Detect, Escape and Survive
Risks & Abilities
Understand Everyone's Risks and Abilities
Who wouldn't be frightened or disoriented in a home fire? Consider how much more difficult it would be to make life-saving decisions if the alarm were to wake you from a sound sleep and you must get yourself and your loved ones out of a dark, smoky house.
Escaping a fire is a challenge for anyone, day or night. But consider how difficult it must be for someone who has a functional limitation that restricts his or her ability to detect a fire or get out quickly.
Functional limitations exist in all age groups and can range in severity. For example:
- An 18-year-old who sleeps soundly may not hear an alarm.
- A 40-year-old who has consumed too much alcohol may stay and try to fight the fire.
- A 68-year-old may have limited ability to escape because of a jogging injury.
The first step in escape planning is to understand everyone's abilities and limitations.
Children often have limitations that hinder their ability to escape.
- They have less control over their environments.
- They have limited ability to react appropriately to a fire.
- They are often asleep at the time of a fire.
- They may be too inexperienced to know how to escape safely.
Persons with Physical Limitations
Anyone who has a hearing, vision or mobility limitation may have difficulty escaping a fire.
- Persons who have hearing difficulties may not be alerted to fire dangers.
- Loud smoke alarms may make it difficult for visually impaired persons to process audible clues or instructions over the piercing sound.
- People who have limited mobility may have to rely on the physical assistance of others in order to escape safely.
Normal age-related changes cause minor functional limitations that increase fire risk, even in the healthiest older adults. These changes and their resulting limitations include:
- Changes in reflexes, strength, and dexterity may cause slower reaction times.
- Changes in skin can diminish the awareness of pain and compromise healing.
- Decreased lung capacity can increase the severity of a smoke inhalation injury.
In addition, disease-related conditions may be more prevalent in later life. These conditions are the primary cause of some functional limitations that would put someone at greater risk in a fire, such as changes to vision, hearing, mobility or judgment. These limitations may hinder a person's ability to detect a fire or escape its effects. For example:
- A woman who has visual limitations from advanced macular degeneration could have difficulty finding her way out of a home she has lived in for 50 years.
- A man who has a moderate hearing impairment may take longer to hear and respond to a smoke alarm in the middle of the night when his hearing aid is not in place.
- A woman who has rheumatoid arthritis may not be able to get downstairs quickly.
- A man who has Alzheimer's disease may not be able to respond appropriately in a fire situation.
When you develop an escape plan, consider your abilities and those of every member of your household, regardless of age. Understand that anyone who has a functional limitation is at greater risk in a fire. Good preparation can help minimize these risks.
Escaping a fire is a challenge for anyone, day or night.