Jill Bronaugh
Public Information Manager
Office of the State Fire Marshal
800 SW Jackson, Suite 104
Topeka, KS 66612-1216

Fire Safety for Older Adults

User Not Found | May 02, 2016

Nationally, May is recognized as Older Americans Month, a time to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons in our country. This month is also an opportunity to recognize that older Kansans are significantly more at risk than other members of the population to be victims of house fires. The Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) has joined together to offer fire safety tips to help prevent older adults from starting fires or being injured or killed by one.

In 2013, according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), older adults (ages 65 and older) represented 14 percent of the United States population but suffered 36 percent of all fire deaths. In Kansas, of the 37 total fire-related deaths in 2015, 16 victims were over the age of 65 – representing 43% of the total fire deaths.

The USFA research also shows that older adults are 2.5 times more likely to die in a fire than the general population. The risk worsens as we age, with people ages 85 and older 3.6 times more likely to die in a fire.

“Whether living independently or in a care facility, there are steps older Kansans can take to remain safe from a fire. Knowledge and awareness are the keys to preventing fires,” said Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Interim Secretary Tim Keck. “The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services joins the Office of the State Fire Marshal in urging older adults to take a proactive approach to home fire safety by learning about potential fire hazards and how to prevent them.”

The Kansas Fire Marshal and KDADS offer these tips to keep seniors safe from the dangers of fire:

Home Heating

  • When space heaters are on, keep them at least three feet away from anything that can burn, such as curtains or furniture.
  • If you’re exiting the room, or if you’re going to bed, make sure that your turn off and unplug the space heater.

    Have a Fire Safe Home

  • Have smoke detectors installed outside each sleeping area and replace the battery two times a year—every time that you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time.
  • If you must smoke, never smoke in bed. Never smoke in a home where medical oxygen is used.
  • Walk through your home and identify any possible exits in case of a fire. Make a fire escape plan and practice it.

    Cooking Safety

  • Never wear loose clothes or clothes with long sleeves when cooking. Remember to use oven mitts when handling hot pans. And NEVER leave the kitchen while you’re cooking.
  • Check the kitchen after you finish cooking to make sure the oven burners and other appliances are turned off.

Finally, if there's fire or smoke. Get out and stay out. Call 911 from outside the home and wait for firefighters to arrive.

For more fire safety tips and a video about fire safety for seniors, visit