Caring Currents

Fire! A Teaching Tool

Last updated: Apr 17, 2008

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A heartbreak in Texas offers lessons that can protect elders everywhere. Retired airplane technician and avid gardener Frank Dusek died in the middle of the night when his house caught on fire in early April. Frank lived alone in Euless, outside of Ft.Worth.

Yes, he had a smoke detector. It was found lying on a chair in the charred house -- with no batteries. The tragedy was covered by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Something positive happened after Frank’s death. Fire investigators and volunteers walked his neighborhood, home to many seniors, passing out and installing smoke detectors.

The elderly are at much greater risk of dying from fire than younger people. (Check out this Fact Sheet from the U.S. Fire Administration.) Why? Because they're more likely to have hearing, vision, memory, or mobility problems that affect their ability to detect smoke, properly use a smoke detector, and escape fire.

Prevention really can help, but many seniors need assistance -- reminders, nudging, and double-checking.

A few things you can do right now to help your parents:

  • Install smoke detectors, and regularly check and change their batteries.
  • Develop and practice a home fire escape plan.
  • Talk about not cooking in loose, baggy clothing and not smoking in bed or when drowsy.
  • Remove home and yard clutter, especially if it’s close to a heaters or stove.
  • Install fire extinguishers and consider a home sprinkler system.

One more thought: You can spread the word about fire safety, as the Texas folks did after Frank's death.

Image by Flickr user


used under the Creative Commons attribution license.