Top Causes of House Fires

House fires cost home owners $6.9 Billion each year.  But what are some of the causes and statistics associated with fire losses?  Here’s a quick list:

  • 42% of house fires start from Cooking
  • 18% from Electrical issues
  • 17% come from Arson cases
  • 15% from Heating related issues
  • 5% from Smoking
  • 3% from indoor Candles
  • 0.02% from playing Children

62% of house fire deaths are in homes without smoke detectors or working smoke smoke detectors.  One civilian fire death occurs ever three hours in the United States, and Fire Departments respond to over 350,000 house fires each year.

For more information, visit our website at Biowashing.com

Fall Fire Safety Tips

As the summer is behind us and fall is approaching, take a few moments to review some fall fire safety tips that can prevent disasters in your home.

Home heating

As we prepare to fire up the furnace for another season of hard work, it is important to have your system professionally inspected, cleaned and serviced. Filters need to be changed or cleaned, and make sure combustibles are stored at least 3 feet from the furnace. Have any alternative heating sources checked out as well, such as wood-burning stoves.

Space heaters

Before plugging in your space heaters for the first time, inspect them for damage, check the cords and know how to operate the units safely. Make sure that an adult is keeping an eye on the heaters when they are in use, and keep them away from combustibles and out of the path of children and pets. Everyone likes to get close enough to feel the heat, but too close can be dangerous.

Holiday fire safety

November, December and January account for a larger percentage of residential structure fires than any other three months in the year. Keep decorations away from exit paths, and check cords for fraying before plugging them in for the holiday.

Smoke alarms

Having working smoke alarms in your home give you the best chance of escaping a home fire alive. While some people remove the batteries from smoke alarms because they activate during cooking, you should try to move the alarm farther from the kitchen and make sure you have plenty near and in the sleeping areas of your home. In addition, you should:

Replace the batteries at least once a year.

Clean dust from smoke alarms with a vacuum attachment.

Replace units that are over 10 years old.

Push the test button monthly to ensure proper operation.

Have an outside meeting place where your family will meet in case of an unwanted fire. Run through some practice drills to make sure everyone knows what to do and where to go.

Carbon monoxide alarms

Carbon monoxide, or CO, alarms are an important part of your home safety plan. They detect unburned gases that may leak from gas burning appliances. They must also be tested monthly and have batteries replaced annually.

Candles

Many people use candles in their holiday decorating to create a festive and warm atmosphere. In many cases, candles can lead to home fires when they are left unattended and ignite nearby combustibles. Use sturdy candle holders that are large enough to collect candle wax and are resistant to tipping over. Keep candles up and out of the reach of children, and do not allow candles in the bedrooms.

Visit our website by clicking here:  Biowashing.com

Most Common House Fires

1.  The most common type of fire in the U.S. is the kitchen fire. The reason that the kitchen is the source of many fire hazards is because the kitchen is where heat, electricity, water, and grease come together.  The most common type of kitchen fire is the grease fire. A grease fire is extremely dangerous as it can get out of control quickly and spread from the stove throughout the kitchen and into other rooms of the house.

Many grease fires occur because someone leaves a frying pan on the stove unattended. They also occur when someone overheats a pan during attended cooking if the grease catches fire. Grease fires can cause serious injury and extensive property damage.  Other types of kitchen fires include oven fires and appliance fires. Fires can also get started in the kitchen when electricity comes in contact with water.

2.  Electrical fires are another common type of fire. Electrical fires are caused by a number of different factors, including faulty appliances, worn or faulty electrical wiring, improper use of electrical outlets and worn out breaker boxes.  Older homes often do not have the proper wiring to handle the amount of electrical appliances in use today. Often old wiring inside walls becomes frayed or worn, causing shorts and sparks that can ignite.

Old breaker boxes are made to shut off electrical current when the circuit becomes overloaded as a fire prevention measure, but often the connections are worn or broken and do not activate the breaker switch.  Lighting is another cause of electrical fires, which can be triggered by improper wiring or the use of bulbs that are higher in wattage than the amount recommended for the lighting appliance.

3.  Heater fires are among the most common types of fires in the months of December, January and February. Portable heaters should always have automatic shutoffs that activate when they overheat as a fire precaution.  Coil space heaters are especially hazardous because the coils will ignite anything combustible nearby. Always keep any type of space heater a minimum of three feet from anything combustible. That includes curtains, bedding, clothing and furniture. Always shut space heaters off when you’re not in the room.

Extension cords should not be used with space heaters as they generate too much electricity and can start a fire.

4.  Another major type of fire is smoking-related. Fires caused by cigarettes account for 1,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. Many times the smoker is not the person who dies.  Most smoking fires are started by embers igniting on furniture, bedding and trash cans. Smokers should always be sure cigarettes are completely extinguished before emptying ashtrays into the trash.

Never smoke in bed and never smoke when you are tired, inebriated, or drowsy from medication. Do not place ashtrays on flammable surfaces like couches, chairs, or beds where they can tip over and start a fire.  The best way to prevent smoking-related fires is to smoke outside the house and have a can filled with sand to extinguish cigarette butts.

For more info visit our website by safely clicking here:  Biowashing.com

Checking Your Insurance Policy

Checking and understanding the limitations to your policy can be the difference between being covered for a major loss or losing potentially tens of thousands of dollars.  This point is again being brought up by us because we recently handled a claim where a family had a major water loss on a secondary property.  A water line burst on the second floor of the home and caused extensive first floor and basement damage.  Floors, walls, ceilings and contents were completely destroyed by the loss.  Their policy had a $10,000 total cap for a water loss.  If the home had caught fire, they would have been covered for the loss and also $40,000 would have went toward contents that were destroyed.  But overlooking an option in their policy capped the loss at $10,000 including the contents.  The total cost of the claim was between $40,000 and $50,000 and this does not include the loss to their personal items.  Many people never read their policy and trust the underwriter to explain it to them.  This is a major mistake because the underwriter will give most people the cheapest coverage to insure they write your policy and not have you go somewhere else.  In these cases, families who can not afford the difference for the loss tend to take loans, leave the house in its current condition or sell the property because they can not afford the reconstruction fees.  By taking the time to read through your policy and ask as many questions as possible you will not only understand in full detail what is and what isn’t covered, but you will potentially save yourself a major amount of heartache and an enormous amount of money.

Smoke Inhalation – Part 1

The number one cause of death related to fires is smoke inhalation. An estimated 50-80% of fire deaths are the result of smoke inhalation injuries rather than burns.  Smoke inhalation occurs when you breathe in the products of combustion during a fire. Combustion results from the rapid breakdown of a substance by heat (more commonly called burning). Smoke is a mixture of heated particles and gases. It is impossible to predict the exact composition of smoke produced by a fire. The products being burned, the temperature of the fire, and the amount of oxygen available to the fire all make a difference in the type of smoke produced.

Smoke inhalation damages the body by simple asphyxiation (lack of oxygen), chemical irritation, chemical asphyxiation, or a combination of these.

  • Simple asphyxiants
    • Combustion can simply use up the oxygen near the fire and lead to death when there is no oxygen for a person to breathe.
    • Smoke itself can contain products that do not cause direct harm to a person, but they take up the space that is needed for oxygen. Carbon dioxide acts in this way.
  • Irritant compounds
    • Combustion can result in the formation of chemicals that cause direct injury when they contact the skin and mucous membranes.
    • These substances disrupt the normal lining of the respiratory tract. This disruption can potentially cause swelling, airway collapse, and respiratory distress.
    • Examples of chemical irritants found in smoke include sulfur dioxide, ammonia, hydrogen chloride, and chlorine.
  • Chemical asphyxiants
    • A fire can produce compounds that do damage by interfering with the body’s oxygen use at a cellular level.
    • Carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and hydrogen sulfide are all examples of chemicals produced in fires that interfere with the use of oxygen by the cell during the production of energy.
    • If either the delivery of oxygen or the use of oxygen is inhibited, cells will die.
    • Carbon monoxide poisoning has been found to be the leading cause of death in smoke inhalation.

Smoke Inhalation Symptoms

Numerous signs and symptoms of smoke inhalation may develop. Symptoms may include cough, shortness of breath, hoarseness, headache, and acute mental status changes.

Signs such as soot in the airway passages or changes in skin color may be useful in determining the degree of injury.

  • Cough
    • When the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract get irritated, they secrete more mucus.
    • Bronchospasm and increased mucus production lead to reflex coughing.
    • The mucus may be either clear or black depending on the degree of burned particles deposited in the lungs and trachea.
  • Shortness of breath
    • This may be caused by direct injury to the respiratory tract, leading to decreased oxygen delivery to the blood, the decreased ability of blood to carry oxygen because of chemicals in smoke, or the inability of the body’s cells to use oxygen.
    • The patient may have rapid breathing as they attempt to compensate for these injuries.
  • Hoarseness or noisy breathing
    • This may be a sign that fluids are collecting in the upper airway and may cause a blockage.
    • Irritant chemicals may cause vocal cord spasm, swelling, and constriction of the upper airways.
  • Eyes: Eyes may be red and irritated by the smoke, and there may be burns on the corneas in the eyes.
  • Skin color: Skin color may range from pale to bluish to cherry red.
  • Soot
    • Soot in the nostrils or throat may give a clue as to the degree of smoke inhalation.
    • The nostrils and nasal passages may be swollen.
  • Headache
    • In all fires, people are exposed to various quantities of carbon monoxide.
    • The patient may have no respiratory problems, but may still have inhaled carbon monoxide.
    • Headache, nausea, confusion and vomiting are symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Changes in mental status
    • Chemical asphyxiants and low levels of oxygen can lead to mental status changes.
    • Confusion, fainting, seizures, and coma are all potential complications following smoke inhalation.

When To Seek Immediate Care.

If the smoke inhalation victim has no signs or symptoms, home observation may be appropriate. If in doubt, call the doctor or go to the local emergency department for advice.

Seek medical attention if the patient experiences the following symptoms with smoke inhalation:

  • Hoarse voice
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Prolonged coughing spells
  • Mental confusion

Decide whether to call an ambulance for assistance.

  • Someone with smoke inhalation can get worse quickly.
  • If such a person were transported by private vehicle, significant injury or death could occur on the way that could have been avoided if that person were transported by emergency medical services.

For more, click here to visit our site:  Biowashing.com

Smoke Inhalation – Part 2

Exams & X-Rays

A number of tests and procedures may be performed. Which tests are performed depends on the severity of the signs and symptoms and is at the discretion of the doctor.

  • Chest X-ray
    • If the patient has respiratory complaints such as persistent cough and shortness of breath, a chest X-ray should be done.
    • The initial chest X-ray may be normal despite significant signs and symptoms.
    • A repeat chest X-ray may be necessary during the observation period to determine if delayed lung injury is occurring.
  • Pulse oximetry
    • A light probe is typically attached to the finger, toe, or earlobe, to determine the amount of oxygen in the blood.
    • Pulse oximetry may be inaccurate if the patient has low blood pressure, and enough blood is not getting to parts of the body where the probe is attached.
  • Blood tests
    • Complete blood count: This test is done to determine if there are enough red blood cells to carry oxygen, enough white blood cells to fight infection, and enough platelets to ensure clotting can occur.
    • Chemistries (also called basic metabolic profile): This test reveals any changes of pH in the blood that may happen because of interference with oxygen diffusion, transport, or use. Serum electrolytes (sodium, potassium, and chloride) can also be monitored. Renal (kidney) function tests (creatinine and blood urea nitrogen) are also monitored.
    • Arterial blood gas: For people with significant respiratory distress, acute mental status changes, or shock, an arterial blood gas may be obtained. This test may help the doctor to determine the degree of oxygen shortage.
    • Carboxyhemoglobin and methemoglobin levels: These levels should be measured in all smoke inhalation victims with respiratory distress, altered mental status, low blood pressure, seizures, fainting, and blood pH changes. It is now routinely done in many hospitals whenever arterial blood gas is assessed.

Self Care At Home

Remove the person with smoke inhalation from the scene to a location with clean air.

Make sure that you are not putting yourself in danger before you attempt to pull someone from a smoke-filled environment. If you would be taking a serious risk to help the person, wait for trained professionals to arrive at the scene.

If necessary, CPR should be initiated by trained bystanders until emergency medical help arrives.

Medical Treatment

A number of treatments may be given for smoke inhalation.

  • Oxygen
    • Oxygen is the mainstay of treatment.
    • Oxygen may be applied with a nose tube, mask, or through a tube down the throat.
    • If the patient has signs and symptoms of upper airway problems (hoarseness), they will most likely be intubated. The doctor places a tube down the throat to keep the airway from closing due to swelling.
    • If the patient has respiratory distress or mental status changes, they may also be intubated to enable the staff help with breathing, to suction mucus, and keep the patient from choking on secretions.
  • Bronchoscopy
    • Bronchoscopy is procedure performed through a small scope to directly look at the degree of damage done to the airways and to allow for suctioning of secretions and debris.
    • Usually bronchoscopy is done through an endotracheal tube after the patient receives adequate sedation and pain relievers.
    • Bronchoscopy may be necessary if the patient has increasing respiratory failure, fails to demonstrate clinical improvement, or a segment of the lung remains collapsed.
  • Hyperbaric oxygenation (HBO)
    • If the patient has carbon monoxide poisoning, hyperbaric oxygenation may be considered.
    • Hyperbaric oxygenation is a treatment in which the patient is given oxygen in a compression chamber.
    • Some studies have demonstrated that hyperbaric oxygenation causes a reduction in symptoms of the nervous system, and if the patient has carbon monoxide poisoning, it may make recovery quicker.
    • The indications for and availability of this treatment vary depending on the institution and the region in which the patient is hospitalized.

For more, click here to visit our site:  Biowashing.com

Smoke Inhalation – Part 3

Follow Up

Once the patient leaves the hospital, follow-up care is typically arranged. The patient should return immediately to the emergency department if they feel that their condition is worsening after discharge from the hospital.

  • Medications may be prescribed, such as various inhalers and pain medications.
  • The patient may notice shortness of breath with minimal exertion.
  • It may take time for the lungs to fully heal, and some people may have scarring and shortness of breath for the rest of their lives. Avoid triggering factors, such as cigarette smoke.
  • Persistent hoarseness of the voice may occur in people who have sustained burn or smoke inhalation injuries or both. Early attention to these problems, many of which are treatable surgically or behaviorally or both, could lead to an improved voice.

Prevention

Prevention is key when discussing smoke inhalation. Numerous prevention strategies can be employed to avoid exposure to smoke.

  • Smoke detectors should be placed in every room of occupied buildings. This should ensure early detection of smoke to allow plenty of time for evacuation.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in locations at risk for carbon monoxide exposure (such as from malfunctioning furnaces, gas water heaters, kerosene space heaters, propane heaters and stoves, gasoline or diesel generators, and boats with a gasoline engine).
  • Escape routes and plans for how to escape should be worked out prior to the onset of a fire and reviewed often.
  • Numbers for the police, fire department, and your local poison control center should be kept in a visible place in the event of an emergency. Find your poison control center now by checking the Web site of the American Association ofPoison Control Centers.

This concludes our four part blog on Smoke Inhalation.  For more, visit our website at Biowashing.com