Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

April 6, 2013

Adapted in TC: Planning for fire takes on whole new meaning

Fire!!!!

For people with disabilities, senior citizens and other high risk populations, this is an especially terrifying declaration.

Years ago, when I wanted to live alone, my loved ones worried about my safety in case of a fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 85 percent of all fire deaths occur in the home.

During my early rehabilitation as a patient at U of M Hospital, I had seen plenty of people who’d been seriously injured and burned in fires. Many had severe lung problems from smoke inhalation, including smoke from household goods made from plastics.

In order to alleviate my loved ones fears, I had my downstate fire department come to my apartment and teach me how to properly use a fire extinguisher, tie bedding together so I could hoist myself out a low main floor window, assemble a makeshift evacuation chair, decide what type of smoke detectors I needed, how to inspect and repair my clothes dryer/heat vents/scald shut-off valves, decide which window to put an emergency ID rescue sticker in and how to do practice fire drills.

Now that I live with my family in a multi-story house in northern Michigan, we’ve continued and improved upon those early practices. However, when it comes to fire safety, one-size fits all doesn’t work. People with different disabilities need different things. Some disabilities (and medication use) impair reaction time, other disabilities impact mobility or ease of escape and mental health concerns may impact understanding of and acting in an emergency.

Often people feel most vulnerable to fire in their homes when they’re alone or sleeping. Other times, it’s outside of their homes, when they’re in a crowded public place like a movie theater, airplane or sports arena. Nonetheless, each of us can prepare for what works best for us in most situations.

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