Fire Risks for the Blind or Visually Impaired

Over 11 million Americans are visually impaired. Blind or visually impaired people are faced with many challenges, not the least of which is personal safety. Interaction with an environment one cannot see creates potential health and safety hazards. As a result, blind or visually impaired people are at increased risk of injury and death in the event of a fire. During a fire emergency, the senses that visually impaired persons rely upon have a high probability of being overpowered. Depending on the severity of vision loss, they may be more likely to ignite a fire accidentally through common household activities, while they are less likely to extinguish or escape one. Further, a blind or visually impaired individual is highly vulnerable to sustaining burns by attempting to suppress a small fire.

Practicing fire safety is the most effective means for a blind or visually impaired person to improve his or her chances of surviving a fire. For example, by planning and practicing an escape plan, a blind or visually impaired person can escape to safety, in the event of an actual emergency, with little time lost searching and feeling for an exit. The same general fire safety tips targeted at the seeing population address the needs of the blind or visually impaired. Unfortunately, blind or visually impaired people often have been overlooked by public fire education campaigns. Innovative mechanisms by which to disseminate these life-saving messages must be sought in order to raise awareness and foster fire safety practices in the blind and visually impaired community.

Facts about Fire Safety and the Visually Impaired:

The Haworth Volunteer Fire Department and the United States Fire Administration (USFA) encourage the visually impaired population to practice the following precautionary steps to help protect themselves, their home and their surroundings from the danger of fire.

INSTALL AND MAINTAIN SMOKE ALARMS

DON’T ISOLATE YOURSELF

It is important that older adults speak up – 70% of the severely visually impaired population is over the age of 65.

LIVE NEAR AN EXIT AND PLAN YOUR ESCAPE

You’ll be safest on the ground floor if you live in an apartment building. If you live in a multi-story home, arrange to sleep on the first floor.

BE FIRE-SAFE AROUND THE HOME KNOW YOUR ABILITIES

Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility ...

Fire Stops With You!