Preventing Florida Burn Injuries with Fire Safety
A shocking number of fires injure and kill people every year. While most of us think firefighters and other first responders are most likely to lose their lives or be injured in a fire, you might be surprised to learn about the number of non-first responders that fall victim to fire-related injuries.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of FEMA, there were more than 1.3 million fires in the United States during 2018, resulting in more than 3,500 deaths and 15,000 injuries. Economically, the cost of these fires exceeded $25 billion. Fires can occur anywhere, and we must always be prepared to ensure we are safe from both the fire and the resulting smoke. Read on to learn more about fire safety from the Burn injury attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA.
Fire Safety Starts at Home
Every home should have a smoke detector (or several). Check the batteries at least twice a year if they are not hardwired into your existing electric system. Florida building codes require all one- and two-family homes to have smoke detectors installed as part of the building process.
Unfortunately, fires can start at home for several reasons such as unattended candles, irresponsible disposal of smoking materials, a defective appliance which causes a fire, cooking, or issues with heating or electrical systems. There are some steps you can take at home to ensure your entire family remains safe, including ways to prevent fires from starting in the first place.
Preventing Fires in the Home
- Ensure there are no items which can catch fire near open flames of your stove
- Never leave a burning candle unattended
- Carefully monitor cooking food whether on the stovetop or in the oven
- Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many items
- Avoid smoking in bed and properly dispose of smoking materials
- Make sure dryer vents are always free from lint
- Keep matches and cigarette lighters in locations where children cannot easily reach them
- When using space heaters, make sure there is nothing close to them which can catch fire
- Never leave a running space heater unattended; turn off when sleeping
- Make sure materials are sufficiently cooled before disposing of in the trash
These are some basic prevention tips, but we also know that sometimes even the best monitoring of your home does not always mean a fire will not break out. Fire safety should involve preparation ahead of time since during a fire it is common to panic.
Here are some safety tips which the American Red Cross recommends for homeowners.
- Always test your smoke detectors
- Make sure your children know the sound of the smoke detectors and they know what it means
- Have a fire escape plan to make sure everyone in your family knows how to get out of the home safely in the event of fire
- If a fire breaks out in your home, take immediate action to get out of your home and call 911 immediately
- Avoid opening a warm door during a fire, as it could cause a backdraft
- Should clothing catch on fire, drop and roll to put the fire out
- Have a designated meeting location for every family member
- Stay out of your home until you are told it is safe by first responders
There are very few things you can do once a fire has broken out except to make sure everyone in your family is safe. Make sure a medical professional evaluates each member of your family to make sure they have not suffered from smoke inhalation, check everyone’s skin carefully for burns, and make sure they are treated properly to avoid infection.
Once doctors clear you to go home, or you have found alternative housing, make sure you file an insurance claim. The homeowner’s insurance company will obtain the required reports from the police and fire department. Should you have problems with an insurer rejecting your claim, you may wish to seek guidance from an attorney who has experience dealing with insurers who are not acting in good faith.
Fires in the Workplace and Other Commercial Facilities
More than 1,000 people suffered an injury from a residential fire in just one recent year. A deeper dive into the statistics available over the last decade are sobering:
- On average, there are 3,520 fires in hotels annually resulting in more than 150 civilian injuries
- Three percent of annual fires, an average of 13,570 annually, occur in stores resulting in nearly 300 injuries to non-first responders
- Between 2010 and 2014, there were more than 7,000 fires in restaurants resulting in more than 100 injuries to civilians
- For the five years ending in 2015, there were more than 5,500 fires in health care establishments resulting in 157 injuries to civilians
Being in an unfamiliar location and learning there is a fire can be terrifying, but you can take some steps to ensure your safety and the safety of others. Some of these include:
- Pay attention to all alarms and react immediately if you hear a smoke or fire detector
- Never take an elevator when fleeing a building when an alarm has gone off
- Should you enter an area where there is heavy smoke, stay as low as possible to minimize the risk of being overcome from inhaling smoke
- Before opening doors, check handles and frame for heat—if the door is hot, do not open it
- If trapped in a room, find a window, and open the window to signal to someone outside so they know where you are
- Before opening a window or door, make sure there are no other doors or windows open to avoid backdrafts
- Close doors behind you when fleeing if there are not people behind you
According to FEMA, more than 80 percent of all fire victims in Florida are injured in a structure fire. You expect a mall, hotel, hospital, or another commercial facility to be safe. Unfortunately, when a property owner has failed to properly maintain their facilities, fires can happen.
Heating systems, electrical systems, and equipment failure can all result in a fire in a commercial facility. Thanks to no-smoking rules, smoking seldom causes fires in commercial buildings.
Commercial facilities must include the following fire-safety features:
- Clearly marked fire exits
- Sprinkler systems
- Fire extinguishers
Steps to Take After a Commercial Building Fire
The first thing you need to worry about is getting out of a building fire immediately to ensure you do not suffer serious burns or injuries. Once you have escaped a burning building, get evaluated by EMS at the scene. Even if EMS clears you, seek medical attention at the closest medical facility. Difficulty breathing is critical; smoke inhalation can be very serious, and in some cases, can be deadly.
Burn injuries must be taken care of properly. Make sure you follow all recommendations from the physician who is treating you for burns because the potential for infection is very high when you have suffered a burn.
- Superficial or first-degree burns – Typically the skin will be dry, painful, red and show no immediate signs of blistering. Oftentimes, people who suffer a sunburn have first degree burns and are simply unaware of it. Your skin may change color following this type of burn.
- Partial-thickness or second-degree burns – Skin will be red, may show signs of swelling, will blister, and could be painful. This degree of burn involves not only the outer layer of your skin but the second layer as well.
- Full-thickness or third-degree burns – Typically someone who suffers a third-degree burn will notice immediate changes in their skin. The skin may either turn black and charred or white. This degree of burn not only destroys the outer layer of skin but may also invade underlying tissues.
- Fourth-degree burns – Victims who suffer a fourth-degree burn often have no sensation at all because the burn goes through the skin, underlying tissues, and may destroy nerve endings in addition to muscles and bones. Fortunately, these are the least common type of burns.
Keep in mind, a burn injury can cause life-long scarring and disfigurement. Should you suffer a burn in a commercial fire, you may have the grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit against the property owner if the fire was caused by negligence or a known hazard they failed to correct. A burn injury attorney can help you determine if you have the basis to file such a claim.
Motor Vehicle Fires are a Concern as Well
If you are involved in a car accident, everything seems to occur in either slow motion, or time seems to fly by while you are waiting for police and rescue crews. Anytime you are involved in a car accident, whether when it involves two cars, or when it involves a tractor trailer, you should be aware of any odors which indicate there may be a fuel leak. Fuel fires are terrifying because they can quickly rage out of control.
According to FEMA, during the period between 2014 and 2016, there were approximately 171,500 automobile fires on roadways in the United States.
While most car accidents do not result in a fire, you may find yourself in a situation where an accident does result in a fire, including:
- A collision with a truck carrying hazardous materials
- When an accident results in a punctured gas tank
- When a faulty electrical system causes a car to catch fire and the driver loses control
- Mechanical failure
Statistically, 45 percent of car fires resulted from some type of failure in the vehicle. Nearly 66 percent of all vehicle fires occur in passenger cars—you must take steps to protect yourself if you are in a burning vehicle.
Some of the steps you may take to prepare for a car fire include:
- Create an emergency kit – Keeping a knife to cut your seatbelt and some type of tool to break a window is a good idea. If feasible, keep a small fire extinguisher in your car, particularly if you are going on a long road trip.
- Regular maintenance – You stand a better chance of not having a fire in your car if you regularly maintain your car. Remember, your vehicle has an elaborate electrical system and a mechanic should regularly check wires for wear that could cause fires.
- Keep updated on recalls – Some car defects occur during manufacturing and may have resulted in a recall. Check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website regularly to make sure you are not driving around in a firetrap.
Being Aware Is the Key to Safety
The primary thing you can do to minimize your risk of being seriously injured in a fire is to remain calm and act rationally. While this may sound simple, it is understandable you will be fearful, and your body will have an automatic “fight or flight” response, which could cloud your thinking.
After being injured in a fire, you will likely need time to recover from your injuries. Burns can take weeks, and in some cases, months to recover from. If you were burned in a commercial building or in a car accident, you should consider speaking with a Florida personal injury attorney to have the situation reviewed. You are probably going to face steep medical bills for treatment and may require surgery to remove damaged skin or to repair damage from burns you sustained.
If the burns resulted from poor building maintenance, or because of a car defect that resulted in an accident, you may have the basis to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. As with any type of personal injury case, the sooner you consult an experienced personal injury attorney, the better. To contact Dolman Law Group about a free consultation on your claim either call our Clearwater office at (727) 451-6900 or fill out a contact form online.