Home Fire Safety for People with Disabilities or Impairments

Home fire safety for people with disabilities and impairments includes an emergency exit ramp, an adequate safety plan, and easy-to-open locks and doors. We also recommend keeping your bedroom near an exit. Our home fire safety guide below provides additional information for those with visual, hearing, and cognitive disabilities as well.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Nov 21, 2020

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Fires in the home can be potentially dangerous and deadly for anyone in the building. People with disabilities and impairments face additional challenges, as they may have a more difficult time identifying or escaping a fire. Planning and being prepared, with disabilities and impairments in mind, can help to improve the safety and survival of everyone in your home.

Visual Impairments

We often use sight to determine how dangerous fire is and how best to avoid it or extinguish it. People with a visual impairment are at a higher risk of injury or death if there is a fire because they need to rely on their other senses instead. They are also more likely to start accidental fires and experience more difficulty in putting out small fires without injury.

There are some precautions that can be taken to lower these risks:

  • Consider living on the ground floor when possible. It will make evacuation easier.
  • Wherever you are living, practice your escape plan.
  • Invest in a fire alarm that buzzes at a lower decibel so people can still be heard over it.
  • Avoid overloading outlets.
  • Avoid open flames when possible.
  • Do not walk away from a stove that is on or still hot.
  • Keep space heaters and chimneys clear of dust and debris.

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Hearing Impairments

Individuals with hearing impairments are less likely to notice a traditional fire alarm going off, especially if they have removed a hearing aid before going to bed. Because of this, one of the best things you can do for fire safety is to invest in a fire alarm created specifically for deaf and hard of hearing people. Fire alarms for the hearing impaired include strobe lights as well as bed-shakers.

In addition to the proper fire alarm, practice fire prevention:

  • Make sure that batteries in smoke alarms are replaced frequently.
  • Store flammable liquids safely.
  • Inspect electrical appliances and wiring.

Resources:

Physical Disabilities

People with physical disabilities have a higher risk when it comes to causing fires. They are also more at risk of being injured or dying in a home fire. Physical disabilities may make escaping a burning building more difficult and, because of that, may slow down evacuation. 

It is vitally important to practice fire safety. Consider implementing the following:

  • Have an escape plan.
  • Build an emergency exit ramp.
  • Keep your bedroom and the living area near an exit.
  • Make sure that your mobility devices can all fit through the doors and hallways in the building.
  • Have locks that are easy to open on your doors and windows.

Resources:

Cognitive Impairments

People with cognitive disabilities also have a significantly higher risk when it comes to dying in a home fire. This is why it is important to consider their unique needs when designing an escape plan and practice home fire drills following that plan regularly so they can be familiar with the procedures.

When creating a plan, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are your escape routes clearly marked?
  • Are there handrails along the escape route and on stairs?
  • Have you discussed how to recognize an emergency and what the signs are?
  • Will someone with autism be less likely to accept a route they have not practiced previously?
  • Are there any physical disabilities that also need to be considered when making the plan?
  • Is your escape route wide enough for more than one person if an assistant is needed?

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Children

Children also need extra attention when it comes to fire prevention and evacuation plans. Practice and education are essential when it comes to going through your escape route and plans.

Here are some additional things you can do to keep your family safe:

  • Mark evacuation routes with pictures or signs.
  • Give them contact information for someone to reach out to once they are safely away from danger.
  • Teach them fire safety and respect of fire to help prevent accidental fires at home.
  • Keep flammable items out of reach.
  • Keep clutter to a minimum.

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Pets

Include pets in your escape route practice, so they know to follow (if they can). In addition to making them a part of your evacuation plan, you will also want to consider pets when it comes to fire prevention. Pets can knock over, knock into, or jump on potentially flammable and dangerous materials.

If you have a pet or plan to get one, make sure to pet-proof your home with fire prevention in mind:

  • Cover or remove stove knobs.
  • Leave signs visible for firefighters, so they know there are pets in the house.
  • Keep cords and wires out of reach, so they do not get chewed on.
  • Do not leave pets alone near candles or other open flames.
  • Keep flammable materials secured so they cannot be knocked over or into.

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Additional Resources

Are you looking for more ways to prevent fires in the home and stay safe if one occurs? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have links to several sources of information on their fire prevention page. Ready.gov also has a section on what you can do during home fires.

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