Stove Stopper: You can prevent a tragic house fire from happening to your family by using Stove Stopper. Stove Stopper prevents stove fires.

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It's a good idea to test your smoke alarms every six months, and many people do just that every spring and fall. If you checked your smoke detectors on the Fall Equinox, well done! Still, there's more to fire safety than just making sure smoke alarms work. It's important that you also review your fire safety plan, especially if you or a loved one is a senior or vulnerable adult.

SeniorResource.com has a list of fire safety tips for the seniors who are aging in place. Among them:

  • If you don't have a smoke detector, install one as soon as possible. If you're unable to install it yourself, for whatever reason, ask a family member, friend, neighbor or landlord for help. 
  • If you're only going to have one smoke detector -- and really, you should have more than that -- install it outside your bedroom, where it can wake you should a fire start while you're sleeping.
  • Don't disable detectors by pulling out batteries or disconnecting wires. It may be annoying if the smoke alarm goes off when you burn the toast, but better that than it not going off in the event of a fire.
  • Don't ever smoke in bed. Ever. Under any circumstances.
  • Don't leave your stove unattended while cooking. If you or a loved one has trouble with cognition, a product like Stove Stopper can help by automatically shutting off a stove or oven if nobody is around to monitor it.
  • Review your escape plan, and practice it. If you have difficulty with mobility or health problems, the plan you made before might not work now. 
  • If there is a fire, make sure you close your apartment door as you leave. And never, ever use the elevator to escape!

By following these simple steps, you can help reduce your risk of injury or death from fire, for you and for your loved ones.

It's fall, and with a new season upon us, what steps can you take to prevent fires? You know that you shouldn't burn leaves, but there are more steps to take as the trees begin to shed their leaves for the winter.

  • Never park your car or truck near a pile of leaves. Heat from your car's catalytic converter can ignite the pile, causing all the problems of a regular leaf fire, exacerbated by the fact that nobody's monitoring it. The resulting fire could destroy your vehicle -- or worse.
  • Get your chimneys checked before winter. Everyone loves a cozy fire in the winter, but it's decidedly less cozy if your chimney is clogged. Get it done now, before things really get cold. While you're at it, have any wood-burning stoves checked for creosote buildup.
  • Use only seasoned woods for burning. Avoid soft woods like pine. And absolutely never burn treated wood.
  • When Daylight Savings Time ends, check your fire alarms. If you want to do it sooner, go right ahead, but it's a good idea to pick out at least two times a year when you check to ensure that your batteries in your fire alarms are working. Many people choose the days we set our clocks back; you're already wandering around the house changing the time, why not check your smoke alarms too?
  • Get a Carbon Monoxide detector. Furnaces, stoves, fireplaces -- all can create carbon monoxide, an odorless, poisonous gas that can kill if not properly vented. A carbon monoxide detector gives you early warning of danger, and lets you evacuate you and loved ones to safety. Don't assume that you'll notice a problem yourself -- even if you're awake, carbon monoxide poisoning makes it difficult to think rationally, making it almost impossible to realize that you're in trouble once you are.

Obviously, all the usual fire safety tips still apply -- make sure you've got a good fire extinguisher in working order, a fire safety plan in place, and have your appliances checked for safety. Have a lovely autumn!

The old, hoary cliché holds that seniors are technologically illiterate, technophobes who can't even program the clock on their VCR, whatever that is. But that old stereotype is beginning to fall by the wayside. Today's seniors have spent their entire lives with technology aplenty. After all, the personal computer began its inexorable rise in the businessplace in the 1970s, meaning that seniors retiring now may have spent four decades working with computers, and two or three with computers in their home. It's little wonder, then, that today's seniors are comfortable with technology. Far from being luddites, today's seniors are technophiles.

Unfortunately, old stereotypes die hard, and many retirement communities and nursing homes have not yet caught up to the use of technology by their residents. Though seniors are comfortable with technology, and interested in learning more about it, a study by communications agency Varsity shows that they're hamstrung by a lack of infrastructure, including access to WiFi, which can be slow, restricted to common areas, or non-existent. In an age when seniors are as apt to communicate with their grandkids by Skype or Facetime as they are by phone, that can lead to frustration, and indeed can exacerbate isolation. More than that, a limited infrastructure can make it hard to utilize up-to-date aging in place technologies, many of which have been designed to work over the internet.

Seniors can chose to stay in their homes -- "aging in place" is an increasingly popular option. And there, WiFi can be configured however a senior wants it to be. However, agining in place is not always an option, depending on a senior's health and home. That makes it important that retirement communities recognize that the sterotype of the aged technophobe is just that -- and like any stereotype, it should be ignored.

Autumn is just around the corner, and soon trees will be shedding their leaves, forcing homeowners to once again grab their rakes and leaf blowers in an attempt to restore order, just in time for snow to fall. Some of those homeowners will, as people have for generations, try to burn those leaves to dispose of them.

In a word: don't.

It's not just that leaf burning leads to air pollution and potential health problems for people with asthma, COPD, and other respiratory ailments. It's not just that they produce carbon monoxide, a potentially lethal chemical that can kill if not vented properly.No, burning leaves can create a monstrous fire hazard, as light leaves are carried by wind to areas with ready tinder. It's no wonder that many communities have banned the practice.

Besides, why would you burn leaves, when you can use them as a base for a terrific compost? Leaves are full of the nutrients that plants crave, and if composted properly, they create great fertilizer for your lawn or garden.

Even if you don't want to compost, it's still best to dispose of your leaves properly. After all, the recent wildfires have shown the danger of an errant spark; no matter how romantic, a leaf fire isn't worth the risk of destruction.

Old Man Stock.XchngWhile the number and type of assistive devices available to help the elderly and disabled continues to grow, one simple factor remains a potential barrier to acceptance: The fact that seniors simply may not wish to use an assistive device. This is understandable, of course; people want to be independent, they want to do things on their own, and they don't necessarily want to admit that they can't. This is as true for 5-year-olds, 15-year-olds, and 35-year-olds as it is for 85-year-olds. 

Of course, this can have a paradoxical effect. If seniors choose not to use assistive technologies, their health needs can force them into a more intrusive care environment. So with that in mind, what makes seniors more receptive to using assistive technologies?

A 1995 study published by the American Society on Aging shows some intriguing results, and suggest ways to help work with older relatives to help them accept and embrace assistive technologies.

  • People are more willing to accept assistive technologies if they expect to use them. Seniors who underwent surgery with the expectation that they may need assistive devices as part of their recovery were more likely to embrace the technologies than those who did not. This tells us that communication is key. Talk with your elderly relatives like the adults they are. Discuss various technologies with them. Let them get comfortable with the idea before simply springing it on them.
  • Seniors who use technologies tend to keep using them; seniors who don't, don't. Looking at seniors with assistive devices, the best predictor of who uses devices two months out from getting them is who is using them one month out. Three months out, it's who was using them two months out. Quite simply, seniors who are willing to start using assistive technologies are willing to keep using them. But if they never grow comfortable with the devices, they're going to continue to resist using them.
  • Seniors who live alone are more willing to use assistive devices. This makes sense; if seniors have someone to help them, they'll take the help, obviously. But seniors who lived by themselves were willing to use the devices to help themselves remain independent.
  • Age and gender have nothing to do with acceptance. Whether they were male or female, whether they were in their 60s or their 80s, seniors were equally likely to accept or reject the devices. One shouldn't expect that a relatively older senior will be a technophobe, nor should one expect that a relatively younger senior will accept new technologies. 
  • Social stigma remains a barrier to using assistive technologies. Because society tends to be full of negative stereotypes about disabilities, many seniors were unwilling to use assistive devices, for fear that the devices would make them appear "crippled" or "handicapped." Conversely, seniors who viewed assistive technologies as means to maintain some independence were more likely to accept them. 

That last point is very important. The truth, of course, is that whether you're using assistive technologies to help with physical or cognitive impairment, assistive devices help people maintain independence and remain active in society. It's important that we recognize and celebrate this, and not only when someone we know needs them. Eliminating the social stigma of disability and aging will help those facing them to maintain their dignity and self-worth.

Old Woman Stock.XchngBaby Boomers have always seen themselves as trend-setters, and as they enter retirement, they're starting a new trend -- Aging in Place, in which seniors remain in their homes, rather than enter a managed care facility or nursing home. This provides for more independence and better quality of life, but obviously, it makes it impossible for a nurse at a station to monitor seniors' health.

Fortunately, technology is marching on, and new technologies are allowing seniors to age in place without surrendering safety and security.

Home monitoring systems allow seniors to remain at home while monitors transmit data about movement, activity, and even physiological data like glucose levels over the internet. These can be used by caregivers and family to ensure that seniors are safe and active. Other devices, like Stove Stopper, can provide fail-safes for potentially dangerous appliances, helping to reduce the risk of fire or other accidents.

Technology is only going to continue to advance, of course. Robot servants may become commonplace over the next few decades, able to retrieve items and assist seniors who face mobility issues.

Of course, while seniors may wish to remain at home, not everyone can. Seniors may need to be close to family, but may wish to still maintain some level of independence. This has led to the development of the "granny pod," a small apartment -- less than 300 square feet -- that can be placed in a modest sized backyard. Seniors can maintain their own living space, while living literally steps from friends or family who can respond in an emergency, providing the psychological benefits of independence without sacrificing safety.

As technology advances, it is allowing seniors greater flexibility without sacrificing security. And that's excellent news, both for seniors and those who love them.

Image Credit: Stock.Xchng

House Fire Kiwi NZLast week we looked at putting together a fire preparedness plan and steps you can take to minimize your risk of fire. But what if the unthinkable happens, and you find yourself caught in a fire? Here are five things to remember if you're facing a blaze.

  • Get Out and Stay Out. If you can get safely out of your house, do so immediately, and don't go back in to retrieve personal possessions or to try to fight the fire yourself. Losing possessions or your home is awful, but they can be replaced -- you can't.
  • Check Doors Before Opening. Use the back of your hand to feel the doorknob and the space below the door. If it feels hot, don't open the door! Instead, look for another exit.
  • Stay Low and Go. Stay as close to the ground as possible -- hot air rises, and the air closer to the ground will have less smoke in it. If you can't get low, cover your mouth and nose to try to minimize smoke inhalation. 
  • Stop, Drop, and Roll. You probably remember this from back in grade school, but that's because it really works. If your clothing catches on fire, running gives the fire oxygen -- the fuel it needs to grow. Instead, cover your face with your hands, drop to the ground, and roll over and over -- this smothers the fire. If you are physically unable to roll, use a fire-resistant blanket to smother the fire.
  • And If You're Trapped.... You may discover there's no safe route out. If that happens, close all doors behind you and try to cover all cracks and vents with wet cloths to block out smoke. If you can, call the fire department to let them know where you are. Turn on all the lights you can, and use a light-colored cloth in the window to signal rescuers.

Hopefully you never have to use these tips, but if you do, following them can help you survive a fire should you have to.

House Fire Sam BeebeYesterday we talked fire preparedness planning, and 5 Key Parts of a Fire Preparedness Plan. Being prepared for a fire is great, but it's even better if you can prevent the fire in the first place. Obviously, there's no way to make your home completely fireproof -- at least, not yet. But there are steps you can take to ensure that your risk of fires is reduced.

  • Monitoring the Stove. Fire prevention professionals will tell you that you should never leave the stove unattended when cooking. The Pennsylvania Fire Commissioner's office recommends turning the stove off should you step away. Of course, that's sounds great, but we all know it's easy to get distracted -- and even easier for youngsters, seniors, and people with cognitive disabilities. Stove Stopper has a motion sensor built in to make sure that the stove is being attended, and can automatically shut the stove off if it's left unattended. This permits you and precious ones to use the stove safely, while reducing the risk of fire.
  • Electrical Safety. Check electric blankets to make sure they conform to safety standards. Don't buy electric blankets that lack overheating protection, and don't wash them repeatedly -- this can damage the blankets. It sounds obvious, but if an appliance smells funny, or appears to emit smoke, unplug it immediately. And don't try to jam everything into one extension cord -- it may have been funny in A Christmas Story, but it makes a fire much more likely.
  • Smoking. Smoking is dangerous for you no matter what, but smoking in bed can kill you quickly. Quite simply, you've got something that's on fire in your bed. If you go to sleep, you're going to set something else ablaze. This holds true for smoking under the influence of alcohol or prescription medications that cause drowsiness.
  • Heating. Have your furnace and chimneys inspected once a year. If you use heating oil or wood, don't store it indoors; keep it outside in a detached shed or storage area.
  • Space Heaters. July isn't the time to wory about space heaters, but in a few short months, people will be using them again. If you're using space heaters, keep them at least 3 feet away from anything combustable, and never use space heaters to dry clothing.

Following these safety tips will considerably reduce your risk of fire, but even with perfect planning and prevention, you still may find yourself confronted by fire. Next week, we'll take a glance at what you should do in a fire emergency.

Image Credit: Sam Beebe/Ecotrust

FireOver 1200 Americans age 65 and older die in fires each year. What can you do to prepare yourself or your loved ones for the possiblility of a fire? The Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner offers five recommendations for a fire preparedness plan for the elderly.

  • Know where the nearest emergency exit is. This is important whether you're at home, visiting friends, or out and about. Knowing where the nearest exit is saves you from having to find it amid the smoke and chaos of a fire.
  • Pay attention to safety and design guidelines. Make sure walkways and doorways are clear, and wide enough to accomodate any assistive devices required for someone with mobility impairment.
  • Install smoke alarms and other safety equipment. A smoke alarm can be the difference between life and death. Having a functional alarm with fresh batteries gives you the best chance of getting up and getting out before it's too late. Other anti-fire devices, such as sprinkler systems and Stove Stopper, can help to prevent a fire, or douse it before it spreads.
  • Plan and Practice Escape Plans. It's important to know what to do in a fire -- if you've practiced your safety plan, it will be automatic should disaster strike. For good information about fire preparedness planning, visit the U.S. Fire Administration website.
  • Work with the fire department. If you or a loved one needs special assistance, contact the fire department to make them aware of that. Your local fire department can also help with fire preparedness, as well as with mapping out potential escape routes.

Fire preparedness planning can help save lives. Being aware of the danger fire poses and planning for it gives you the best chance to avoid it. Tomorrow, we'll take a look at five things you can do to prevent fires.

Image Credit: Stock.Xchng

Old Couple Macundo StockXChange

A piot program in Baltimore is helping seniors stay in their homes, allowing them to remain more independent for a longer period of time.

The CAPABLE project -- short for Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Lives for Elders -- aims to provide assistive repairs and modifications to the homes of low-income seniors, in order to allow them to continue to function at home.

This isn't simply altruism, though it will certainly benefit seniors. The hope is that the aid will help keep seniors at home who would otherwise be forced into a nursing home or other care facility. If they can remain in their homes, it will reduce the amount of money that Medicare and Medicaid must pay out.

As NBC's Today Show reported, the move not only could help reduce costs, but also makes seniors happier. 

Whether it is the cost or emotional ties, many people grow old in the same home where they spent their younger, more agile years. An AARP survey in 2010 found nearly 90 percent of seniors wanted to remain in their current home for as long as possible.

Yet government figures show nearly 1 in 5 seniors living in the community have trouble with at least one activity of daily living, such as walking or bathing.

Assistive techonologies such as pendant alarms and stove fire prevention units can help provide for seniors' safety. And visits from a licensed health care professional can help seniors with sometimes confusing and difficult medication schedules.

The pilot program in Baltimore is being watched closely by other states and municipalities. If successful, the program could be emulated nationwide, allowing more seniors the opportunity to age in place, staying in the communities they've been a part of.

Image: Ricardo Santeugini/Stock.Xchng

Happy Independence Day! 2013 is the 237th anniversary of the United States declaring its independence from Britain, and as future President John Adams predicted in 1776, the day is still marked "with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other."

If you're one of those Americans celebrating with fireworks, however, you need to make sure you're being safe. 9,300 people are injured by fireworks every year, and 45 percent of those are children. To avoid ending Independence Day with calamity or fire, here are a few quick fire safety tips to ensure that you can have a safe and fun 4th of July.

1. Make sure all use of fireworks is supervised by a responsible adult. This seems like a no-brainer, and yet every year children are injured because adults allowed them to play with fireworks without adequate supervision. Even "small" fireworks like sparklers can be dangerous; they burn as hot as 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to melt steel.

2. Keep a water bucker, garden hose, or fire extinguisher on hand. Fireworks are explosives, albeit small ones. An uncontrolled flame can set off multiple fireworks at once, significantly increasing the chances of injury. Having a means of extinguishing the fire readily available makes this less likely, and gives you a better chance of avoiding calamity.

3. Don't try to re-light fireworks that have failed. While it may be disappointing, you don't know for sure that firework doesn't still have a spark working its way through it. You may move to re-light a firework, only to have it go off before you get the chance.

4. Don't drink and shoot off fireworks. Fireworks, like cars, are potentially dangerous. You wouldn't drink and get into a car -- your judgment and reaction time is hurt. So why would you drink and shoot off small explosives? If you're sober, you're more likely to use fireworks responsibly, and more likely to react quickly and carefully if fire breaks out.

5. Hose down fireworks before disposing of and moving them. Just as with re-lighting a firework, you can't know for sure that a firework has burnt itself out just because it looks like it. Moreover, even if your fireworks have all burnt themselves out, they may still be hot enough to start a trash fire. Make sure you hose down fireworks thoroughly before you throw them away; you don't want to discover an extra fire in your garage early on the morning of the 5th of July.

With planning and attention to fire safety, you can enjoy fireworks on the 4th without risking your family's safety. Enjoy a safe and happy Independence Day!

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