Don’t leave older friends out in the cold this winter

Photo credit Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service

The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) is encouraging people to take action to keep older friends and neighbours safe this winter. It is estimated that there are approximately 200 unnecessary winter deaths in people aged over 65 per day in the UK.

Instead of just posting that Christmas card through the door why not take the time to pop in and double check any appliances or smoke alarms? People might struggle to check alarms are working. A quick check that batteries work and alarms are correctly fitted on each floor is vital.

Smoke alarms can give a person valuable time in the event of a fire. In 19% of house fires a smoke alarm was fitted but not working. Statistics show that 47% of fire deaths in 2013-14 were among people aged 60 or over.

For people living in private rented accommodation new legislation was introduced on 1st October 2015. It requires landlords to have a working smoke alarm on each floor of their property and carbon monoxide detectors in properties which burn solid fuel.

It’s worth taking some time just to check that they are able to heat their home sufficiently. Any electrical appliances being used for heating should be checked to ensure they don’t pose a risk to safety. A useful site for more information is Electrical Safety First.  Fire caused by electrical appliances and electric blankets have the highest rate of injuries – 440 injuries per every 1000 fires.

If electric blankets are being used it is important they are being switched off and stored flat and never use a hot water bottle at the same time.

CFOA is asking people to make sure older and vulnerable people take up the opportunity of a ‘Safe and Well’ visit from their local FRS. More information about how a visit can help can be found on GMFRS website and in their flyer ‘Safe and Well’.  Arranging a visit to a home might just prevent an accident or save a life.

The visits not only identify fire hazards but risk factors in the home that impact on health and well-being, which can lead to an increase in demand for health and local authority services.

Wider health impacts are also addressed during the visit, such as the identification of frailty, promotion and support of healthy aging, help to avoid trips and falls; and signposting people to relevant services and sources of help.

Paul Hancock, President of CFOA, said: “By working in partnership with health professionals we can help to protect some of our most vulnerable residents, while improving people’s quality of life. The Safe and Well checks will help to identify issues at an early stage, which could reduce the likelihood of older people being admitted to hospital by focusing on prevention measures. Firefighters carrying out these checks already have a high level of trust from the people they are visiting and will be able to give help and advice on a wide range of issues, while helping to keep our older residents safer.”

For more useful information NHS England and Age UK produced a useful document which you can download here ‘A Practical Guide to Healthy Ageing’ (PDF). It has winter advice and year round tips on staying safe in the home for older people.

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