For Immediate Release - March 28, 2014

State Officials Launch New Senior SAFE Program

HUDSON –State Fire Marshal Stephen D. Coan, Elder Affairs Secretary Ann L. Hartstein, Fire Chiefs’ Association Mass. President George Rogers, State Representative Kate Hogan, and State Representative James O’Day gathered this morning at the Hudson Senior Center to officially launch the new Senior SAFE Program.

The Senior SAFE program has provided grants to 205 fire departments this year to work with other agencies to provide fire and life safety education to older adults. People over 65 account for 42% of the fire deaths in Massachusetts.

State Fire Marshal Coan said, “The Senior SAFE Program is modeled on the Student Awareness of Fire Education or S.A.F.E. Program that has reduced child fire deaths by 72% in the past 19 years. We expect that we can have the same impact on senior fire fatalities.”

Secretary Hartstein said, “As increasing numbers of older Massachusetts residents choose to ‘age in place’, community-based partnerships are essential. Programs like the Senior SAFE Program work together with councils on aging, Visiting Nurses Associations and Aging Service Access Points (ASAPs) to makes community’s safer for everyone.”

Representative Kate Hogan, a lead sponsor of the Senior SAFE Program in the legislature said, “Over the last few years I was shocked by the tragic loss of life of seniors in my district from fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. The Senior SAFE Program was the best response to this critical situation. It builds on the success of the school-based Student Awareness of Fire Education Program that has significantly reduced annual child fire deaths. The fire service expects to have a similar impact for older adults.”

Chief George Rogers said, “These grants allow our trained fire educators to work more closely with seniors and their care givers to make sure they have working alarms and to educate them on how to protect themselves from fire.”

Representative O’Day, chairman of the Committee on Elder Affairs, said, “Fire safety and carbon monoxide poisoning, are issues of concern for young and old alike. Many seniors might not have knowledge of all the risks, or of the safety devices that could protect them from these risks. This program will save lives, and I am looking forward to our seniors having this opportunity for continued education and fire safety.”

Senior SAFE aims to improve the safety of older adult homes. Programs may include the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, testing and replacing batteries in these devices, the installation and checking of house numbers, high end heat limiting devices on stoves, in-hood stove fire extinguishers, nightlights, and other fall prevention interventions. In addition to installing any of these important safety devices, education specific to their circumstances is a crucial component of improving the safety of older adults at home.

Senior SAFE is funded by fees collected through the Fire Standard Compliant Cigarette (FSC) Program that enforces the law that sets ignition resistance standards for all cigarettes sold in Massachusetts. Smoking has been leading cause of fatal fires since World War II. Only since passage of this legislation, has it not always been the #1 cause of fatal fires. The Administration requested and the Legislature amended the Fire Standard Compliance Cigarette law to allow the fees paid by tobacco companies to be used to support the Senior SAFE Program.

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