The older adult: Associated fire risks and current challenges for the development of future fire safety intervention strategies

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Research has highlighted that older people, that is, those aged 60 and over, are over-represented in fatal fire statistics across the globe. The aim of this study was to investigate the circumstances surrounding fatal fires involving older people and examine the role of individuals and agencies that are in contact with the most vulnerable and how they can be involved in reducing fire risk. The study was conducted in two phases. Firstly, a retrospective analysis was conducted of the circumstances surrounding 99 accidental fatal dwelling fires involving 100 older people during a 20-year period. Results suggested that most fires ignited in the living room or the bedroom and these were also the most common locations of the fatalities. The most common causes of the fire were smoking materials, hot coals, cooking and electrical faults and the majority of older fire fatalities had a smoke alarm which operated. Importantly, there was evidence of regular contact between the fatality and at least one other individual from the community prior to the fire. For this reason, the second phase of the research involved focus groups with friends, relatives, neighbours and carers of older people with a view to understanding their attitudes and experiences with regard to fire safety. Overall, the focus groups provided evidence that those in contact with older people regularly observe fire risks in the homes of older people. In addition, gaps were evident in the fire safety knowledge, not only of older people, but also for those assisting older people. In light of the findings, this article also considers the core messages that should be included in any potential future fire safety intervention strategies aimed at the older adult.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-563
Number of pages11
JournalFire and Materials
Issue number4
Early online date25 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished online - 25 Mar 2020


  • Carers
  • Dwelling
  • Fire risks
  • fire safety
  • intervention strategies
  • older people


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