The presence of portable, medical oxygen in Tennessee homes has grown over the past decade, and so has the need for education about the fire hazards associated with its use. Medical oxygen adds a higher percentage of oxygen to the air a patient breathes. If a fire starts in an oxygen-enriched area, the material affected will burn more quickly.
“When more oxygen is present, any fire that starts will burn hotter and faster than usual,” State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak said. “Tennessee has seen an influx of preventable fires involving medical oxygen. It is crucial to follow safety precautions when medical oxygen is in use in a home.”
According to the Tennessee Fire Incident Reporting System, in the past five years in Tennessee there have been 18 fires in which medical oxygen equipment was involved. These 18 fires resulted in seven fatalities, nine injuries, and caused more than $710,100 in property damage.
Smoking is the leading heat source resulting in medical oxygen-related fires, injuries and deaths. Homes where medical oxygen is used need specific fire safety rules to protect people from fire and burns.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office offers the following safety tips for individuals who use medical oxygen:
• There is no safe way to smoke in the home when oxygen is in use. Patients on oxygen should not smoke.
• Candles, matches, wood stoves and even sparking toys can be ignition sources and should not be used in the home.
• Keep oxygen cylinders at least five feet from heat sources, open flames or electrical devices.
• Body oil, hand lotion and items containing oil and grease can easily ignite. Keep oil and grease away from where oxygen is in use.
• Never use aerosol sprays – especially those whose cans indicate flammable contents – near the oxygen.
• Post “No Smoking” and “No Open Flame” signs in and outside the home to remind people not to smoke.
• Ensure smoke alarms are working by testing them monthly and changing the batteries regularly. Consider using smoke alarms that contain a 10-year sealed battery. Replace any smoke alarm that is 10 years old or that does not respond when tested.
• Plan and practice a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and a designated outside meeting place.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office is a division of the Department of Commerce and Insurance, which works to protect consumers while ensuring fair competition for industries and professionals who do business in Tennessee. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.