The perception of fire risk by older people and its impact on relevant fire safety education

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Accidents due to ‘fire and flames' are second only to “falls” as the most important cause of accidental death in the homes of elderly individuals throughout the United Kingdom. This study aims to ascertain whether older people are receiving fire accident advice appropriate to their needs. A questionnaire addressing the issues of risk perception, fire preventative action and access to fire safety information was distributed to 1100 randomly selected members of the ‘Thousand Elders' (a nation-wide consumer group established by the Centre for Applied Gerontology at The University of Birmingham, comprising people above the age of 50 years). Eight hundred and four questionnaires were returned and were analysed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences. Fire risk was perceived as far less of an immediate threat than the danger of a personal attack by an intruder in the home. Recognition of fire risk and the effectiveness of fire safety measures did not result directly in safety appliances being fitted. The majority of ‘Elders' had received no fire-fighting training, yet more than half felt confident in tackling a small fire. Neither did experience of a fire in the home necessarily increase action towards safety precautions. The majority had not been exposed to a fire safety campaign in the past 12 months. On exposure to a campaign, the impact towards fire safety was positive. The educational process should aim to close the gap between the recognition of the need for fire safety precautions and the implementation of fire safety measures. The key to effective fire prevention amongst older people depends upon: Information, Training and Support, i.e., relevant information supported by practical help and subsequent practical training in-situ by trusted community figures.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 1999

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