Burn Center at SIUH - Fire Safety

Fire safety tips from our Burn Center

The Jerome L. Finkelstein, MD, Regional Burn Center at Staten Island University Hospital offers expert burn care for people of all ages. Established in 1998 by Dr. Jerome L. Finklestein, the Burn Center ICU offers 24-hour medical care to critically and acutely ill patients. Pediatric and adult burn patients are assessed throughout their hospital stay with attention given to both their physical and mental health. A multidisciplinary plan of care is established for each patient drawing on social workers, nursing staff, and psychiatrists. We also include therapeutic services as needed for rehabilitation, including occupational and respiratory therapy.

Who is treated at the Burn Center ICU?

The center's clinical staff is certified in Advanced Burn Life Support (ABLS), which allows them to offer the highest level of care to the patients. Our admission criteria follow criteria established by the American Burn Association:

  • Patients that suffer from scald, thermal, chemical, inhalation, and electrical burns.
  • Skin conditions such as Steven Johnson's Syndrome, or TENS who require extensive wound care.
  • Skin issues such as necrotizing fasciitis and degloving injuries.
  • Wounds requiring surgical debridement and wound care.

Fire Safety and Burn Safety for Children and Adults

According to the American Burn Association (ABA), there are 40,000 yearly hospitalizations related to burn injuries. Of those, 30,000 are taken to hospital burn centers. Over 60% of the 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 that's cooking unattended. Never let children use the 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 six 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 flammable 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. Adults 85 and over have 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 of the following reasons:

  • Older adults may not be as agile as the rest of the population, increasing the time needed to escape from a dangerous situation.
  • Older adults may live alone in spite of mobility issues or other significant handicaps.
  • As older adults age, they may rely more on prescription drugs. Many types of medication have side effects that make it harder to respond appropriately in an emergency.


At least 800 deaths a year are caused by fires that are due to cigarettes that are carelessly discarded. People 55 and older are more likely to be among those 800 victims. Older people who depend on oxygen therapy (for conditions like COPD and CHF) are especially vulnerable because of the increased concentrations of oxygen. While many elderly patients on oxygen persist in smoking, there is no completely safe way to smoke while on oxygen. The best solution is to quit smoking. We will be happy to connect you with a support group if you are trying to quit.

Another common and preventable cause of fatalities is smoking in bed. The smoker can fall asleep, unaware of the fire as it starts. Additional circumstances like drowsiness, alcohol, and medications can increase the hazard. Older adults may have a harder time responding quickly once the fire has started.

Burns from cooking

There are many types of burn injuries that can happen while cooking.

  • Contact burn from grabbing the handle on a metal pot.
  • Scald burn from hot water or oil spilling over a pot or pan.
  • Flame burn from a long sleeve or from loose clothing catching fire.

There are many risks that can lead to a burn injury while cooking. The best way to prevent such injuries would be to use caution while cooking. Follow instructions and warnings when cooking with pressure cookers, hot plates, and heating items in a microwave oven. Be mindful of electric cooking appliances and when using unfamiliar or new devices.

  • Make sure there are no distractions while you are cooking.
  • Older adults should ask for help when handling hot and heavy items.
  • Be aware of clothing and hair that could dangle too close to a flame.
  • Use pot holders or oven mitts when handling hot cookware.
  • Never leave food unattended by leaving the home.
  • Never throw water to extinguish a grease fire. Put the lid of the pot on and exit the home with your family.

Electrical injuries

Each year, 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. According to the American Burn Association, these are often among the most severely injured patients hospitalized in these centers.

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. Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) should part of outlets that are placed anywhere that water is used. Minimize the hazard of electrical burns by looking out for the following warning signs:

  • Wall switches or outlets emit sparks, feel hot, or smoke.
  • Lights plugged into certain outlets flicker or fail to light.
  • Outlets that have deteriorated from heavy use over the years and no longer hold plugs tightly.
  • Overloaded outlets or cords are used with 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 these injuries result from people tripping over them and falling. Here are a few guidelines to make sure that you use extension cords safely:

  • They should be used on a temporary basis only.
  • They should be kept unplugged when not in use.
  • Always allow slack, never pull the cord tight.
  • Cords should not be placed across doorways or in heavy traffic areas.
  • Cords 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.
  • 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 the pad off when not in use.
  • Use for only 15 to 20 minutes at a time. (Many manufacturers are now making heating pads with an automatic "off" timer.)

Scald burns

Scald injuries affect all ages. They account for over 200,000 pediatric burns per year, and they are among the most common form of burn according to the American Burn Association. Everyday tasks like ironing clothes, getting hot tap water, and giving your child a bath can all lead to serious injury. Cooking-related scalds are relatively easy to prevent. Here are a few ways to make your home safer from cooking-related burns:

  • 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, and 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 the liquid to spill onto the child.

Household burn safety tips

  • Set home water heater thermostats to deliver water at a temperature no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit or 48 degrees Celsius. An easy method to test the temperature is to allow hot water to run for three to five minutes and then measure with a 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. Gather all necessary supplies before placing a child in the tub, and keep them within easy reach.
  • Fill the tub to the desired level before getting in. Run cold water first, and 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 with your elbow, wrist, or hand with spread fingers.
  • - 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 predetermined level and prevent hot water that is too hot from coming out of the tap.

Electrical safety for homes with children

Children should be taught about the dangers of electricity at a young age. Young children have a tendency to put everything in their mouths, including electrical cords. It is important to create and preserve a child-safe environment.

  • Teach children not to 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 lessons about safety as they become age-appropriate:

  • Never play near electrical wires.
  • Don't climb trees or fly kites near power lines.
  • Never climb utility poles.
  • Never play near train tracks.
  • Stay away from any area marked "Warning: High Voltage."
  • Use electrical appliances 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 each year. These fires are due to spills, storing gasoline too close to a heat source, and exposure to sparks or flame from operating equipment and other nearby hazards. Of course, gasoline should be kept away from children, and children should not be allowed to handle the substance. Here are a few other examples of gasoline safety:

  • Do not store or use gasoline near heat sources.
  • Only store the amount of 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 should be discarded properly.
  • Never smoke while handling gasoline.
  • Always use caution while fueling vehicles.
  • Never use gasoline in place of kerosene.

Committed to the safety and health of the whole community, Staten Island University Hospital Northwell Health is happy to help with information that may help to prevent injuries and accidents. In the event of an accident involving burns, our Emergency Department is ready to help.