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Tips to prevent falls and prevent fires, at any age

Over the last few years I have become much more aware of those aging around me. Friends, parents, other family and even acquaintances. If we could be so fortunate, we will approach those aged years in life gracefully. From a health and safety perspective, we see many of those aging still trying to maintain their independence by living on their own, but challenged with trips and falls. In addition, fires prove to be twice as threatening to the lives of those 65 and older than to the rest of the population, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Today’s column is about making your home or a loved one’s home safer by preventing falls and fires. While truly focusing on the age-in-place concept, most of these tips are great for any of us at any age! 

For your health and to prevent falls:

• Exercise to stay strong and improve balance. 

• Don’t rush! Take your time when getting out of bed or a chair. 

• Keep trip hazards out of the way. Electrical cords, shoes, books, boxes, pets, toys and other items can all trip you up causing an injury. 

• Don’t walk through the house in the dark. By keeping a light on when walking around, you will see the things that could potentially cause you to trip. 

• Put a non-slip mat in the bathtub or shower, and if you need them, have grab bars installed. The cost to install them may prevent a costly or debilitating injury. 

• Be cognizant of uneven surfaces and make sure there are sturdy handrails installed on stairs. 

To prevent fires:

• While we encourage you not to smoke, if you do smoke, smoke outside, use a stable and sturdy ashtray, and NEVER smoke in bed or when oxygen is in use. 

• If using a space heater, keep things that can burn like clothing and papers at least three feet away. Turn them off before leaving the house or going to bed. 

• Never leave the kitchen while cooking. 

• Remember that if your clothes catch on fire, "Stop, Drop and Roll" applies to all of us, not just little ones. 

• Make sure your smoke alarm is working — keep the battery in it and test it. It is best to have one in each bedroom, in the halls leading to the bedrooms and on each floor. 

• Know how to get out of your home by having an escape plan. Know two ways out of every room, even if it means using a window to get out of a bedroom, and make sure the windows work. If you have disabilities, have a plan to work with your disabilities. If you will need help to get out, identify who in your home will help you. 

• Keep a phone near you. If you have an emergency, call 9-1-1. 

Each of the above items may seem simple and obvious, but the reality is that each of the items above create hazards for people every day. Take time to make your home or the home of someone you love safer today.

The Alarm Box, a column with local public safety information, appears triweekly in the Tidings. Margueritte Hickman is a division chief/fire marshal with Ashland Fire & Rescue. Email topic suggestions to her at margueritte.hickman@ashland.or.us.