Learn About House Fire-Related Injuries: How To Keep Your Family Safe
An estimated 1,342,000 fires were reported in 2016 causing 3,390 civilian deaths and 14,650 civilian injuries. Home structure fires caused 81 percent of the civilian fire deaths and 73 percent of the civilian fire injuries according to The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
If your home ever catches fire, your focus should be getting out of the house. It only takes seconds to sustain house fire-related injuries and it can only take as little as two seconds depending on the density and heat of the smoke, for you to pass out or die.
Four categories of burn injuries
First degree burns. These burns are comparable to a sunburn. There will be minor pain and redness on the top outer layer of the skin. The burn will generally heal over a few days.
Second-degree burns. This type of burn affects both the epidermis (first layer of skin) and the dermis (second layer of skin). Blisters can form and will be painful to the touch. The affected area might get red, white, or splotchy, and there may be swelling. Bacterial infections and scarring are a risk. Second-degree burns may take two to three weeks to heal, often with pigment changes to the skin.
Third-degree burns. This degree reaches into the fat layer beneath the skin. Burned areas may appear leathery and charred black. There will be nerve damage causing numbness. Surgery to remove the skin may be the only option, making the risk of a bacterial infection very high.
Fourth-degree burns. This is a life-threatening injury where the skin is reduced to ashes at all layers. The muscle tissue and bones are charred, and there is severe nerve damage. This degree of burn may require amputation or extensive plastic surgery. There is a high risk of infection and gangrene.
Respiratory injuries: Suffocation and Smoke Inhalation
The NFPA reports breathing injuries are the primary cause of death in U.S. house fires. The combination of suffocation and smoke inhalation during a residential fire can be catastrophic.
There are three different components of these injuries:
Oxygen-depleted air. An active fire consumes oxygen from the air leaving the remaining mix of nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide, which cannot keep a person alive. It is difficult to revive a patient with oxygen therapy alone because carbon monoxide is toxic and bonds more closely than oxygen to the hemoglobin in the blood. Extended exposure to oxygen-depleted air causes drowsiness, confusion, and death.
Inhaled hot gases. Products of combustion such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide can scar nasal passages and lung tissue when inhaled leading to permanent and disabling lung problems.
Smoke. Smoke is a mixture of heated particles and gases that can damage the respiratory system permanently congest or obstruct breathing, and cause seizures and coma. Fire burns oxygen, therefore as a fire continues, more oxygen is removed from the room. Fifteen minutes of smoke with zero oxygen would kill you and five to ten minutes would cause permanent brain damage in humans. If you are able to get out of the house fire quickly, you might notice wheezing and breathing problems hours later.
Prevent your home from going up in flames
Cooking is the leading cause of house fire-related injuries and the second leading cause of home fire deaths. Unattended cooking is the leading factor contributing to these fires. Don’t leave anything on the stovetop unattended. If you have to leave the room, turn the burner off to avoid forgetting about it.
Portable, electric heaters are also a concern. Any fabric material such as curtains or bedspreads that come in contact with the unit may ignite. Avoid this by making sure other objects are at least three feet away from the space heater.
Smoking is the top cause of home fire deaths according to the NFPA. Don’t smoke inside the house, especially while in bed. Cigarettes should be put out with water before being thrown away to ensure they are completely extinguished.
Faulty and deteriorating electrical cords can send sparks to flammable surfaces and start a fire. Ensure all of the electrical cords in your home are in good condition and replace any that are worn out or frayed.
Candles have open flames making them a risk in your home if not attended properly. Never leave a candle burning in a room that is not attended by an adult.
It is critical that the smoke detectors in your home are working properly. Three out of five home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or nonworking smoke alarms. You should also routinely check that the batteries are working.
How The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
If you or a loved one was has been injured in a residential house fire, The Carlson Law Firm is ready to assist. While you take time to recover from your injuries, our team will invest in your case to get you the rightfully deserved compensation for your injuries, loss of wages, and emotional distress. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.
- Written by Adriana Torres