Preparing for the unpredictable: Urbana assisted living home regularly practices fire safety

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According to the National Fire Protection Association, the very young and the very old are at highest risk of death from home fires.

By Joe Moyles, Carl Rosenberg, Charlie Maniates and Rebecca Jacobs / For — The U.S. Fire Administration said that in 2010, adults 65 years or older represented only 13 percent of the U.S. population, but made up 35 percent of all fire deaths.

They also said individuals 65 years or over are 2.7 times more likely to die in a fire than the rest of the general population.

The staff at Meadowbrook Health Center in Urbana, Illinois, emphasized the importance in educating and preparing their residents in case of a fire when we talked to them in this video.

How Meadowbrook Prepares

Meadowbrook is part of Clark-Lindsey, not-for-profit continuing care retirement community in Urbana.

“We go through annually a fire extinguisher program, and then every quarter is a training program where we actually drill an actual fire drill system,” said Fred Lux, director of environmental services at Meadowbrook.

Lux said they practice how to do an evacuation about twelve times a year.

Worker Jason Rice understands that many of Meadowbrook’s residents rely on him and the rest of the staff in case of a fire. Physical impairments and other reasons could prevent some residents from evacuating on their own.

Practicing evacuation and fire safety prepares the staff and residents in case an emergency does occur.

According to The U.S. Fire Administration, “at least 75 percent of nursing home patients need assistance with three or more activities of daily living.”

Impairments from increased age can slow down reaction time during a fire. Contrary to common belief, when someone is sleeping, he or she cannot smell smoke. Instead, fire alarms are usually what will wake a person up.

Smoke can cause confusion, making people wake up disoriented from a fire alarm going off. Having a plan in place before a fire occurs can help dispel the confusion.

Simple Fire Safety Tips

Senior citizens and people of all ages can learn how to fireproof their residences on their own in this instructional video. One tip is to not use an extension cord permanently; extension cords are meant for temporary use only.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, “cooking equipment is the leading cause of home structure fires and non-fatal home fire injuries.” It is easy to walk away and forget about food cooking a stove.

Smoking materials are another common cause of fires. The Champaign and Urbana fire departments urge people not to smoke in their beds or even when they are sleepy. Additionally, dispose of smoking materials properly.

The Champaign and Urbana fire departments give free smoke detectors at public events throughout the year. Smoke detectors act as a first defense in reaction when you may not be attentive.

Keep a hammer in your bedroom in case you get trapped in a room during a fire. The hammer can be used to smash open a window, allowing you to escape or call for help.

Many causes of fires involve common household activities. Being prepared prevents mishaps.

This story was produced by University of Illinois students in Assistant Professor of Journalism Janice Collins’ multimedia class. It is part of Elderly Watch, a project of that focuses on elderly issues in east central Illinois. The project is funded by the Marajen Stevick Foundation.

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