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Fire safety for people with disabilities

Updated October 9, 2014

Why are People with Disabilities at Risk? Decreased mobility, health, sight, and hearing may limit a personís ability to take the quick action necessary to escape during a fire emergency. Depending on physical limitations, many of the actions an individual can take to protect themselves from the dangers of fire may require help from a caretaker, neighbor, or outside source.

People with disabilities can significantly increase their chances of surviving a fire by practicing proven fire safety precautions.

Have a sound fire safety and escape plan

It is vitally important to make and practice escape plans. In the event of a fire, remember, time is the biggest enemy and every second counts!

  • Involve the assistance of a building manager, family member, or an entrusted friend when practicing your fire escape plan.
  • Know at least two exits from every room.
  • If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to make sure they get through the doorways.
  • Practice opening locked or barred doors and windows.
  • When a fire occurs, do not waste any time saving property. Leave the home immediately. Once out, stay out.

Develop a home fire safety plan

People with mobility difficulties should be encouraged to have their bedroom on the ground floor and as close as possible to an exit.

  • If necessary, have a ramp available for emergency exits.
  • Unless instructed by the fire department, never use an elevator during a fire.
  • Be sure your street address is clearly marked and visible from the street.
  • Know which local emergency services are available and have those numbers posted or memorized.

Inform others of your special needs

Contact your local fire department on a non-emergency telephone number and explain your special needs.

  • Your local fire department will be able to help you with your escape plan and may also be able to perform a home fire safety inspection, as well as offer suggestions about smoke alarm placement and maintenance.
  • Ask emergency providers to keep your special needs information on file.

Install and maintain smoke alarms

Working smoke alarms installed on every level of your home dramatically increase your chances of survival.

  • People with physical limitations should be aware of special fire safety devices that are available, such as smoke alarms with a vibrating pad or flashing light for the deaf or hard of hearing. In addition, smoke alarms with a strobe light outside the house can catch the attention of neighbors or others who might pass by.
  • Smoke alarm batteries need to be tested every month and changed at least once a year. If you can't reach the test button on your smoke alarm, ask someone to inspect it for you.

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