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Emergencies, Falls and Fire Safety
Falls and Fire Safety
As a care worker – you will spend a lot of time working with elderly clients. It is of utmost importance that you know how to react should they suffer a fall.
Listed below are some interesting statistics about falls:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of adults age 65 and older fall each year.
In 2005 more than 1.8 million persons age 65 and older were treated in emergency departments for fall-related injuries. More than 400,000 were hospitalized.
Among older adults, falls are the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma.
Falls – Continued
All men and women are at risk for falling. Women fall more often than men, but men are more likely to die from a fall.
Women are more at risk for hip fractures. For both men and women, age is a risk factor for hip fractures. People age 85 and older are 10 times more likely to break a hip than at age 60 to 65.
Researchers have identified a number of factors that contribute to falls including:
Weakness of the lower body.
Problems with walking, balance and poor vision.
Diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, and dementia.
Medications or alcohol.
Responding to a Fall
Some care agencies ask staff to call for emergency medical assistance after every fall. Be sure to clarify this with your supervisor as soon as possible.
If it ever happens that you witness your client fall, follow the tips below:
• If you are able, when they fall, lower the individual gently to the floor.
• Have the individual lie still while you look for any injuries.
• If the individual is not complaining of any pain, assist the individual in getting up.
Click on the icon to read the recommended steps if your patient has already fallen when you find him/her.
Click here for additional information
If the individual has already fallen when you find him/her, or is complaining of pain after falling:
Do not move the person. Make the person comfortable without moving any affected body parts.
Call for emergency medical assistance. The respond team will evaluate the individual when they arrive.
If the individual is not responsive, call for emergency assistance immediately.
The three elements of a fire are:
• Oxygen: It is always present in the air.
• Heat: It is present in sources such as heaters, stoves and appliances.
• Fuel: Anything combustible-like paper, wood, that will burn when exposed to heat.
Fire needs all three elements to ignite and burn. To extinguish a fire you need to take at least one of the elements away.
You can put out a very small flame with a heavy blanket. If there is a fire in a cooking pot or a garbage can, put a lid on it. Use a fire extinguisher. Without fresh oxygen, the fire will go out.
Figure 1. Fire needs three elements to burn: Oxygen, heat, fuel.
The most important fire safety measure is to make sure the client has at least one working fire alarm on every floor preferably near the bedrooms and/or kitchen. Test the battery monthly.
Preventing a fire is better than fighting fires. Fire alarms and safe handling of fire and other heat sources are important in the attempt to prevent fires.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has stated that the following products are most often linked with the cause of a fire:
Home heating devices
Figure 2. Matches are a common cause of fire in the home.
How to be Prepared for a Fire
In order to be prepared for a fire, follow the tips outlined below:
Identify the nearest emergency exit. Be familiar with the escape route.
Have an emergency plan and practice leaving the building. Practice in darkness or using blindfolds.
Install smoke alarms on each floor and next to sleeping areas. Check batteries monthly and replace them every six months. Have a fire extinguisher and know how to use it. Keep it near the kitchen.
If someone uses a wheelchair, consider extra steps: Mount a small personal-use fire extinguisher on the wheelchair and/or keep a flame-resistant blanket nearby.
Live or sleep near an exit. Try to sleep on the ground floor. Keep a phone near the bed or wheelchair.
Protecting Against Common Sources of Fire
Most fires that break out in the home come from one of the following sources: cooking, smoking, heating, electrical appliances. Follow the tips outlined below to ensure that your clients are protected against fire in the home:
• Never leave the stove unattended while cooking. If you need to step away, turn it off or carry a large spoon with you to remind you that food is on the stove.
• Wear tight-fitting clothing when cooking over an open flame. Keep towels and potholders away from the flame.
• If food or grease catches fire, smother the flames. Slide a lid over the pan and turn off the heat. Do not try to use water to extinguish a grease fire.
• Make sure the stove is kept clean and free of grease buildup. When deep-frying, never fill the pan more than one-third full of oil or fat.
• Turn pot handles away from the front of the stove. Then they cannot be knocked off or pulled down.
• Never put foil or other metals in the microwave.
• A person should not smoke in bed. Make sure the client is alert when smoking.
• Do not smoke near oxygen or an open flame.
• Do not smoke while under the influence of alcohol or if you are taking prescription drugs that can cause drowsiness or confusion.
• Never leave smoking materials unattended, and collect them in large, deep ashtrays. Soak the ashes in the ashtray before discarding them.
• Check around furniture, especially upholstered furniture, for any discarded or smoldering smoking materials.
• Keep electrical space heaters at least 3 feet from anything that can burn, including people. Turn them off when you leave the room or go to sleep.
• Make sure kerosene heaters are never run on gasoline or any substitute fuel. Check for adequate ventilation to avoid the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.
• The heating systems and chimneys should be checked and cleaned once a year by a professional.
• Open fireplaces can be hazardous; they should be covered with tempered glass doors and guarded by a raised hearth 9 to 18 inches high.
• Never store fuel for heating equipment in the home. Keep it outside or in a detached storage shed.
• Never use an appliance with exposed wires. Replace all cords that have exposed or broken wires.
• If an appliance begins to smell suspicious or you see smoke, unplug it immediately.
• Never overload extension cords or outlets: Don’t plug in several items. Keep extension cords out of traffic areas.
• Electric blankets or heating pads should conform to the appropriate standards and have overheating protection. Do not wash electric blankets repeatedly. This can damage their electrical circuitry.
• Use only tested and UL-listed electrical appliances.
• Consider using new heat generating pads or blankets in place of electric ones.
• Turn heating pads off when the person falls asleep.
• Oxygen should not be flowing near open flames or a heat source.
• Don’t smoke near oxygen. A client using oxygen should not smoke with tubing in place and oxygen on.
• Oxygen should be at least three feet from an electric space heater.
• Put up signs stating that oxygen is in use and asking visitors not to smoke.
• Secure oxygen tanks so that they cannot be knocked over or be bumped into. Strap the tank to a closet wall or into the backseat of a car in the upright position.
• To move an oxygen tank, carry it or use a cart. Don’t knock over or bump the oxygen tank. Don’t put the tank on its side to roll it. If the valve is damaged, the tank can act like a torpedo.
It is important that all care workers are familiar with the various fire extinguisher categories, and more importantly – how to use them effectively.
Fire extinguishers are categorized by the type of fire they put out If only one extinguisher is available, use an ABC type that will put out most types of fires.
• Class A extinguishers are for combustible materials such as paper and wood.
• Class B fires involve flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, grease and oil.
• Class C fires involve electrical equipment, such as appliances, wiring, circuit breakers and outlets. Never use water to extinguish electrical fires-there is a serious risk of electrical shock!
How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
If a fire to breaks out when you are with a client, the first thing you need to do is ensure that the client is safe and determine if the fire is fightable.
Only if you determine that the fire is fightable, retrieve the fire extinguisher and use the P.A.S.S. acronym outlined below:
• Pull the pin from the handle area at the top of the Fire Extinguisher
• Aim the hose nozzle at the base of the fire. (Be at least 10 ft. from the fire).
• Squeeze the lever in order to release the chemical.
• Sweep the hose nozzle from side to side at the base of the fire.
Click here for additional information
Do not try and fight the fire if:
The fire is spreading.
The type or size of the extinguisher is wrong.
The fire is too large.
If you do not know how to use a fire extinguisher.
END of UNIT
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