Burn Center - Fire Safety

The Jerome L. Finkelstein, MD, Regional Burn Center at Staten Island University Hospital is a multi-faceted unit proving expert burn care for people of all ages. Established in 1998 by Dr. Jerome L. Finklestein, the SIUH Burn ICU provides 24-hour medical care to critically and acutely ill pediatric and adult burn patients. Patients are assessed throughout their hospital stay with continuous data collection of their biophysical and psychological states. A multidisciplinary plan of care involving Medicine, Nursing, Social Worker, Psychiatry, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Respiratory Therapy and Nutrition is established in order to provide the best care possible for our patients.

Who is treated at SIUH Burn ICU?

The Center'sm clinical staff is certified in Advanced Burn Life Support (ABLS) which allows them to provide the highest level of care to the patients.

Fire safety/Burn safety for Children and Adults

According to the American Burn Association (ABA), hospitalizations related to burn injury: 40,000, which includes 30,000 at hospital burn centers. Over 60% of the estimated United States acute hospitalizations related to burn injury were admitted to 127 burn centers across the U.S. Such centers now average over 200 annual admissions for burn injury and skin disorders requiring similar treatment.

Tips to prevent fires

  • Practice safe cooking habits. Never leave food cooking unattended. Never let children use oven, stove or microwave unsupervised.
  • Be sure that smoke detectors are installed and maintained on every floor in the home. Test them monthly and replace batteries every 6 months.
  • Store matches and lighters where children are unable to reach them.
  • Teach children the dangers associated with fire and the importance of not playing with matches or lighters.
  • Do not overload electrical outlets or extension cords.
  • Inspect the cords of appliances occasionally for signs of damage, or wobbly plugs or prongs. Do not attempt to fix them with electric tape. Have them professionally repaired or replaced.
  • Space heaters should be kept approximately 3 feet away from bedding, clothing curtains and any other inflammable substances.
  • Clean the lint traps from clothes dryer regularly.
  • Create an escape plan in case of a fire.

The ABA states that the fire death rate for adults 65 and over is twice the rate of the population as a whole, with adults 85 and over having a fire death rate of 3.5 times that of the general population. These rates are so much higher than for the general population because

  • Older adults might not respond as swiftly or move as well.
  • Older adults may be vision impaired.
  • Older adults may have more trouble retaining new information.
  • As older adults age they may rely more on prescription drugs, many of which may have side effects that may dull the senses, making it hard for them to process new information.
  • There are an alarming number of older adults in the general population who live alone even though they have incapacities that place them in jeopardy for injury.

The leading causes of burn injury in elderly adults are:


At least 800 deaths a year are caused by fires that are due to cigarettes that are disgarded carelessly.

Amongst those 800 deaths, 55 and older is the predominant age affected.

Smoking should never take place while in bed. The risk of dropping a lit cigarette on clothing or furniture and starting a fire may be greater for older smokers because they may not be able to react quick enough to prevent it. The risk increases for older smokers who become drowsy from medications or the use of alcohol.

Because oxygen-dependent smokers usually are not able to quit the habit that is more than likely the probable cause of their illness, burn injuries involving oxygen-dependent smokers are on the rise. These injuries may result in facial burns as-well-as damage the lungs.

Oxygen-dependent smokers put others in jeopardy of sustaining injuries as well.

The best prevention is Smoking Cessation, and SIUH has many programs available to aid in smoking cessation.


  • There are various typed of burn injuries that can happen while cooking.
  • You can get a contact burn from grabbing the handle on a metal pot.
  • You can get a scald burn from hot water or oil spilling over a pot or pan.
  • You can get a flame burn from a long sleeve, or from loose clothing catching fire.
  • Be mindful of electric cooking appliances.
  • Follow instructions and warnings when cooking with pressure cookers, hot plates, and heating items in a microwave oven.

Preventing Burns While Cooking

There are many risks for getting a burn injury while cooking. The best way to prevent such injuries would be to use caution while cooking.

- Make sure there are no distractions while you are cooking.

- Older adults should ask for help when handling hot and heavy items.

- Do not wear clothing that hangs off you when reaching over a flame.

- Use pot holders or oven mitts when handling a hot pot.

-Never leave food unattended by leaving the home, to prevent house fires.

- Never throw water to extinguish a grease fire. Putthe lid of the pot on and exit the home with your family.

Electrical Injuries

Each year, the burn centers across the U.S. admit over 1,000 patients with electrical injuries serious enough to require treatment in a specialized burn treatment center. They are often among the most severely injured patients hospitalized in these centers ( according to the American Burn Association).

An estimated 5,300 fires are caused by faulty switches or outlets. These problem switches and outlets are usually found in older homes and should be replaced with by a licensed electrician. The use of Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs), are recommended and should part of outlets that are placed anywhere that water is used.

What to watch for:

  • Wall switches or outlets that feel hot, emit smoke or sparks
  • Outlets serving lamps which flicker or fail to light
  • Outlets which may have deteriorated from heavy use over the years and no longer hold plugs tightly
  • Overloading outlets or extension cords create safety hazards that could lead to electrical fires. The use of a power strip is recommended because it is safer and more convenient than multiple plug adaptors

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that about 3,300 residential fires each year originate in extension cords, killing 50 people and resulting in 170 injuries. Altogether, 4,000 visits to emergency rooms are attributed to injuries related to extension cords; half of them result from people tripping over them and falling.

Extension cords:

  • Should be used on temporary basis only
  • Should be kept unplugged when not in use
  • Always allow slack, never pull tight
  • Should not be placed across doorway, in heavy traffic areas, under rugs
  • Should not be stapled or nailed to the wall
  • Never alter a 3-prong plug to accommodate a 2-hole outlet
  • Do not use "indoor" cords outdoors
  • To avoid weakening the prongs and the wiring inside a plug and creating the risk of an electrical shock, always unplug appliances by pulling on the plug, not the cord (American Burn Association).

Heating Pads

Heating pads are made with electrical wires inside of them. If these wires become damaged, the heating pad will then become a potential fire hazard.

  • Never sit or sleep on a heating pad. They are designed to be placed over the body, not under it.
  • Never place anything heavy on such a pad.
  • Never fold the heating pad.
  • Torn or worn heating pads should be discarded. Continually reusing a torn or worn heating pad is not worth the risk of serious injury.
  • Never use a metal pin to hold the heating pad in place
  • Always turn them off when not in use.
  • Use for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

Many manufactures are now making heating pads with automatic "off" switch to help reduce the risk of burns and fires.

Scald Burns

Scald injuries affect all ages. They account for over 200,000 pediatric burns per year, and are among the most common form of burn according to the American Burn Association.

An everyday danger, scald burns occur at random. Everyday tasks from ironing clothes, to hot tap water, or giving your child a bath can all lead to serious injury.

Cooking-related scalds are easy to prevent. Some things you can do to make your home safer from cooking-related burns include:

  • Establish a "kid zone" out of the traffic path between the stove and sink where children can safely play and still be supervised. Keep young children in high chairs or play yards, a safe distance from counter or stovetops, hot liquids, hot surfaces or other cooking hazards.
  • Cook on back burners when young children are present. Keep all pot handles turned back, away from the stove edge. All appliance cords should be coiled and away from the counter edge. During mealtime, place hot items in the center of the table, at least 10 inches from the table edge. Use non-slip placemats instead of tablecloths if toddlers are present.
  • Never drink or carry hot liquids while carrying or holding a child. Quick motions may cause spilling of the liquid onto the child.

Household Burn Safety Tips:

  • Set home water heater thermostats to deliver water at a temperature no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit / 48 degree Celsius. An easy method to test this is to allow hot water to run for three to five minutes, and then test with a candy, meat or water thermometer. Adjust the water heater and wait a day to let the temperature drop. Re-test and re-adjust.
  • Provide constant adult supervision of young children, or anyone who may experience difficulty removing themselves from hot water on their own. Gather all necessary supplies before placing a child in the tub, and keep them within easy reach.
  • Fill tub to desired level before getting in. Run cold water first, then add hot. Turn off the hot water first. This can prevent scalding in case someone should fall in while the tub is filling. Mix the water thoroughly and check the temperature by moving your elbow, wrist or hand with spread fingers through the water before allowing someone to get in.
  • Install grab bars, shower seats or non-slip flooring in tubs or showers if the person is unsteady or weak.
  • Avoid flushing toilets, running water or using the dish or clothes washer while anyone is showering.
  • Install anti-scald or tempering devices. These heat sensitive instruments stop or interrupt the flow of water when the temperature reaches a pre-determined level and prevent hot water that is too hot from coming out of the tap.

Electrical Child safety

Children should be taught early on the dangers of electricity. Young children have a tendency to put everything in their mouths. Electrical cords are no exception. It is important to create and preserve a child-safe environment.

  • Teach children not play with electrical outlets or electrical cords
  • All unused outlets should be covered
  • Unplug electrical items within a child's reach
  • Countertop appliance cords should be kept toward the back of counters
  • Extension cords should be kept out of children's sight and reach

Older children should be taught:

  • To never to play near electrical wires
  • Not to climb trees near power lines
  • Never to climb utility poles
  • Never play near or on train tracks
  • To stay away from any area marked "Warning: High Voltage"
  • To fly kites in open areas away from electrical lines
  • Use electrical appliances safely – away from water or wet areas
  • Keep metallic balloons indoors
  • Pay special attention to outdoor hazards

Gasoline Safety

Gasoline fires account for approximately 2,400 structural fires yearly. These fires are due to spills, improper gasoline usage, using or storing gasoline too close to a heat source, and a spark or flame from another source such as operating equipment.

  • Gasoline should be kept out of reach and sight of children
  • Children should never be allowed to handle gasoline
  • Do not store or use gasoline near heat sources
  • Only store enough gasoline needed to power equipment
  • Gasoline should be stored in an appropriate container outside the home
  • Gasoline should never be used inside the home
  • Gasoline should never be used as cleaning fluid
  • Gasoline spills should be cleaned up immediately and clean-up materials discarded properly
  • Never smoke while handling gasoline
  • Always use caution while fueling vehicles
  • Never use gasoline in place of kerosene

(Information in this report was obtained from American Burn Association and the National Fire Protection Agency)

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