire deaths of older Americans is careless smoking.  "

Don’t smoke in your bed. If you’re going to smoke, smoke outside. Don’t do it when you’re tired. Sometimes, we’ll see that people fall asleep with a cigarette in their mouth and it falls onto the bed, starts the mattress on fire," Fultz said.

Fultz said people should definitely not smoke when using oxygen tanks to aid their breathing.

"There was one incident in Illinois this year where someone was using a soldering iron while using oxygen. That’s not something you want to do," he said.

Fultz suggests you also avoid cooking if you’re extremely tired so you don’t accidentally fall asleep and start a fire.

According to the United States Fire Administration, "on average, over 1,000 Americans 65 and older die in home fires and 2,000 are injured in fire-related incidents yearly."

Checking smoke detectors twice a year is also important, Fultz said.

For people who are hard of hearing or have sight limitations, Fultz said there are aids such as strobe lights and bed and pillow shakers that can alert them to a fire in their homes.

In addition to creating an escape plan, the Illinois Department of Aging offers an Emergency Home Response Service - available to individuals over the age of 60 - that provides an extra level of protection and peace of mind. 

“Our Emergency Home Response Service is a 24-hour, two-way voice communication system that, when activated, links to assistance outside the home. Once you press the button, help will be on its way in any home emergency," said Paula Basta, Director of IDoA.

For more information on our Emergency Home Response Service, call our Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966.

Keep these tips in mind to create a fire safe home:

• Know two ways out of every room. Practice using both ways.

• Remove any items that may block your way out of the room or your home.

• Discuss your fire escape plan with family and neighbors. Contact your building manager or fire department to discuss your plan if you need extra help escaping.

• Keep eyeglasses, keys, hearing aids and a phone within reaching next to your bed.

• Practice your home fire escape drill twice a year.