Fire Safety: Preventing Burn Injuries is the Smartest Defense Against Catastrophic Injury
Every year catastrophic fire-related injuries take the lives of thousands of people and leave just as many fighting for their lives in hospitals across the country for months or even years at a time. Endless surgeries, painful healing, scarring, and disfigurement can all occur with severe burns. Whether these injuries are sustained as a result of an explosion, house fire, car fire, or any number of other devastating circumstances, they all have one thing in common: they may have been preventable with a better knowledge of fire safety.
Parents should take the time to teach children the specifics of fire safety and schools should be educating students by employing fire safety courses in conjunction with local fire stations in the classroom. There are endless ways to reduce the risk of severe burn injuries starting with informing oneself on what to do in the event of a fire.
This article will seek to provide our readers with the most important tips people of all ages should be familiar with when it comes to staying safe around, and preventing, fire.
The American Red Cross has offered the following approved tips for fire prevention:
- Smoke alarms: these devices must be installed on every level of the home, inside every bedroom, and directly outside sleeping areas. It goes without being said that places where food is prepared must also be outfitted with a working smoke alarm. These should be checked and batteries need be replaced frequently to prevent the device from failing to go off in the event of an emergency. Local fire stations will send a firefighter to help disabled or concerned residents get it just right, if need be!
- Testing, testing, 1... 2... 3...: smoke alarms should be tested monthly; if they stop working, replace the batteries. If necessary, replace the entire unit.
- Have a plan: in the event of a fire, families should have a plan in place for escaping the home safely. Practice the plan in place at least two times per year, more often with younger children who may need reminding.
- Get out and stay out!: If a fire does occur despite safety measures taken–put the family safety plan into action and DO NOT GO BACK INTO THE HOME FOR ANY REASON. Call for help immediately and make sure the entire family is a safe distance away to prevent unnecessary injuries. As devastating as fires can be, it's imperative that victims do not attempt to go back for personal belongings in the event of a fire. No material possession is worth more than a life.
Degrees of devastation
Burn injuries are catastrophic no matter what degree they're classified as. It's important to understand the severity of burns and the damage they cause. To do this, let's look at the types of burns a victim can sustain and what each classification means:
- First Degree Burns: Reddening of the skin, no blistering. A mild to moderate sunburn can be considered a first degree burn if the skin does not peel or blister.
- Second Degree Burns: Blisters and thickening of the dermis (skin). This can be considered either partial or full thickness; full thickness may require skin grafting surgery to reduce scarring and prevent infection.
- Third Degree Burns: An overall thickness of the affected skin with a white colored scar tissue. There are burns that can be considered "fourth degree" where muscle, tendon, and even bone may be affected, but most victims do not survive burns of such a catastrophic nature due to severe infection and extreme smoke inhalation (which can also occur with any degree of burn injury).
While knowing the degree of a burn injury is important, it's equally as important to know what can cause these injuries to begin with to be better able to avoid them if at all possible, and if avoiding them is not possible, to better prepare.
- Thermal burns: explosions, flame, hot liquid, and coming into contact with heated materials such as glass or hot coal.
- Chemical burns: these burns are caused by strong acids or alkali-containing substances. Chemical burns require specialized and immediate care to prevent further injury to the skin. Many chemicals can also be fatal if inhaled.
- Electrical burns: the name is exactly as it implies, and these burns are caused by electricity (lightning strikes are considered electrical burns!). These burns must be treated by medical professionals even if there is no outward evidence of injury, as internal damage is most often the cause of fatalities with electrical burns.
Worst case scenarios
Accidents happen, and people become injured. However, there are measures that can be taken to reduce the amount of injuries that occur in the event that a victim does find themselves trapped in a situation where they or someone they know is on fire, or is in a home or vehicle that is on fire. The following advice was originally provided by the American Red Cross and approved by firefighters across the country and is meant to aid those who want to teach their families what to do should the worst case scenario become reality.
If your clothes catch fire
- In the event you find that your clothes have caught fire you should immediately stop whatever it is you're doing.
- Drop immediately to the ground and cover your face if you are able.
- Despite the fear of being on fire that may enforce the urge to run–the Red Cross strongly enforces that one should NEVER RUN if they find themselves on fire; this can cause life-threatening burn injuries. Instead, firefighters recommend that victims who find themselves on fire immediately roll over and over repeatedly after dropping to the ground.
- When the flames have been put out, immediately douse the victim with cold water for three to five minutes repeatedly. While doing this, have someone else call for immediate medical attention. The faster EMS is called, the more quickly the burn victim can be attended to and the better chance they have of a full recovery. Burns are catastrophic and the infection risk rises with every passing minute. There is no time to waste when dealing with burn injuries.
Fire safety is never a joke
Preventing fires and enforcing smart decision making is everyone's job. Parents are the first line of defense against life-threatening burn injuries in families. House fires are preventable and fire stations almost always have firefighters available to answer questions and provide assistance in helping to make a home safer. If a family is unsure whether or not something poses a fire hazard, all they need to do is pick up the phone and ask. When it comes to children, big brothers and big sisters should lead by example. Older siblings should stress the importance of fire safety to younger siblings and never allow them to play with matches, lighters, or candles.
Quick tips for fire safety
- Never allow children to touch matches or lighters. Keep these items out of reach at all times and explain why you are doing so.
- Keep the family fire safety plan up to date and enact a new plan if you move to a new home. Practice the plan twice a year and help young children by going over it with them more often.
- Check the batteries on every smoke alarm in the home once a month to ensure they are all in working order.
- Remember to Stop, Drop, and Roll if you find yourself or your clothes on fire. Immediately call for help. Do not run.