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Special Needs

Millions of Americans live with physical and mental disabilities and require special needs. It is important to know the steps to take to stay safe from fire.

Each year

  • There are approximately 2,400 home fires involving people with disabilities.
  • There are approximately 700 home fires involving people with physical disabilities.
  • There are approximately 1,700 home fires involving people with mental disabilities.
  • Kitchens and cooking areas are the primary areas where these fires start.

Understand your fire risk

  • Having physical or mental disabilities does not mean you are unable to take the important steps to keep you and your family safe from fire.
  • Build your fire prevention plans around your abilities.

Install and maintain smoke alarms

  • Smoke alarms with a vibrating pad or flashing light are available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Smoke alarms with a strobe light outside the home to catch the attention of neighbors, and emergency call systems for summoning help, are also available.
  • Ask the manager of your building, or a friend or relative, to install at least one smoke alarm on each level of your home.
  • Test smoke alarm batteries every month and change them at least once a year. If you can’t reach the test button on your smoke alarm, ask someone to test it for you.

Live near an exit

  • Although you have the legal right to live where you choose, you’ll be safest on the ground floor if you live in an apartment building.
  • If you live in a multistory home, arrange to sleep on the first floor.
  • Being on the ground floor and near an exit will make your escape easier.

Plan your escape

  • Plan your escape around your capabilities.
  • Know at least two exits from every room.
  • If you use a walker or wheelchair, check all exits to be sure you can get through the doorways.
  • Make any necessary changes, such as installing exit ramps and widening doorways, to make an emergency escape easier.

Don’t isolate yourself

  • Speak to your family members, building manager or neighbors about your fire safety plan and practice it with them.
  • Contact your local fire department’s non emergency line (dispatch center) and explain your needs. They can suggest escape plan ideas and may perform a home fire safety inspection if you ask.
  • Ask emergency providers to keep your needs information on file.
  • Keep a phone near your bed and be ready to call 911 or your local emergency number if a fire occurs.

All children are special and require different levels of attention based on their unique needs. To help keep children with physical, developmental or cognitive disabilities safe in the home, has created an excellent series of safety videos. These videos highlight how you can take fire precautions to help keep you and your child safe with special needs.

Fire Safety for Families of Children with Special Needs

Fire Safety for Families of Children who are Immobile

Fire Safety for Families with Children who are Visually or Hearing Impaired

Fire Safety for Families with Children with Cognitive Impairments

Autism Spectrum Disorders present special challenges. The Nation Fire Protection Association  (NFPA) has produced a great interactive storybook, I Know My Fire Safety Plan for teachers and parents of children with autism to work with the child on what to do if a smoke alarm sounds. The story is designed for high functioning children with autism ages 6 to 9. It can also be helpful to children with other developmental disabilities.

Click Here for more info on the storybook, I Know My Fire Safety Plan

Additional Resources

For a comprehensive guide, download the NFPA Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities. This guide was developed in response to the emphasis that has been placed on the need to properly address the emergency procedure needs of the disability community. It addresses the needs, criteria, and minimum information necessary to integrate the proper planning components for the disabled community into a comprehensive evacuation planning strategy.

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