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Fire Safety Planning - a Vital Part of Accessible Housing

Fire is more dangerous to the disabled
unsplash-logoSagar Chaudhray


By Casandra Small

Physical disability is a contributing factor in the risk of a death or injury in house fires; unfortunately some agencies report up to 15% of fire-related injuries belonging to people living with disabilities. From reduced mobility to the inability to properly hear or see a fire alarm, there are many risk factors that you can reduce simply by making your home more accessible. Enhancing the fire safety of your home means that everybody in your family, including seniors, people living with disabilities, and people with limited mobility, can adequately be alerted of a fire while also being able to leave the home quickly and easily.

What is Universal Design?

By definition, universal housing design is the design of an environment so that it can be can be accessed and used by anybody regardless of their age, size and ability. This prominently correlates with fire safety, as a home that is designed to be accessed by anybody should also be designed to be easily egressed by anybody in the instance of a fire or emergency as well. To increase your home's universal design, ensure that there is enough space around furniture and between doorways for a wheelchair or walker to move through in the instance that someone with a mobility disability needs to get out of the house quickly. For people living with disabilities who might have difficult escaping a home quickly, consider installing an exterior door in their bedroom.

How Accessible Design Increases Fire Safety

This type of home design ensures that people living within the home can properly access all facilities, meaning that they can reduce their risk of accidents. By reducing the risk of an accident in a home, fire hazards are also reduced. Accessible design, for example, ensures that a kitchen will be designed so that you do not have to reach over the stove, thereby reducing the risk of something catching on fire. Living spaces in general are designed to reduce clutter and congestion, reducing the risk that a cord or other sort of electrical material can catch on fire.

Fire Safety Devices for People with Disabilities

One of the most crucial parts of fire safety planning is the installation and maintenance of smoke alarms. If someone is deaf or hard of hearing, there are smoke alarms nowadays that combine audio and visual signals that either flash a light or make a louder sound to ensure the risk is known. Strobe lights or vibrating alarm systems are generally recommended in these instances as they have been shown to be more effective in instances where someone is sleeping. If you are going to include a fire extinguisher in your home, consider purchasing an extinguisher that is smaller and more lightweight for elderly or other people with limited strength and mobility can use.

Ensuring the Safety of All

Fire safety plans are important for any household. To ensure the safety of you and your family members, measures should be taken to prepare your household including those with mobility or cognitive limitations, to respond to a fire or emergency if either should happen. Consider the design of your home as well as the building materials when constructing or renovating to increase the accessibility. Install safety devices, widen the doorways, introduce ramps into the exterior porches and always think ahead especially if you or someone you love lives with a disability.

Cassandra Small is a writer in the United Kingdom
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