Health Care and Fire

- May 22, 2013
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At some point in early human history, mankind discovered fire. That incident must have been one of the most exciting events ever experienced up to that point. No one really knows how fire was originally found. Perhaps it came about through an accident, or maybe it happened through a supernatural occurrence. However fire was first brought about on the planet, the first person to have seen it surely found out quickly that it could at once be a tremendous tool, but at the same time extremely dangerous. After all, fire is hot, and it burns.

Fire can destroy your house and all of your possession¬s in less than an hour, and it can reduce an entire forest to a pile of ash and charred wood. It's also a terrifying weapon, with nearly unlimited destructive power. Fire kills more people every year than any other force of nature, according to How Stuff Works.

But at the same time, fire is extraordinarily helpful. It gave humans the first form of portable light and heat. It also gave us the ability to cook food, forge metal tools, form pottery, harden bricks and drive power plants. There are few things that have done as much harm to humanity as fire, and few things that have done as much good. It is certainly one of the most important ¬forces in human history. But what is it, exactly?

The ancient Greeks considered fire one of the major elements in the universe, alongside water, earth and air. This grouping makes intuitive sense: You can feel fire, just like you can feel earth, water and air. You can also see it and smell it, and you can move it from place to place. But fire is really something completely different. Earth, water and air are all forms of matter -- they are made up of millions and millions of atoms collected together. Fire isn't matter at all. It's a visible, tangible side effect of matter changing form.

Typically, fire comes from a chemical reaction between oxygen in the atmosphere and some sort of fuel (wood or gasoline, for example). Much more information can be found at this website: .

Fires often occur in structures like homes and apartment buildings, and many take place during night time hours. Unfortunately, according to, many kids will try to hide from a fire, often in a closet, under a bed, or in a corner. But if taught basic fire facts, they'd be better able to protect themselves. Teach your kids that fires spread quickly, that most fire-related deaths are not from burns but from smoke inhalation, and that dangerous fumes can overcome a person in just a few minutes. Here are some fire safety tips that everyone should learn:

• Cover your mouth and nose with a moist towel or an article of clothing to keep out dangerous fumes while evacuating.
• Crawl under the smoke to safety, staying as low to the ground as possible (smoke always rises).
• Touch any door (not the doorknob) to see if it is hot, and if it is, not to open it — find another exit.
• Locate the nearest stairway marked "Fire Exit" if you live in an apartment building, or a fire escape if the stairway isn't accessible — always avoid elevators during a fire.
• Never stop to take personal belongings or pets or to make a phone call (even to 911) while evacuating.
• Never go back into a burning building once safely outside.
• Stop, drop, and roll to extinguish flames if an article of clothing catches on fire.
• Kids should also always be dressed for bed in flame-retardant sleepwear.

Kids have fire drills at school and adults have them at work. Why shouldn't you have them at home, too? Fires are frightening and can cause panic. By rehearsing different scenarios, your family will be less likely to waste precious time trying to figure out what to do. Planned escape routes are a necessity, especially if a fire were to occur during the night. Go through each room in your house and think about the possible exits. You should have in your mind two escape routes from each room, in case one is blocked by fire. Inspect the room to make sure that furniture and other objects are not blocking doorways or windows, according to the Kids Health website.

Make sure that the windows in every room are easy to open and are not painted over or nailed shut — remember, these may be your only way out in a fire. If you live in an apartment building, make sure any safety bars on windows are removable in an emergency. Be sure to know the locations of the closest stairwells or fire escapes and where they lead. If your house is more than one story tall or if you live above the ground floor of an apartment building, an escape ladder is an important safety feature. You should have one escape ladder made of fire-safe material (aluminum, not rope) in each upper-story bedroom that is occupied by a person who is capable of using it.

Like fire extinguishers, escape ladders should be operated by adults only. The ladder must be approved by an independent testing laboratory, its length must be appropriate for your home, and it must support the weight of the heaviest adult in the house. Discuss and rehearse the escape routes you've planned for each room of your home. Designate a meeting place outside your house or apartment building that is a safe distance away (a mailbox, a fence, or even a distinctive-looking tree will do) where everyone can be accounted for after they escape.

Then, every so often, test your plan. Use your finger to set off the smoke detector and let everyone know it's time for a fire drill. See if everyone can evacuate your home and gather outside within 3 minutes — the time it can take for an entire house to go up in flames. Be sure any babysitters in your home know all escape routes and plans in case of a fire. More details about fire safety can also be found at this site: .

According to, burns are classified based upon their depth and are as follows:

• A first degree burn is considered superficial, causing localized inflammation of tissues. Most mild sunburns fall into this category.

• Second degree burns are deeper and, in addition to increased pain, cause inflammation and reddening of the skin. Blisters will also be present.

• Third degree burns are moving layers deeper, involving all layers of the skin and severely damaging it. Third degree burns are often whitish and leathery in appearance, due to the nerve and blood vessel damage.

First aid treatment for 2nd and 3rd degree burns:

• Remove the victim from the fire, explosion, or heat source, remembering not to take on any undue risk yourself.
• Remove any burning material from the victim’s body and/or the affected area.
• Call 911 or activate the emergency response system in your area.
• Once the victim is safely secured from additional harm, treat the person for shock by keeping him or her warm, still, and focused on conversation. Try to wrap the injured areas in a clean sheet if possible.
• DO NOT use ice or cold water to treat the burn or the victim, as this may result in a drop in body temperature, increasing the risk for shock and hypothermia.
• Burns on the face, hands, and feet are always to be considered a significant injury.

Treatment of minor burns (1st or 2nd degree in a small area of the body):

• Gently clean and cool the wound with lukewarm water.
• Do NOT use butter or oil to treat the burn.
• Remove all rings, bracelets, and articles that may cause further issues as swelling occurs.
• Apply a topical antibiotic ointment like Neosporin to help treat the burn.
• If the burn appears to be more severe than initially thought and you suspect 2nd or 3rd degree burn status, medical advice should be sought.

Fire destroys billions of dollars each year in property and kills thousands of people. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2011 U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 1,389,500 fires. These fires resulted n 3,005 civilian fire fatalities, 17,500 civilian fire injuries and an estimated $11,659,000,000 in direct property loss. There was a civilian fire death every 208 minutes and a civilian fire injury every 30 minutes in 2011, the most recent year of recorded incidents. Home fires caused 2,520, or 84%, of the civilian fire deaths. Fires accounted for five percent of the 30,098,000 total calls. Always be careful around any type of fire. If the fire is destructive in nature, run to safety if at all possible to save your life and the lives of those around you.

Until next time.

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