Using in-home supplemental oxygen and portable oxygen systems can be very helpful for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients. One thing I think all my COPD patients on supplemental oxygen should know is that both in-home and portable oxygen systems are a common cause behind house fires. Here, I want to offer you 5 tips on how to make these systems safer for home use.
1. Don’t Smoke
If you use supplemental oxygen but you haven’t stopped smoking, you should quit as soon as possible. Smoking is a dangerous fire hazard inside the home. Heat is 1 of the 3 things needed to start a fire in your oxygen system, and smoking can provide this heat. By quitting smoking, you can eliminate a common source of oxygen system fires from your home, which dramatically increases your safety while using oxygen.
2. Make Sure Your System Has Firebreaks
Firebreaks are specially designed valves that are intended to cut off the oxygen flowing through your in-home or portable system when a fire starts. You may also see them called fire safety valves, and there are 2 places these valves should be in your system.
The first valve should be located close to where the cannula enters the nose. This valve is critical for limiting your risk of being burned if a fire starts in the oxygen system. The second valve in your system should be placed near the oxygen outlet, which can help reduce the fire’s ability to spread. If you aren’t sure if your oxygen systems have firebreaks, it’s a good idea to get in touch with the manufacturer or system installer and ask if they’re installed.
3. Check Your Smoke Detectors
Oxygen system fires can start in a completely different room from where you are at the time. Working smoke detectors are vital for warning you that a fire has started. For this reason, it’s a good policy to check your smoke detectors every month to ensure they’re working properly. If you aren’t able to reach the detectors in your home, ask a friend or family member to check them for you.
4. Keep Oxygen Systems Away From Fire Sources
There are many places in your home to avoid when placing the oxygen source for your in-home supplemental oxygen system. It’s not a good idea to place the oxygen source near fireplaces or rooms where there are other sources of open flames. Also, rooms with cooking and heating appliances should be avoided because they can be a source of heat that starts an oxygen system fire. The best choice for the placement of oxygen sources is a well-ventilated room with no high-heat sources.
5. Plan Your Fire Strategy
Ideally, you and the other residents of your home should have a fire safety conversation soon after you begin using supplemental oxygen. In this conversation, you should discuss what should be done if a fire starts, what your escape routes should be and other factors. You may even want to write down your fire safety plan and review it with all home residents every few months. Having this plan will ensure that everyone knows what to do if a fire starts in your oxygen system.
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