SFMO raises awareness about risks to smokers using medical oxygen

Smoking while using medical oxygen creates risk for smokers and firefighters

NASHVILLE – To help prevent fire deaths that might be caused by smokers who are using medical oxygen, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance and the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office urge Tennesseans to remember that there is no safe way to smoke while using medical oxygen.  

Tennesseans who have respiratory illnesses use canisters of medical oxygen to help them breathe. While oxygen is not flammable, a fire needs oxygen to grow and spread. Consumers using medical oxygen at home are at an increased risk of a home fire when they smoke or have an open flame in their homes because the presence of medical oxygen increases the oxygen concentration in the air thereby increasing the risk of a home fire.  

In recent years, Tennessee fire departments have reported an increase in the frequency of medical oxygen related fire fatalities. So far in 2021, at least nine medical oxygen related fatal fires have been reported out of the 72 total fatal fires reported in Tennessee.

“Smoking while using medical oxygen is a dangerous and risky behavior that endangers the lives of the smoker, his or her family members and any firefighters who may be called upon to make a rescue,” said TDCI Assistant Commissioner for Fire Prevention Gary Farley. “As colder weather approaches and people spend more time indoors, I urge consumers using medical oxygen to renew their commitment to taking fire-safety precautions now in order to prevent fires and burns from occurring.” 

The SFMO encourages Tennesseans to remember the following tips to avoid fire hazards associated with the presence of medical oxygen: 

  • There is no safe way to smoke in a home when medical oxygen is in use. A person utilizing medical oxygen should never smoke. 
  • Candles, matches, wood stoves, and even children’s sparking toys can be ignition sources and should never be used in a home where medical oxygen is present. 
  • Keep oxygen canisters at least five feet from heat sources, open flames, or electrical devices. 
  • Items containing oil or grease can easily ignite. Keep oil and grease away from where medical oxygen is being used.
  • Never use aerosol sprays, especially those that indicate flammable contents, near the oxygen.
  • Post “No Smoking” and “No Open Flames” signs inside and outside the home to remind people that medical oxygen is present.
  • Ensure smoke alarms are working by testing them monthly. Replace any units that are more than 10 years old. Need working smoke alarms? Contact your local fire department and ask if they participate in the SFMO’s “Get Alarmed, Tennessee!” program.
  • Create a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room and a designated meeting place outside. Practice the plan with every member of the household. 

For more fire safety information, visit tn.gov/fire.

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