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West Virginia Fire Safety Resource

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Risk Factors > WV at Risk > Causes > Cooking > Smoking > Electrical > Heating > Arson

Risk Factors for People with Disabilities and Seniors

Through this online training, we are providing information and resources directed to high fire-risk populations (specifically people with disabilities, older adults, and older people with disabilities) to be used by state, community and home-based initiatives, with the goal of reducing the number of fire-related deaths and injuries, as well as reducing the frequency of fire incidents in West Virginia.

People with Disabilities

People with disabilities, while as unique as anyone else as to capabilities and limitations, are also in the high-risk category for fire deaths. In an emergency, people with disabilites face additional challenges as to their abilities to detect fire or escape fire and smoke in a timely manner.

People with disabilities are obviously at increased risk of suffering fire death or injury due to a number of factors. Physical and mental limitations might diminish their ability to recognize the threat of fire, safely extinguish a fire, or promptly escape from fire. Lack of information and/or education about the dangers of fire compound the risks.


People who smoke in bed or while sitting on upholstered furniture run the risk of falling asleep with smoking materials still ignited. Coupled with alcohol consumption and/or use of medications which cause drowsiness, smoking presents a deadly threat.

Another serious cause of concern is that of oxygen use and smoking, which have resulted in fire deaths in West Virginia.


Cooking can also result in hazardous situations, especially when food is left cooking unattended, or someone reaches across a burner and ignites clothing, or uses a stove or oven in lieu of a heat source, usually due to limited income.


Seniors, particularly those 65 and older, face an increased risk of dying or being injured in fires. Adults aged 65-74 are twice as likely as younger adults to die in a fire, while people 85 or older are 4.6 times more likely to die in a fire than the general population.

In 2010, older adults (ages 65 and older) represented 13 percent of the United States population but suffered 35 percent of all fire deaths. Smoking, cooking, heating, and open flames (lighters, matches, candles) were responsible for over one-half of the injuries for that year, and continue to be among the leading causes of death and injury, both nationally and in West Virginia. Visit the U.S. Fire Administration Web site section for Older Adults to learn more.

Know Your Abilities

Remember, fire safety is your personal responsibility. Fire stops with you.

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