Everyone can become momentarily disabled in a fire from blinding smoke and poisonous gas, but those with physical and/or cognitive disabilities face an even greater danger. Long term conditions such as paralysis, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and muscular dystrophy are what most people think of first when they think about disabilities. But short term disabilities such as those we face when recovering at home from surgery are even more common and warrant the same fire safety considerations as long term disabilities.
If mobility is limited, a ground floor dwelling with a special safety exit and/or ramps for escape may be needed. Make sure all doors open outward from the inside by reversing the hinges. Make sure smoke alarms are installed in or near every sleeping area and that a telephone or telecommunications device is accessible by the person with the disability.
Those who are deaf or hard of hearing should have a smoke alarm that uses a flashing strobe light or motorized bed shaker to wake them. Almost half of all fatal fires start at night when people are asleep. Because smoke can put people in a deeper sleep, is it is important to have the early warning that smoke alarms provide to ensure that they wake.
Plan and practice home fire escape plans including emergency escape routes. Designate a helper to assist those whose mobility is impaired.
Emergency telephone numbers need to be posted in central locations. Keep a communications device nearby. Teletypewriters (TYY) or Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD) should be placed close to the bed so that communication with emergency personnel is possible should a fire or smoke trap them in their room.
If you would like assistance reviewing emergency escape procedures for your home or would like the Washington Township Fire Department to include someone in your household in our database of children and adults with special medical conditions, contact the Division of Fire Prevention at 614-652-3920. The information collected for our database is confidential and is used solely for the purpose of locating, rescuing, and/or treating those in your home who have special medical conditions, requirements, or limitations in the event of an emergency.
Fire Marshal Alan Perkins, CFPS (Liaison to the Fire Department Community) – Alan’s career in the fire service spans more than 30 years. He is a Certified Fire Protection Specialist through the National Fire Protection Association and a member of numerous similar safety organizations. Alan consults with numerous fire departments throughout Ohio and in 2005 was chosen by the Ohio Department of Health as the fire service member on the Ohio School Inspection Advisory Committee. He was also awarded Ohio Fire Official of the Year in 2009 by the Ohio Building Officials Association. Alan is the Fire Marshal for the Washington Township Fire Department in Dublin, Ohio.
Live Safe Foundation is an Ohio based non-profit organization (501c3), devoted to making and fire and life safety education, awareness initiatives and life saving tools available on a broad basis to communities, campuses, and institutions in an effort to reduce national fire fatalities and fire losses.