DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: Can your write a column on fire safety tips for seniors? With winter approaching, it’s important that seniors know that home fires are far more common and deadly among the elderly, but there are things they can do to guard against it. Thanks for your help. — Fire Safety Council

DEAR COUNCIL: You’re right! Because of physical limitations and slower reaction times, seniors are particularly vulnerable in home fires. In fact, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, seniors over the age of 65 are twice as likely to die or be injured in a home fire than other people. For those over 75, the risk nearly triples. But with a little awareness and a few precautionary tips (see, seniors can go a long way in protecting their property and themselves.

While there are many possible causes of accidental home fires, the three most common among the elderly are caused by smoking, cooking and alternative heating devices. Here’s a breakdown of what seniors can do to protect themselves in each of these key areas.

SMOKE SAFELY: Careless smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths and the second leading cause of injuries among seniors. For those who smoke, it’s important to remember:

• Never smoke in bed.

• Put your cigarette or cigar out at the first sign of feeling drowsy while watching television or reading.

• Don’t leave your lit cigarette or cigar unattended.

• Use deep ashtrays and put your cigarettes all the way out.

• Consider switching to fire-safe cigarettes ( that self-extinguish when they’re not being smoked.

COOK SAFELY: Home cooking fires are the No. 1 cause of fire injuries among the elderly. Tips that can help include:

• Never leave food cooking unattended on a stove top. When leaving the kitchen, take a wooden spoon or potholder as a reminder to turn off the oven or burners, or consider installing an automatic stove shut-off device as a safety precaution.,, and sell them.

• Avoid wearing loose clothing with hanging sleeves when you cook, and keep towels and pot holders away from flames or burners.

• Never use the range or oven to heat your home.

• Doublecheck the kitchen before you go to bed or leave the house.

HEAT SAFELY: Alternative heating devices like space heaters, stoves and fireplaces are another potential fire hazard for seniors. Seniors who use these devices should keep these tips in mind:

• If you use a space heater, keep anything that can burn at least 3 feet away and always turn it off when you leave the house or go to sleep. Also, if you’re buying a new space heater, look for one with a safety feature that automatically shuts off the power if the heater falls over.

• If you use a fireplace that burns wood, be sure you have a glass or metal screen front to catch the flying sparks and rolling logs, and have the chimney flue inspected annually and cleaned if needed.

• If you use a heating device fueled by gas, oil, wood or kerosene, install carbon monoxide detectors to alert you to potential toxic gas problems.

HOME TIPS: Around 75 percent of seniors who die in fires each year don’t have working smoke alarms in their homes. Seniors or caregivers should make it a priority to install smoke alarms on every level of their house outside their sleeping area, and change the batteries at least once a year. Also, have an escape plan in the event of a fire.

For seniors who are hearing-impaired, companies like Silent Call ( and Harris Communications ( sell smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that work with flashing strobe lights and bed vibrators to alert you when a problem arises. And there also are home smoke and fire monitoring services like ADT ( that can alert seniors, caregivers and the fire department if a fire happens.

Send your questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC’s “Today” show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.