NFPA report finds smoking is leading factor in home fires involving oxygen administration equipment

Published on August 20, 2008
NFPA report finds smoking is leading factor in home fires involving oxygen administration equipment 

August 20, 2008 – In 2002-2005, oxygen administration equipment was involved in an estimated average of 209 home fires reported annually to fire departments, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report Fires and Burns Involving Home Medical Oxygen (PDF, 224 KB). These fires caused an average of 46 civilian deaths and 62 civilian injuries per year. Smoking materials provided the heat of ignition in roughly six in 10 of these fires and fire injuries, and three in four of the deaths.

When more oxygen is in the air, things such as hair, plastic, skin oils, clothing and furniture can catch fire at lower temperatures. Any fire that starts will burn hotter and faster.

According to the report, in 2003-2006, an estimated average of 1,190 people were treated annually in emergency rooms for thermal burns caused by ignitions associated with home medical oxygen; nearly 90 percent of the victims suffered facial burns. Smoking materials were reported to be the heat source in nearly three in four of these cases. Cooking and candles were other common factors.

NFPA suggests that people using home medical oxygen and those associated with its use keep the following safety tips in mind to avoid fires and injuries:

  1. Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used.
  2. If oxygen is used in the home, the amount of oxygen in the air, furniture, clothing, hair, and bedding goes up, making it easier for a fire to start and spread. This means that there is a higher risk of both fires and burns.
  3. Never use an open flame, such as candles, matches, wood stoves and sparking toys, when oxygen is in use.
  4. People who may have difficulty escaping a fire should have a phone near their bed or chair.
  5. Make sure that the home has smoke alarms. Test them at least monthly.
  6. Have a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and an outside meeting place.
  7. Practice the plan at least twice a year.

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NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.

Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275