Safe Community Project


Creating Safer Homes for Older Adults

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The Safe Community Project’s L.A. Division, MySafe:LA is adding a new initiative to its community risk reduction initiatives. Focusing on older adults who live independently, MySafe:LA will inspect homes, install FREE ten-year sealed smoke alarms, and provide specific educational materials aimed at keeping older adults safe. 

A female MySafe:LA representative speaking to an older man inside his home.

Older adults living on their own face several unique fire safety challenges that can increase their risk of fire-related injuries or fatalities. Here are some of the key issues and risk factors:

  1. Mobility Issues: Many older adults have reduced mobility due to age-related health conditions such as arthritis, balance disorders, or weakness. This can make it difficult for them to quickly escape in the event of a fire.
  2. Hearing Impairments: Hearing loss can prevent older adults from hearing smoke alarms or fire emergency signals, delaying their response time when quick action is crucial.
  3. Vision Impairments: Reduced vision can make it harder to see smoke, flames, or fire escape routes. It can also lead to accidents such as knocking over candles or not properly extinguishing cigarettes.
  4. Cognitive Impairments: Conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can impair an older adult’s ability to understand and react appropriately to a dangerous situation. They might forget to turn off appliances or recognize the sound of a smoke alarm as a warning.
  5. Medication Effects: Some medications can cause drowsiness or confusion, further impairing an individual’s ability to respond to an emergency.
  6. Living Alone: Without someone else to assist or remind them of safety practices, older adults living alone may not maintain fire safety measures, such as testing smoke alarms or keeping fire extinguishers handy.
  7. Use of Heating Appliances: Older adults may use space heaters or electric blankets to stay warm. These devices can pose fire risks if not used correctly or if they malfunction.
  8. Cooking Accidents: Cooking is a leading cause of home fires. Older adults may forget food cooking on the stove or accidentally leave combustible materials near heat sources.
  9. Electrical Hazards: Worn or outdated electrical systems and appliances can pose significant fire risks. Older adults may not be aware of the need for regular checks and maintenance.
  10. Smoking: If the individual smokes, they might do so indoors, and the risk of falling asleep with a lit cigarette can be higher, especially if they are on medications that cause drowsiness.
Close up image of a person installing a smoke alarm on a wall.
Four public safety members from MySafe:LA speaking to a homeowner outside their home on a sunny day.

Mitigation Strategies
: To address these challenges, MySafe:LA is taking specific steps to help this vital component of our community to remain safe at home, including:

  • Installing smoke alarms that have sealed batteries and don’t need to be changed for ten years
  • Also installing supportibve devices that also use strobe lights or bed shakers.
  • Teaching older adults about keeping escape routes clear and accessible.
  • Having regular check-ups on electrical appliances and heating devices.
  • Providing materials developed specifically for older adults, including how to live safety at home, how to reach out for help when needed, evacuation tips, as well as overall wellness information.
A female public safety officer is handing her male colleague a piece of equipment while a third male colleague speaks to someone at the entryway of the home.

Thanks to a grant from the FEMA Fire Prevention and Safety initiative, MySafe:LA is working to make a difference in thousands of older adults’ lives in the greater L.A. region.

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