The place where we feel safest — at home — is also where most smoking-material structure fires, deaths, and injuries occur. Smoking material fires are the leading cause of fire deaths and are preventable.
Smoking materials, including cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, started an estimated 17,200 home structure fires reported to U.S. fire departments in 2014. These fires caused 570 deaths, 1,140 injuries and $426 million in direct property damage.
“Older adults are more likely to die in home fires than people of other ages,” according to Lt. Michael McLeieer, President and founder of E.S.C.A.P.E. Fire Safety. “The fire and injury risks we face change as we age and it is important to adapt our homes so we can stay independent and safe. A fire or burn related injury can be devastating,” said McLeieer.
McLeieer also reminds children and other caregivers that physical and mental changes occur in the aging process that may limit the ability of older adults to react quickly and correctly in an emergency. Changes in vision, cognitive ability and mobility may impact their safety.
Here are some tips to consider if you know someone who smokes:
* If you smoke, use only fire-safe cigarettes which are designed to extinguish more quickly than standard cigarettes if ignored.
* If you smoke, smoke outside. Most deaths result from fires that started in living rooms, family rooms, dens or in bedrooms.
* Never smoke when drowsy or under the influence of alcohol or after taking medication.
* Keep cigarettes, lighters, matches, and other smoking materials up high out of the reach of children, in a locked cabinet.
* When extinguishing smoking materials, use a deep, sturdy ashtray. Place it away from anything that can burn.
* Don’t discard cigarettes in vegetation such as mulch, potted plants, or landscaping, peat moss, dried grasses, leaves or other things that could ignite easily.
* Before you throw away butts and ashes, make sure they are out, and dousing in water or sand is the best way to do that.
* Never smoke while on medical oxygen. Never allow anyone else to smoke or use an open flame when home oxygen is in use. Medical oxygen can cause materials to ignite more easily (furniture, clothing, and hair) and makes fires burn at a faster rate and hotter than normal.
* If you must smoke where oxygen is in use:
* Disconnect the oxygen
* Wait 10 minutes
* Go outside to smoke
This gives the oxygen time to come off your hair and clothes into the open air. There is no completely safe way to smoke, but less risky than smoking indoors.
Finally, many things in your home can catch on fire if they touch a cigarette or ashes. Bedding will catch fire easily so never smoke in bed.