Burn Awareness Week: Home Oxygen Safety
Fires involving home oxygen can turn deadly fast, and Madison is not immune from these types of fires.
In 2017, MFD responded to two fires caused by home oxygen tubing coming in contact with open flame. Just last year, MFD responded to a fire where home oxygen was a contributing factor, and the occupant did not survive his injuries.
Oxygen itself is not flammable, but fire needs it in order to burn. Homes with oxygen in use tend to have oxygen-saturated clothing, furniture, and air, making it easier for a fire to burn hotter and faster. Items that can ignite will do so at lower temperatures in oxygen-rich environments.
MFD has encountered a number of patients who use home oxygen as a result of a lifetime of smoking and the damage it’s done to their respiratory system. These individuals are at a higher risk of injury or death if they’re still smoking while using home oxygen. When smoking, the oxygen delivery device, such as a nasal cannula, can typically be the first fuel ignited. 90% of those burned while on home oxygen suffer facial burns.
What you can do to prevent oxygen-fueled fires in your home
- The best thing you can do for your safety, and your health, is to stop smoking. Opt for nicotine patches or other alternatives that do not involve lighting up. Additionally, do not allow anyone to smoke in your home when oxygen is in use.
- If you do smoke, the safest thing to do is smoke outside or leave the premises because portions of your home may be saturated with oxygen. Simply removing your nasal cannula will not keep you safe.
- Store oxygen tanks in a stand, upright, or in a cart to prevent tipping.
- Stay 10 feet away from stoves, fireplaces, candles, anything that could cause a spark, or any other open flame. Do not use lighters and matches near your home oxygen system. If necessary, allow 10 minutes for oxygen to dissipate before turning on your stove or lighting a candle.
Most home health agencies will educate home oxygen users on safety and proper use, but support from family members is also important. If you know someone on home oxygen, make sure they're using it as prescribed.