Observing Burn Injury Awareness Week

by Terry Bryant

Every 2 hours and 41 minutes, someone dies in a fire in the United States. Most of these deaths, along with many more burn-related injuries, occur in the home. Burn injuries are incredibly painful, expensive, and debilitating. They are often preventable.

Burn Injury Awareness Week is observed during the first full week of February, which means that this year it takes place from February 5th to February 11th. It’s a great opportunity to make sure that your homes and workplaces are as safe as possible.

How Common are Burns?

According to the National Fire Protection Association:

  • In 2015, there were 1,345,500 fires reported in the United States.
  • Fire departments responded to a fire every 23 seconds.
  • 3,280 civilians died in fires or from smoke inhalation.
  • 15,700 civilians suffered burn injuries in these fires.

Burns aren’t just caused by exposure to fire and smoke inhalation. They are also caused by exposure to hot liquids. In fact, over 500,000 scald burns happen every year in the U.S. Scalding is the leading cause of burn injuries for children under the age of four.

How Burns Happen

Burns happen for several reasons, including kitchen fires, cigarette-related fires, faulty electrical wiring, and scalding.

Kitchen Fires: Cooking equipment is the leading cause of residential fires. Home cooking fires often start on ranges and cooktops. Many of these fires begin while someone is frying food.

Smoking-related fires: Cigarettes and smoking materials cause around 90,000 fires in the United States every year. These fires often start because a cigarette is placed in the trash or falls on furniture, such as a mattress or other type of bedding.

Electrical fires: Home electrical fires account for roughly 13% of structure fires in the U.S. Any device powered by electricity carries the potential to start a fire if it is faulty or malfunctioning. Wiring and wiring-related equipment are listed as causes in over 60% of electrical fires.

Scald burns: Scalding injuries are typically due to kitchen-related accidents or water heaters that are set too high. A hot water heater’s thermostat should be set at 120 degrees or lower. Children and older adults are most vulnerable to scalding injuries.

Burn Prevention Tips

Nearly all causes of burns can be prevented by taking the proper precautions.

To prevent home fires:

  • Make sure all smoke detectors in your home are functioning properly.
  • If there are cigarette or cigar smokers in the house, make sure that they smoke in designated areas or, if possible, outside the home. Always dispose of cigarettes in a designated fire-proof bin.
  • Have a property’s electrical wiring regularly inspected for fire-hazards.
  • Have an escape plan for you and your family in the event of a fire.

To prevent scalding injuries:

  • Designate a “no-go” zone around ovens, stoves, grills, or anywhere else that you will be cooking. Remind children not to enter that area when you are cooking.
  • Check the temperature set on your water heater’s thermostat. It is not uncommon for injuries to occur because of hot water from a faucet.
  • Consider installing anti-scalding devices on shower heads and faucets.

Fire safety awareness can prevent almost every home fire. If you live in a rental home or apartment building, don’t be afraid to talk to your landlord or property management about any concerns you have. It is their responsibility to respond to your concerns.