CHICAGO – Consumers prescribed home-based oxygen therapy are urged to exercise extreme caution especially when operating the equipment near possible ignition sources, such as stoves, ovens, smoking materials and candles, the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal (OSFM) warns.
“Home oxygen equipment offers patients the freedom to remain active and mobile while receiving concentrated doses of oxygen to improve breathing,” said State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis. “At the same time, consumers—and their loved ones—are encouraged to understand the potential dangers and safety precautions when operating these appliances.”
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), about 1,200 people per year are treated in emergency rooms for thermal burns caused by fires associated with home medical oxygen with nearly 90 percent of the victims suffering facial injuries. Smoking was the cause in 3 out of 4 of these fires.
It’s important to know that oxygen itself does not burn but a fire needs oxygen to start and to keep burning. When more oxygen is in the air, the fire will burn hotter and faster. Even if oxygen is not being used, it may have saturated the home including hair, clothing, curtains, furniture, and anything else in the area, which can catch fire at lower temperatures.
OSFM offers common-sense advice when operating home medical oxygen equipment:
• Never smoke in a home where oxygen is used
• Post “no smoking” signs in and outside of the home to remind residents and guests not to smoke
• Never use an open flame, such as candles, matches, wood stoves, and sparking toys, when oxygen is in use
• People who may have difficulty escaping a fire should have a phone near their bed or chair
• Make sure that the home has smoke alarms and test them at least monthly.
• Have a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and an outside meeting place, and practice the plan at least twice a year.
For more information about the State Fire Marshal’s office, please visit www.state.il.us/osfm.