Martin M. King, State Coordinator, National Fire Sprinkler Association – Wisconsin Chapter
(Appeared in the February 2019 issue of The Dispatcher)

National Burn Awareness Week is the first week in February, where organizations mobilize burn, fire, and life safety educators to share common burn awareness and prevention messages.

Each year, 1.1 million burn injuries require medical attention in the United States (American Burn Association, 2002) with approximately 50,000 of those requiring hospitalization.  About 20,000 have major burns involving at least 25 percent of their total body surface and approximately 4,500 of these people die. More than 30 years ago, about 9,000 people died from burn injuries because facilities specializing in the treatment of burns were rare and most of these patients were treated in regular hospitals. Today, burn facilities and treatments have increased, and the number of burn fatalities has dropped by half.

The Wisconsin fire service has stepped up in support of the Burn Camp, which is now in its 25 years in existence, through donations to the Alliance for Fire Safety and PFFW Charitable Trust. The medical community has supported burn prevention and treatment through the two premier burn centers in the U.S. – Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Burn Unit in Milwaukee and UW Burn Center in Madison. The fire sprinkler industry has supported the Burn Camp and Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Burn Unit with donations from its annual charity golf outing. In 30 years, it’s raised over $2.8 million for burn prevention and treatment programs.

Fire safety programs that focus on burn prevention have been created by the United States Fire Administration and National Fire Protection Association and address youth firesetting and accidents involving the elderly. These fact sheets and campaigns are available on their websites. The National Fire Academy also has courses available that address these issues: Youth Firesetter Intervention Program Specialist and Manager, Community Risk Reduction, and Community Safety Educator.

Burn prevention for the fire service is available through the International Association of Fire Fighters and the National Volunteer Fire Council to protect first responders. They have supported education and technology changes within the fire service equipment manufacturers to improve firefighter safety and firefighter protective gear.

Lastly, it is important to continue the levels of fire protection within homes, schools, work, and other occupancies to assure the reduction of property loss, injuries, and death. This should start with the installation and maintenance of both smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in residential structures. Next, be sure that people adopt fire safe practices while using heat-producing equipment. This includes the not leaving cooking appliances or candles unattended, as well as using proper safety measures for space for heat producing equipment including space heaters and fireplaces/wood stoves.  Finally, provide protection in case of a fire through the installation of fire sprinkler systems. Fire sprinklers are designed to buy time to safely evacuate – that time buys life.

Fire sprinklers save lives, property, water, money, environment, jobs, and more. They make sure business patrons and employees are safe, keep the business running, and limits liability. For more information on how fire sprinklers save lives and property, please contact Marty King at [email protected]. Or, visit the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Fire Sprinkler Association at www.nfsawi.org; the National Fire Sprinkler Association at www.nfsa.org; or the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition at www.homefiresprinkler.org.