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Warming up for winter – safety tips

In light of it being National Burn Awareness Week (6-12 May 2018) and before the winter finally sinks its chilly claws in, ER24 is urging people to remember safety first when trying to stay warm. Unfortunately, trying to keep warm during winter does present itself with certain risks; fires, gas leaks, etc. It is not uncommon for emergency personnel to get called out to residential fires especially during winter. In many cases, paramedics treat people for smoke inhalation or severe burn injuries.

The prevalence of fires within informal settlements increases over the colder months. Gas heaters and open flames in small rooms are common causes of fires in informal settlements. Residents are urged to take special care. Fires can spread rapidly due to the flammable materials used to build these houses. Fires also spread easily as a result of the close proximity of the houses.

According to a News24 article published this weekend, an elderly woman has died, and over 100 people have been left homeless after a fire broke out in the Denver informal settlement near Jeppe, the City of Johannesburg’s Emergency Management Services said on Sunday. The service’s spokesperson Nana Radebe said that the fire was alleged to have started when a couple was fighting and – during the altercation – a candle tipped over.

General fire safety:

  • Keep matches and lighters out of reach of children.
  • Candles are a common cause of residential fires. Do not leave a candle burning if you go to bed or leave the property. Also, never leave children unattended near a lit candle or any fire for that matter.
  • Never start a fire or use a heater while intoxicated.
  • Never sleep with a lit cigarette in your hand. Also, never discard lit cigarettes in areas that could easily be set alight (such as a veld or dustbin).
  • Do not leave fireplaces unattended. Stray embers may cause a fire.
  • Never use an open fire, stove or a heater to dry clothes or shoes.
  • Ensure electric blankets are in a good working condition, does not have any tears or the wires are not exposed. Do not leave it on unattended.
  • Always keep a window open to ensure adequate ventilation when using an indoor fireplace or gas heater.
  • It is advisable to have a small household fire extinguisher nearby. Ensure that the whole household knows how to use it.

What to do if you sustain burn wounds:

  • People with extensive burn wounds need to be transported to a hospital as soon as possible.
  • Emergency services should be contacted immediately.
  • For minor burns, run clean, cool tap water over the burn for at least 10 to 20 minutes.
  • If arms and legs are affected, try to elevate the limb to decrease the swelling.
  • Any large surface area burns surrounding the mouth, nose, neck and throat or general facial area should be treated as an emergency.

What not to do if you sustain burn wounds:

  • Do not pop or remove blisters.
  • Do not put ice on the burn/s.
  • Do not use home remedies like coffee, butter, toothpaste, mustard, soy sauce and milk. The patient stands a greater chance of infection and further wound damage if these substances are used.

The ER24 Emergency Contact Centre can be reached at 084 124 for any medical emergency.