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Home Fire Safety



Playing with fire is indeed deadly, especially for children. Injuries due to fire and burns are the fifth leading cause of unintentional death in the United States. Each year, fire claims 40,000 children under the age of fourteen as victims. Even sadder, over half of these (54%) children (54%) are under four years old.

Smoke inhalation alone accounts for over half of fire-related injuries. A raging house fire is an obvious culprit but even a contained fire, such one in a furnace in a basement can cause extensive physical damage to a child as the smoke travels through air vents.

Fire is the fifth leading cause of accidental death in the United States. In 2002, the United States Fire Department dispatched emergency services to over 401,000 residences in the country.


Smoke inhalation is usually identified by the smell that often clings to the hair and the clothing of the victim, even after being removed from the premises. However, long before the smoke is detected it can irritate the eyes and airway. Symptoms include a scratchy throat, a headache coughing, stinging eyes, tearing of the eyes and a runny nose.

The most obvious symptom of a fire-related injury is the presence of a burn. Traditionally burns were described in terms of their degrees: First, Second and Third Degree burns. The degrees referred to the severity of the skin's appearance. Nowadays, most doctors describe burns according to the thickness of the burn through the three layers of the epidermis (the skin.) These are described as Superficial, Partial Thickness and Full Burns.

Below is a description of each kind of burn that may help you diagnose the severity of an injury to yourself or a loved one.

* Superficial or First Degree Burns - The skin is pink or red and turns white when touched. The affected area is often moist but there are no blisters. This kind of burn only involves the outermost layer of the epidermis.
* Partial Thickness or Second Degree Burns - The skin is an angry red and may be mottled and blistered. If hairs are still present on the affected patch of skin, it is considered to be a partial thickness burn. This kind of burn has injured the second layer of the epidermis.
* Full thickness or Third Degree Burns - This is the most severe kind of burn and is characterized by numbness and a lack of sensation to touch. The appearance of the burn may be pearly white, dry or have a charred or leathery appearance. This very serious injury affects the first two layers of the skin.


Perhaps the most effective prevention of injuries due to fire and smoke inhalation is the purchase and correct installation of a fire alarm. Your chances of dying in a residential fire are reduced to 50% if you own a working fire alarm.

Abiding by the following prescriptions for fire prevention may help you prevent a worst case scenario.

* Never leave small children unattended, especially in a kitchen
* Keep matches, gasoline, lighters and all other flammable materials out of reach and locked away
* When cooking, turn your pot handles so that they face the back of the stove
* Keep hot foods and liquids away from the edges of tables and counters


Create a Family Fire Plan that includes emergency escape routes from each room of the home and designate an outdoor safe meeting place.

As most fire alarms are battery or cell operated, it is recommended that you test your fire alarms at least once a month to make sure they are in good working order. Alarms should be replaced every ten years.


The standard First Aid Treatment for burns is

* For a First or Second Degree burn, place the area immediately under cool running water for as long as it takes to reduce pain, redness and swelling.
* Remove jewelry that is not attached to the skin.
* Blisters should be protected. Do not burst blisters, as their purpose is to surround the injury with a fluid environment that protects the skin from infection.
* Do not apply a dry bandage or dressing to large or broken blister. The area may be protected with a plastic bag or cling wrap.

If the victim is unconscious due to smoke inhalation, it is recommended that you immediately practice the ABC's of CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation.)

* Airway - clear the airways of obstructions
* Breathing - perform mouth to mouth resuscitation
* Circulation - if there is no pulse perform chest compressions

A paramedic or emergency physician should attend to severe burns and cases of smoke inhalation as soon as possible!


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