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Archived Burn Safety Guides

You can browse a huge selection of burn safety and prevention information in this section. This page contains general safety tips from the Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center Burn Unit and links to specific summer safety and winter safety pages.

Change Your Clocks - Change Your Batteries

Avera McKennan's Burn Unit advises to change the batteries in your smoke detector when you change the clocks for daylight savings time. This occurs twice a year (Spring and Fall), so keep the charge in your detectors and make sure your batteries are in good working order.

Carbon Monoxide: Protect Yourself and Your Family

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that kills more than 250 people in the United States every year. It is nicknamed the "silent killer" because you cannot hear, taste, see or smell it.

Sources - Carbon monoxide is a by-product of incomplete combustion. Sources can include malfunctioning appliances (furnaces, stoves, ovens and water heaters) that when not adequately ventilated, can create CO levels that could be deadly. Other sources include vehicle exhaust, blocked chimney flues, and fuel-burning cooking appliances.

Symptoms of CO Poisoning - When CO is inhaled, the toxic gas enters the blood stream and replaces the oxygen your body needs to function properly. Common symptoms may be interpreted as flu-like and include nausea, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, confusion and breathing difficulty. Because CO poisoning often causes a rise in blood pressure, the skin may take on a pink or red cast. Seek medical attention from your physician or Avera McKennan's Emergency Department if you experience these symptoms and suspect they are related to CO poisoning.

Potential Risks in Your Home - Be alert to these danger signs that signal a potential CO problem:

  • Streaks of carbon or soot around the service door of your fuel-burning appliances;
  • The absence of a draft in your chimney;
  • Excessive rusting on flue pipes or appliance jackets;
  • Moisture collecting on windows and walls of furnace rooms;
  • Fallen soot from the fireplace;
  • Small amounts of water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent or flue pipe;
  • Damaged or discolored bricks at the top of your chimney; and
  • Rust on the vent pipe that is visible from the outside of your home.

Avoiding Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: The most important step in avoiding CO poisoning is prevention. Here are some things you can do:

  • Purchase a CO detector with the UL Mark "Single Station Carbon Monoxide Detector.
  • Avoid using charcoal grills inside the home, tent, camper or unventilated garage.
  • Do not allow vehicle exhaust fumes to enter the home.
  • Make sure all fuel-burning appliances are properly ventilated.

What To Do When the CO Detector Alarm Sounds - Remember, CO is called the "silent killer" because it cannot be seen or smelled. Regardless of whether you feel symptoms, never ignore the alarm.

If the alarm sounds:

  • Immediately ventilate your home by opening windows and outside doors. If anyone is experiencing flu-like symptoms (nausea, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, confusion or breathing difficulty), call 911 and evacuate everyone in your home.
  • Be sure to check infants and others who have trouble explaining their symptoms.
  • Turn off all fuel-burning appliances and contact a qualified technician to inspect for sources of CO. Because you have provided ventilation, the CO buildup may have dissipated by the time help responds. Although your problem may appear to be temporarily solved, it is crucial that the source of the CO is determined and appropriate repairs are made.

Propane: Fuel for Thought

Propane is a safe, reliable fuel like many other efficient fuels, however, it is highly flammable. The propane in your gas system is stored under pressure. While stored, there is no problem. In the unlikely event that your system develops a leak (usually through physical damage), it can become dangerous. If propane is allowed to build up due to a leak, it could be ignited by a flame or spark and may cause a fire or even an explosion.

A strong odor is added to the propane so that you will be able to smell it easily if there is a leak in the system or if an appliance malfunctions. Under certain circumstances, propane gas may lose the distinctive odor that was added. This is sometimes called "odor fade" and can occur in new steel containers when first placed into service, or in used containers left open to the atmosphere for a long time. To minimize this risk, the service valve on the tank should be closed when the cylinder is empty or not connected for use. In addition, a cylinder valve plug should be installed to prevent air and moisture from entering the cylinder.

Tips to Remember:

  • Be sure you and all members of your household are familiar with the distinctive odor of propane gas. If you have an impaired sense of smell, consider installing an electronic gas detector in your home.
  • If you do smell gas, do not attempt to light the pilot. Do not cause a spark by turning electrical switches on or off, or by using the telephone. Turn off the gas to the appliances and call your propane gas supplier from another location.
  • If you have a replaceable cylinder - on your gas grill, for example - close the valve when the cylinder is empty and install a plastic plug in the outlet opening. This will prevent air and moisture from entering the cylinder.
  • Before lighting a propane gas appliance, such as a furnace, space heater, or water heater, sniff all around the area. Be sure to sniff at floor level. Propane gas is heavier than air and may temporarily settle near the floor, although it immediately starts to diffuse when released into the atmosphere. If you smell gas, don't light the appliance.

Preventing Scald Injuries in Children

Children are the most frequent victims of hot liquid burns. The most common injuries are caused by hot grease, coffee, or water. Most hot liquid injuries can be avoided with a little planning, common sense, and a few simple preventative measures:

  • Test your hot water frequently with a thermometer rather than the gauge on the hot water heater. Tap water at 156°F will cause a third degree burn in one second. Water at 115-120°F cleans dishes very well, does not cause injuries, and lowers your utility bills.
  • Always run cold water first, then hot.
  • Establish a "hot zone" in the kitchen with subsequent "safety zones".
  • Do not allow cords to dangle below the counter or near the counter's edge.
  • When microwaving food in containers with lids or plastic wrap, let it cool before removing the lid. Steam accumulates under the wrap and when lifting the lid the escaping steam can burn your face or hands.
  • When cooking on the stove, keep all handles of pans turned inward. Cook on the back burners whenever possible and check all smoke detectors.