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Safety first: New firefighter program helps the elderly

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WEST RICHLAND, Wash. -- It's a program that can save lives and it's as simple as a checklist of hazards in the home. Slip, Trip and Fall is the new program Benton County Fire District Four will be taking into the homes of elderly locals.

It's another day on the job for the firefighters, only this time they will be hitting the road to prevent safety hazards.

Lieutenant Kevin Gaidos knows the risks that lurk in homes, especially for the elderly.

"One single fall might be the last time they ever walk," he said.

That is why they will be making house calls with a safety checklist for their new program. The list suggests things to watch out for, and firefighters will help with any changes requiring assistance.

A visit to Michael Striefel, who is president of the West Richland Senior Center, and Gaidos immediately spotted some rugs.

"That's really one of the things that we see people tripping and falling on a lot," he said.

The program is a small measure that goes a long way.

"Clear of extension cords, I don't see any extension cords; clear of clutter," said Gaidos of the surroundings. "You appear very steady on your feet and you can get in and out of chairs on your own," he said to Striefel. "I don't know about that," Streifel laughed.

A walk through the house revealed few offenses.

"Now what would be some of the hazards in a bathroom?" asked KEPR reporter Ariella Toren. "Bathmats are one of the biggest ones," said Gaidos. "That and kitchen mats. Especially as we age, we pick up our feet less and less."

One in three adults over 65 will fall down each year, according to the CDC.

"That's why one of the CDC recommendations is to use shoes with thinner rather than thicker soles because that way you have a little bit more sensitivity," said Gaidos.

And sensitivity to the little things in and outside a home can make all the difference.

The checklist is left with each homeowner and includes resources they can call. Homeowners can also complete the list on their own if they prefer.

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