The hazards of an oxygen-enriched environment are well known in the fire service. BFES has been called to fight fires where home oxygen has been a contributing factor.
Oxygen itself doesn't burn, but it assists other materials to ignite at lower temperatures and burn hotter and faster. Fabrics on furniture and clothing can absorb oxygen and hold on to this increased percentage for 20 minutes or more, depending on ventilation.
- Smoking materials: the number one ignition source in fires where oxygen is present.
- Cooking: brings the oxygen users within close proximity to a heat source.
- Grinding wheels: set off sparks that can easily ignite oxygen-enriched fabrics or oxygen tubing.
- Sparks: from damaged electrical outlets, extension cords, or appliances.
- Static electrical discharge.
The odds of experiencing a home fire are increased when oxygen is in use; prevention is key to ensuring your safety.
- Do not store cylinders in unventilated spaces such as cupboards or closets.
- Post Oxygen Use sign on outside of entrance doors. Never smoke while using oxygen, and warn visitors not to smoke near you.
- Stay at least five feet away from heat sources and open flames including lighted cigarettes, gas stoves, candles, and lighted open fireplaces.
- Remember the oxygen tubing from a concentrator and all the tubing must also be kept clear of ignition sources.
- Do not use any flammable products like grease, oils, aerosol sprays or any petroleum-based lubricants on personal hygiene products while using your oxygen.
- Store your oxygen system in a clean secure area away from flammable items. Oxygen cylinders should be secured to prevent accidental falling that might damage a valve causing the system to leak.
- Turn off oxygen concentrators when not in use to limit the fabrics in the area from absorbing the oxygen.
Remember: Working smoke alarms are the law for every household; consider additional alarms in the area that home oxygen is in use to increase the amount of time available for escape. You may have less than one minute from the time a smoke alarm sounds to escape your home.
A person is killed at one of every four fires where home oxygen is in use.