Seniors fire safety

Fire safety for seniors

Seniors are the most vulnerable to fire injury and death. The precautions on this page are additional tips that specifically apply to senior citizens and older adults.

Warning Warning: Smoking and space heaters are the most common causes of injuries and fire deaths among seniors.

Never smoke in bed

However, if smoking is unavoidable:

  • Use large, deep, and sturdy ashtrays
  • Soak cigarette or cigar butts, ashes, and matches with water before throwing them in the garbage
  • Keep smoking materials, particularly matches and lighters, out of the reach of young children
  • Avoid smoking if you have consumed alcohol or medications, so that you don't fall asleep while smoking

Use portable space heaters safely

  • Only use space heaters that have a protective screen covering the elements
  • Give space heaters at least 1 metre (3 feet) of clear space all around
  • Keep all flammable materials away from space heaters
  • Do not dry wet shoes, clothing or towels on space heaters
  • Always turn off or unplug space heaters before leaving the house, or going to bed

Maintain smoke alarms

  • When testing smoke alarms, do not stand on a chair or steps. Instead, use a broom handle to press the “Test” button on your smoke alarm
  • If you have impaired hearing, purchase a special communication aid which converts the sound of a smoke alarm into flashing lights or vibrations
  • Never remove batteries from smoke alarms located near kitchens when cooking. Instead, press the “Silence” button

Know your fire escape plan

  • If you wear eyeglasses or take medication, remember to keep them by your bedside in case of emergency
  • If you need to evacuate your home, remember to bring your eyeglasses and medication with you
  • Seniors should consider sleeping on the ground level to ensure a safe escape when practising the fire plan, and in case of fire
  • If you live with seniors, help the seniors to escape when practising the home fire plan, and especially during a fire

More safety tips for seniors

Fire prevention

  • Remain in the kitchen while cooking; use a timer to remind you that you're cooking
  • Do not wear loose clothing or sleeves that may touch your stove top
  • When using electronics, do not overload outlets. Use the rule one outlet, one plug
  • Never use water on a cooking fire. Turn off the heat source and cover with a lid
  • Discard cigarettes in an ashtray - never in a garden bed or pot

Burn prevention

  • Turn pot handles in so they cannot be easily bumped
  • When drinking hot liquids, place down in a safe place away from counter edges
  • Use a cup with a lid to prevent spilling
  • Use caution when removing lids from pots or coverings from the microwave as steam can burn

Slips and falls

  • Ensure there are no tripping hazards in the home by smoothing out carpet and taking care of uneven flooring
  • Apply non-slip strips to bath tub and shower floors
  • Ensure railings inside and outside of the home are secure
  • Tidy clutter so entries and exits are easily accessible
  • Take your time while rising from sitting to standing to gain balance
  • Stay active daily to decrease the risk of slips and falls

Health and wellness

  • Call your pharmacist to refill your prescriptions to avoid non-essential trips to the pharmacy
  • Call family if you need help with groceries or order from your local grocery store for pick up or delivery
  • Phone a neighbour to talk if you are feeling lonely

Life lines

Life lines are a great tool to have if you are:

  • Recovering from a recent hospitalization
  • At risk of falling
  • Living alone
  • Requiring assistance for daily activities
  • Using a cane, walker, or wheelchair
  • Dependent on a caregiver
  • Managing multiple medications or health conditions

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Find out more about fire and life safety

Vancouver Fire Rescue Services teach fire and life safety courses where you can learn valuable life and safety skills, and gain hands on fire extinguishing experience. Register yourself, or arrange for us to teach your group to prevent fires in your home, business, school, and other private and public places.

Sign up for fire safety training

Contact Fire Rescue Fire and Life Safety Education

Fire & Life Safety Education
Vancouver Fire Rescue Services
900 Heatley Avenue
Vancouver BC, V6A 3S7

Programs and support for seniors


Council and staff collaborate with the community and all levels of government to help keep seniors active, engaged, and connected to the services they need.

Find seniors programs