Fire and CO solutions for the elderly

James King, Sales Director of SONA by FireAngel, reflects on what measures can be implemented to best protect older residents from the risks of fire and carbon monoxide.

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors perform a vital function in homes, providing early warning of fire and potentially deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. However, these devices can also provide valuable indications of when a resident’s ability to live independently and safely could be starting to decline.

Such cases are becoming more prevalent as a result of well-documented demographic changes. Figures released by Age UK this year revealed that the number of those aged 65 and over is projected to increase by more than 40 per cent to over 16 million by 2033, whilst the number aged over 85 is set to double.

Added to this, the importance of protecting our ageing population is clear to see in the context of government fire statistics, which show that over half of those killed in accidental dwelling fires are aged 65 and over, and the risk of dying in a fire is four times higher than average for people aged over 80.

With this in mind, it’s imperative that M&E contractors are aware of the measures that can be put in place to provide the highest levels of fire and CO protection for residents living with dementia, sight loss and hearing impairments and how these solutions can be intrinsically linked to monitoring a resident’s wellbeing.

Cooker shut off

The regular activation of smoke alarms within a property can indicate that a resident is burning food or leaving food cooking on the hob, which is often an early indicator of dementia.

A cooker shut off system is an effective way of preventing a serious fire incident in the kitchen, where 62 per cent of all domestic household fires originate, without the need for human intervention.

The safety device, also known as a stove guard, has an intelligent heat sensor that monitors rapid increases in temperature on electric hob cooking surfaces. If the temperature reaches a potentially hazardous level, the alarm will sound an alert and, if no action is taken, will automatically send a radio signal to a wired cut-off switch to turn off the electricity supply to the appliance, minimising the risk of a potentially serious fire incident.

Low frequency sounders

Low frequency sounders have been specifically designed to provide additional protection to standard smoke alarms in the event of a fire. A low frequency signal is more likely to wake up or alert high-risk individuals, such as elderly residents with hearing loss, rather than a regular smoke alarm.

Strobe and vibrating pads

Strobe and vibrating pads are an ideal fire and CO protection solution for elderly residents with limited physical ability. To be used in conjunction with smoke and CO alarms, the flashing strobe and vibrating pad will be triggered to alert someone who may not be able to hear an audible alarm.

The flashing strobe provides a visual warning, while the vibrating pad is designed to be placed under a pillow or a mattress and will wake an individual to alert them to a fire or CO incident.

Interlinked systems

The need for interlinked wireless alarm systems is becoming more and more apparent and offers many safety benefits for the ageing population. Within such systems, all alarms are triggered in the event of any one individual device being activated. For older or more vulnerable residents, technology like this ensures they are alerted to potential fire or carbon monoxide dangers in the home as soon as possible, providing crucial additional escape time.

The FireAngel range of alarms for example can be either hard wired or wirelessly interlinked and has a unique safety critical function whereby alarms can mimic the sound pattern of the activated alarm. If a CO alarm activates in the kitchen, the other smoke alarms throughout the property will activate and mimic its sound pattern. This provides extra time for residents, particularly those who are vulnerable, to react quicker.

With an ageing population facing numerous health challenges, safety product manufacturers are constantly striving to develop innovative new ways of optimising resident safety and supporting independent living. Therefore it is vitally important that wholesalers and contractors are aware of the fire and CO solutions available to assist the ageing population and provide the appropriate levels of protection where required.