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LOWRY: Take care to keep your home safe from burn hazards

As 2017 approaches, make a New Year’s resolution that could save a life by taking proactive steps to reduce the chance of fire or scalding-related burns in your home.

Every year, approximately 450,000 people in the United States receive medical treatment for burn injuries. According to the American Burn Association, nearly three-quarters of all burn injuries between 2005 and 2014 occurred at home. The two major sources of these injuries are fire (43 percent) and scalding (34 percent).

How can you keep your loved ones safe? First, be sure to install smoke alarms throughout your home and to check them at least twice a year to make sure they are in working order. Smoke alarms are relatively inexpensive, easy to install and available at many local retailers. Early warning of fire can provide you and your family with critical time to escape from a burning home and can mean the difference between life and death.

Create an escape plan in advance, so that everyone in your household knows what to do in the event of a fire. Making a plan can save lives by providing clear direction about the best ways to exit the home in the event of a catastrophic fire. Designate a meeting place outside your home in the event of a fire.

Also, be sure to keep fire extinguishers on hand, near exits and out of reach of young children. Have at least one fire extinguisher on each level of your home. Choose a home fire extinguisher labeled “ABC,” which indicates that it is appropriate for use on the most common types of residential fires.

Because most burns at home occur in the kitchen, it is important to take steps to minimize the chance of injury. To reduce the chance of kitchen fires, always remain in the kitchen while cooking food. Never leave pots unattended on the stove. In addition, be sure to keep small children and pets away from hot ovens and stoves. Move dish towels, plastic bags and long sleeves away from heating surfaces, as these items can ignite quickly, causing potentially serious burns. Fryers can pose a burn risk, due to the use of hot oil.

Scalds are the most common burn injury among young children and one of the leading causes of accidental death at home for children under the age of four. To decrease the chance of a scald-related injury at home, set your hot water heater to 120 degrees (or use the “low-medium” setting) and always test bath water before placing a child in the tub. Also, turn pot and pan handles toward the back of the stove, which will help prevent young children from inadvertently pulling a steaming pot or a hot pan from the stovetop.

Avoid heating baby bottles in the microwave, as they can heat liquids unevenly, which can result in a scalding burn. Be sure to keep hot liquids like coffee, tea and soup away from countertop and table edges in order to reduce the chance of injury.

In addition, space heaters and power strips can pose a fire hazard at home. Make sure cords on space heaters and power strips are not damaged. Replace these items immediately if cords are worn or frayed.

Whether caused by fire or hot liquid, burns can be deadly and can permanently damage skin, muscle, nerves and tissue. Take a few strategic steps to prevent burns at home and to protect your loved ones from injury in the New Year.

Stephen G. Lowry is a partner with the law firm of Harris Penn Lowry LLP which has handled numerous personal injury claims. He can be reached at steve@hpllegal.com, 912-651-9967 or www.hpllegal.com.

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