We recently hosted a Webinar on managing Fire & Life Safety Processes with David Howorka, EVP of RealView, LLC. David began the presentation with a Case Study on the recent Cook County Administration Building fire in Chicago, IL. Six people died and 14 were injured, mostly attributable to poor emergency and evacuation pre-plans.

This got me thinking. If six young, healthy city employees could fall victim to a fire because of poor fire safety planning, then assisted living facilities really have to be on top on their game.  The Approximately three million elderly and disabled Americans that reside in the nation’s 16,000 long-term care facilities need even better communication and more assistance during an evacuation.

According to U.S. Fire Administration, here are 6 items that should be included in a Fire Safety checklist for older adults:

1. Install and Maintain Smoke Alarms

Long-term care facilities will, for the first time, have to protect their residents by installing sprinkler systems throughout their buildings by 2013 if they wish to continue to serve Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, under a new regulation to be issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

2. Use Smoking Materials Safely

Do not allow smoking in bed and use large, deep ashtrays for smoking debris.

3. Pay Attention to Your Cooking

Keep pot handles turned inward, and keep cooking surfaces and surrounding areas free from clutter and grease build-up.

4. Heat Your Facility Safely

Have a professional service all heating equipment annually. Keep combustibles and anything that can burn or melt away from all heaters, furnaces, fireplaces, and water heaters.

5. Practice Electrical Safety

Have a professional electrician inspect your facility’s electrical wiring system at least every 10 years, and make recommended repairs. Never overload the electrical system. Plug each appliance directly into its own outlet and avoid using extension cords. Have an electrician install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) in rooms where water may be present. Install and maintain electrical appliances according to the manufacturers’ instructions.

6. Practice, practice, practice your pre-plans

Know what to do in case of fire and make sure your residents and patients know what to do. Have regular fire drills and post evacuation routes in visible areas.