Medical Oxygen Tanks and House Fires

These can be both life-saving and deadly.

As you all know, we are in the business of cleaning up after Orange County fires and water damage, both residential and commercial. But that doesn’t mean that we want anyone to experience a fire or flood in their house or business, and we certainly don’t want anyone to get hurt.

Which is why we are obligated to share the National Fire Protection Service’s information about medical oxygen. If you’re thinking medical oxygen is only something you’d find in hospitals, you’d be wrong—as more and more people are choosing in-home care over an assisted living facility. You’d be surprised at how many medical oxygen canisters are in homes in Orange County. 

“Neighbors could hear the sound of the canister erupting,” said The Boston Globe back in March, in their article about an 84-year-old woman killed by an explosion due to medical oxygen. In fact, there were two related tragedies in March in Massachusetts involving medical oxygen; the aforementioned case and another, a fire that killed a 64-year-old smoker. The NFPA’s blog reported: “The blaze, which began in the woman’s bedroom, was hot enough to melt the woman’s ashtray adjacent to her bed.”

These cases have led the Massachusetts Fire Authority to announce a new public education campaign about this gas, as fire needs oxygen to burn. Think that oxygen will just float up into the air? Not so. “Oxygen soaks into bedding, clothes, hair, furniture, and the air, creating an oxygen-enriched environment,’’ said Massachusetts State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan. “This makes things catch fire more easily, fire spread faster and burn hotter.”

Here are some specific safety tips from the NFPA:

  • There is no safe way to smoke in the home when oxygen is in use. If a patient is on oxygen, they 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 a heat source, open flames, or electrical devices.
  • Body oil, hand lotion, and items containing oil and grease can easily ignite. Keep oil and grease away where oxygen is in use.
  • Never use aerosol sprays containing combustible materials near the oxygen.

The NFPA also stresses that smoking materials (like cigarettes and other tobacco products) are the leading heat source resulting in medical oxygen-related fires, injuries and death, and recommends posting “No Smoking” and “No Open Flames” signs both inside and outside the house. For a PDF outlining these tips, please click here.

Additionally, it’s more likely that a “normal” residential fire will turn into a much more serious fire, or at worst an explosion, if medical oxygen is involved. And although we can help by restoring your Orange County home, it is devastating for the homeowner—that is, if they survive. Worse than losing your home, you could lose your life as well.

In the event of a fire or flood, either residential or commercial, make sure we’re the first people you call after the emergency services. In fact, think of us as the fourth emergency service.

 

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