Fire risk management in ageing populations

A recent update from Statistics New Zealand shows that our population is getting older:  the 65+ age group has nearly doubled since 1981.

This demographic change has a flow-on effect on the types of dwellings and residences that people choose. Statistics NZ data shows that 32,000 older NZers now live in residential care.

What are the implications of these changes, for fire risk management?

NZ Fire Service recently commissioned research surveying older people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviour towards home security and fire risk management. This research, published in 2015, can be viewed here.

Other countries with ageing populations are also looking into this issue:

This February 2015 article looks at trends in Japan in the dwelling types of elderly people and the risk of death due to fire in these settings.  The author points out that,

“In Japan, approximately 1,400 people die annually in fires (excluding suicide by fire). The ratio of people aged 65 years or older accounts for approximately 60% of these fire fatalities.”

He notes the rise in the number of nursing homes for the elderly and states:

“Even with some improvements to fire safety equipment in these facilities, there remains the problem of how to provide fire safety for elderly people who may find evacuation difficult.”

This detailed and technical article looks at the Canadian elderly residential care situation. These authors also point out the difficulties of evacuation in these settings and argue in favour of retro-fitting sprinklers. They provide a case study of such a project.

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