Seniors more likely to die in home fires

An individual’s ability to respond quickly to a residential fire determines who dies and who gets injured, according to a new study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Home fire deaths are more likely among those the study defines as frail populations – those who are not in robust health and primarily aged 65 and older – while nonfatal injuries occur more often in adults ages 20 to 49, states NIST researchers.

The findings suggest that vulnerability to fires in homes could be mapped for communities based on age demographics, and in turn, measures designed to prevent fire deaths and injuries could be targeted to the appropriate populations to maximize their effectiveness.
Local communities should evaluate and address home fire risks for occupants based on age, the study findings continue.

“Our findings indicate that frailty, especially in elderly populations, hinders the ability to escape and should be recognized as a key factor in home fire deaths,” says NIST economist Stanley Gilbert, one of the authors on the paper that appears in the journal Injury Prevention.

Gilbert suggests that measures to overcome this population-specific vulnerability, such as automatic sprinklers in bedrooms, is one safety aspect that may help reduce the number of fatalities.

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