Fire Safety for People with Disabilities
Plan Ahead for Emergencies
If you are disabled, think about what you should do in case of fire, and talk it over with others. The fire department can help you make a practical escape plan. Include other household members in your plan.
Live Near an Exit:
If you live in an apartment, you’ll be safest on the ground floor. In a two-story house, arrange to sleep on the the first floor. Being on the ground floor and near an exit will make your escape easier. If necessary, have a ramp constructed for emergency exits. Be sure to have a telephone by your bed.
Install Smoke Detectors:
A working smoke detector can save your life in case of fire, warning you while there’s still time to escape. Have your smoke detectors installed outside your sleeping area and on every other level of your home, including the basement. Have them tested monthly according to the manufacturers’ instructions; and have the batteries replaced at least once a year. Special smoke detectors that use a strobe light or vibrator to alert hearing-impaired people are available.
Plan and Practice Your Escape:
Know at least two ways out of every room in your home, especially your bedroom. Plan your escape around your abilities. Practice your escape plan to make sure you can do it. If one way out is a window, be sure that you can open it easily. In an apartment, know the location of the exit stairs; never use an elevator during a fire.
Your Fire Department Can Help:
You should let the fire department know about your special needs, and ask them for suggestions as you make your escape plan. Memorize the fire department’s emergency number, and post it on all your phones. Make sure your address is clearly marked so that fire fighters can see it from the street.
Stop Fire Before It Starts
Never leave cooking unattended. Wear clothing with tight-fitting sleeves when you cook. If food or grease catches fire, smother the flames by sliding a lid over the pan, and turn off the burner. Never put foil or other metals in a microwave oven.
Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that burns- including the clothes you are wearing. A slight brush against some heaters can cause a clothing fire. Follow manufacturers’ instructions for installing, operating, refueling, and cleaning your space heater.
If an appliance smokes or has an unusual smell, unplug it immediately and have it repaired. Replace any electrical cord that is cracked or frayed. Don’t overload extension cords or run them under rugs, and keep them out of traffic areas.
If You Smoke:
Keep large, deep ashtrays around for smokers. Soak the contents of ashtrays with water before emptying them into wastebaskets. Before going to bed, check around furniture for smoldering butts. Never smoke in bed or while taking medication that might cause drowsiness.
In the Event of Fire
Get Out and Stay Out:
If a fire starts, don’t stop for anything; just get out quickly. Call the fire department once you are safely outside.
Test Doors Before You Open Them:
Before opening a door, make sure there’s no fire on the other side. Reach up high, and use the back of your hand to touch the door, the door knob, and space between the door and the frame. If any of these feel hot, use your second way out. If everything feels cool, open the door carefullly, ready to slam it shut if heat or smoke rushes in.
Crawl Low Under Smoke:
If you encounter smoke while escaping, use your alternate exit. If you must excape through smoke, crawl or get as low as you can. The cleanest air will be 12 to 24 inches above the floor.
If You Cannot Escape:
If you cannot get out safely, close all doors between you and the fire and smoke. Stuff cracks around doors and cover all vents to keep smoke out. Call the fire department, report the fire, and tell them exactly where you are trapped. While waiting for rescuers, signal from a window, if possible, by waving a light-colored cloth.
Stop, Drop, and Roll:
If your clothes catch fire, do not run. Drop to the ground, and roll over and over to smother the flames, covering your face with your hands. If your disability would prevent you from doing this, then try to keep a fire-resistant blanket or rug nearby, which you or someone else could use to smother the flames. Do not try to smother flames with your hands.