What Can the Public Do to Prevent Burn Injuries?
Burn injuries are preventable, yet they take thousands of lives across the country every year. These injuries also leave many fighting for their lives in hospitals for months or even years at a time. Endless surgeries, painful healing, scarring, and disfigurement can all occur with severe burns. People sustain burn injuries as a result of an explosion, house fire, and other devastating circumstances. However, they have one thing in common: they may have been preventable with better knowledge of fire safety.
Parents should take the time to teach children the specifics of fire safety. Furthermore, schools should be educating students of appropriate ages on fire safety. Through the use of local fire station provided education, prevention is possible. There are multiple ways to reduce the risk of severe burn injuries. It starts with informing oneself on what to do in the event of a fire. This article provides readers with the most important tips to be familiar with when it comes to preventing burn injuries.
What are the “degrees” of burn injuries?
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 fully understand the medical side of the severity of burn injuries, it’s important to take a closer 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 is a first degree burn if the skin does not peel or blister.
- Second Degree Burns: Blisters and thickening of the dermis (skin). This may be 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). If survived, these burns can cause life-altering disfigurement and mental anguish to the victim.
What causes burn injuries?
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 are burns from 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.
What are some fire prevention and preparedness tips?
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.
What happens in catastrophic burn injuries?
Accidents happen, and people sustain injuries. However, there are measures that can 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, we urge our readers to pay close attention to the next section.
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.
What happens if clothes catch fire?
- In the event you find that any clothing is on fire, the victim should immediately stop whatever they’re doing.
- Drop immediately to the ground and cover the face if possible.
- 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.
What happens after the fire is put out?
After the fire is out, immediately douse the victim with cold water for three to five minutes repeatedly. While doing this, have someone else call 911. The faster the paramedics arrive, 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.
Quick tips for fire safety
- Never allow children to touch matches or lighters. Keep these items out of reach at all times and explain the reasoning for doing so.
- Families must keep their Emergency Escape Plan up to date! Enact a new plan when moving to a new home. Practice the plan twice a year. It helps younger children memorize it by going over it with them more often.
- Check 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.
Everyone is responsible for preventing burn injuries
Preventing fires from starting in the first place 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 available. If a family is unsure whether something poses a fire hazard, all they need to do is pick up the phone and ask. When it comes to children, older siblings should lead by example. Parents should never allow young kids to play with matches, lighters, or candles.