With temperatures falling into the 30s this week, people will be turning up the heat to stay warm. But, as the temperature drops, the number of patients treated by the Vanderbilt Regional Burn Center typically increases due to unsafe heating methods that result in injury.
Heating fires account for 36 percent of all residential home fires every year and are the second leading cause of all residential fires following cooking, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. It is estimated that more than 50,000 heating fires occur in the United States each year and result in 150 deaths, 575 injuries and $326 million in property loss.
Blair Summitt, M.D., Interim Medical Director for the Vanderbilt Regional Burn Center, says these fires can cause severe and even fatal injuries to occupants, with alternative sources of heat often to blame for the most tragic injuries.
"While space heaters, fire places and wood-burning stoves can help people warm their homes during the colder months, it is critical that they be used properly," Summitt said, noting that portable heating devices account for more than 50 percent of home structure fires. "We often see more patients this time of year from preventable tragedies and encourage people to follow strict safety guidelines when heating their homes."
Summitt offers the following tips to stay safe during the cold-weather months:
· Heating equipment and chimneys should be cleaned and inspected annually.
· Keep anything that can burn away from heating equipment.
· Space heaters should never be plugged into an extension cord or power strip.
· Throughout the year, test smoke detector batteries and always have a fire extinguisher within easy reach.
In the event of a burn injury, Summitt offers these recommendations:
· Flush the burn area with room temperature water.