When a fire occurs that results in death, it is very rare to find that the victims died due to actual fire or flame impingement. Much more common is death by smoke. When items begin to burn the particles they are made up of begin to break down (this is smoke), and those particles become toxic. There are three ways that smoke can kill a person:
- Particles. Tiny, burned, unburned, and partially burned substances penetrate into the respiratory system and lodge into the lungs. Some of these particles can be toxic, they can cause respiratory functions to cease, or they can be super-heated causing the lungs to burn and fail.
- Vapors. Fog-like droplets that poison the body if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
- Toxic gases. Carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and phosgene are the most common types found in fires. These gases are all put off by common household items that we all may have; items such as plastic, foam, and vinyl. These gases displace the oxygen in your bloodstream, or bond to it leading to death.
This short video shows the importance of utilizing products and assemblies that prevent the spread of smoke:
The health care industry continues to fight for the removal and neglect of these smoke barriers. Think of the lives that could be affected if smoke from even a small fire is allowed to move freely through the corridors and rooms of a one of these facilities. Lives that could have been saved by nothing more than a rated smoke barrier, may now be lost due to the harmful effects of smoke that was permitted to move uninhibited throughout the space.
Stand with the Patient Fire Safety Coalition on April 21-30, 2013 in Dallas to oppose these code change proposals and be a voice for those who may not have one.