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Why Smoke Alarms are Vital for the Elderly

At a recent TSA event, two colleagues from the London Fire Brigade (LFB) gave a very powerful presentation highlighting the huge risk the over 65 population faces when it comes to fires. That statistics are alarming – you are twice as likely to die in a fire if you are over 65. This is a real problem, so much so the Fire Service are currently running a national campaign to raise awareness of testing smoke alarms for elderly neighbours.

Smoke Alarms – What’s the Issue?

The main issue is that half of fire related deaths are down to cigarettes, so the likelihood of an elderly smoker dying in a fire increases significantly. But it gets worse.

Over a third of theses deaths in the UK were in buildings with no smoke alarm. If you add the complications of poor mobility and the chances of becoming confused easily, it’s clear that if you are over 65, a smoker and live in a building with no smoke alarm directly in your home then you are at a huge risk and the odds are not on your side.

The LFB made it very clear that the simplest solution was to install smoke alarms, not only in communal areas such as hallways, but in locations within each home where there is a risk of fire. One suggestion for elderly smokers is to install a smoke alarm near each location where they may sit and enjoy a cigarette. You may therefore place one in the living room, the hallway and possibly in the bedroom if they are prone to smoke in bed.

Stephen Norman from the LFB cited many examples of elderly people dying in their own beds after getting trapped in their bedrooms after dropping a cigarette whilst falling asleep. A simple smoke alarm installation may have prevented many of these deaths.

Careline providers such as TeleCare24 can provide smoke alarms that link in with the careline alarm, enabling our 24/7 care team to respond immediately an alarm is raised. The importance of this is made clear when you consider the response times of the Fire Brigade.

Consider the following timeline of a typical fire if there is a smoke alarm situated in a communal hallway.

0 Mins: Mrs Jones drops a smouldering cigarette in a waste paper basket.
15 Mins: Smoke Alarm triggers and Alerts 24/7 call centre
(It can take up to 15 mins for the fire to trigger the smoke alarm in a communal hallway.)
16 Mins: Careline Alarm dials out to the 24/7 monitoring centre
17 Mins: Call Centre contacts Fire Brigade with details of fire and location.
19 Mins: Fire Brigade leave local station to attend fire.
(Ave time to location – 6-7 minutes.)
25 Mins: Fire Brigade arrive, assess fire and hook up to nearest hydrant.
28 mins: Fire brigade attempt to bring the fire under control.
Whilst the smoke alarm in the hallway triggers within 15 mins, the Fire Brigade are not realistically able start tackling the fire until almost 30 minutes have passed. It’s more than likely that if an elderly person is inside the home, the fire is not survivable after approximately 15-20 minutes.

Smoke Alarms connected to a careline service in the persons home could reduce the above times by 10-15 minutes, potentially saving the home owners life.Imagine the above scenario with no smoke alarm It’s hard to imagine anyone surviving.

Top tips for fitting Smoke Alarms

Choosing and fitting your smoke alarm

  • Ideally, include a smoke alarm when you are purchasing a careline alarm. This way the monitoring centre can quickly raise the alert even if you are asleep.
  • Make sure any alarm you buy is marked with a current British Standards or European (CE) safety mark
  • Fit smoke alarms on every level of your home ceiling or high up on a wall, if the instructions state it is suitable to do so
  • Make sure you cover every room containing a fire risk
  • Fit smoke alarms away from kitchens or bathrooms as steam can damage the alarm, or set it off by mistake
  • Consider installing a smoke alarm with a 10 year battery
  • Fit extra smoke alarms if you have difficulty leaving the house quickly to give you an advanced warning

How to make sure your smoke alarm works

  • Test your smoke alarm every week
  • Change the battery when the low battery warning operates
  • Never disconnect or take the batteries out of your alarm if it goes off by mistake
  • Do not try to remove batteries in 10 year smoke alarms as they cannot be removed or replaced

Other types of detection
Heat detectors are designed for use in the kitchen and will go off when a certain temperature is met or when the temperature in the room rises at a certain rate.They are not meant to replace smoke alarms, but using a combination of the two can provide maximum protection against the dangers of fire in the home.

More tips available at www.london-fire.gov.uk/SmokeAlarms.asp

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