State Fire Marshal Offers Safety Tips for Burn Awareness Week (February 4-10)

STOW, MA — State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey announced that national Burn Awareness Week is February 4-10, 2018.

“While we traditionally associate burns with fires, the leading burn problem in Massachusetts is hot liquid scalds to children under 5,” said State Fire Marshal Ostroskey, “Remember that hot liquids burn like fire.”

Children under 5 Most at Risk of Burns; Scalds Leading Cause

According to the Massachusetts Burn Injury Reporting System (M-BIRS), children under five account for more than one-quarter of all burn injuries. Scalds from hot beverages like coffee and tea, hot water in the tub, and spilled cooking liquids caused 84% of the burns to children under five in 2017.

  • On May 30, 2017, a 9-month old Waltham boy was burned when someone spilled a hot cup of tea on him. He received scald burns to 30% of his body surface area.

Tips to Prevent Scald Burns

State Fire Marshal Ostroskey offers these tips to prevent burns from hot liquids:

    • Place babies or toddlers safely in a high chair or playpen while drinking hot coffee or tea. When holding children, put your hot beverage down, because a wiggling baby can move your arm and spill the drink.
    • Put drinks and soups toward the center of the table away from curious fingers. Babies like to grab things.
    • Consider replacing tablecloths with placemats to prevent children from pulling things on the table onto themselves.
    • Create a 3-foot safety zone around the stove and barbecue where children are not allowed, even when no cooking is taking place. Teach children to stay three giant steps away from these appliances.
    • Use the back burners and turn pot handles away from the stove’s edge.
    • Constantly supervise a young child in the bathtub. Place children facing away from faucets, so that they cannot turn on the hot water themselves.
    • Always turn on the cold water faucet first, then add hot water.

Set Water Heaters to 125° F or Less
In Massachusetts, the State Sanitary Code requires hot water heaters be set to temperatures between 110° and 130° Fahrenheit. The code also requires mixing valves that also help prevent scalds to ensure bath water does not exceed 112° F at the faucet and water from other household faucets does not exceed 130°.

  • On July 1, 2017, a 1-year old Boston girl was burned when her father was giving her a bath. The water was too hot and she was burned over 20% of her body surface area.

Scalds Cause 45% of Burns to Older Adults

Older adults also frequently suffer scald burns from hot liquids and steam. As we age our skin becomes thinner, and serious burns occur more quickly.

  • On August 9, 2017, an 86-year old Lowell woman was cooking when she spilled boiling water on herself causing scald burns to 20% of her body surface area.

Burn First Aid: Cool Water
“Treat a burn with cool water; don’t use grease, butter, ointments, lotions or fats, because they can make the burn worse. Be sure to call 9-1-1 for medical help for all but the most minor burns,” Ostroskey said. He also offered these treatment tips for burns:

Stop, Drop and Roll

“If flames ignite clothing, it is important to remember to Stop, Drop, Cover and Roll,” said Ostroskey. Children should be taught to stop, drop and roll if their clothing is on fire. Older children, adults and seniors must be aware that they can put out clothing fires even in a tight space, by rocking back and forth until the flames are out, or using a blanket or coat to smother the flames.

Massachusetts Burn Injury Reporting System (M-BIRS)

The Massachusetts Burn Injury Reporting System (M-BIRS) collects reports of all burns of five percent or more of the body surface area from doctors and medical treatment facilities in Massachusetts. M-BIRS is a joint program of the state Department of Fire Services and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). The “Burn Registry” provides valuable data on the nature of the burn problem in the Commonwealth. It is also a tool to help fire service and law enforcement personnel identify arsonists that may have been burned while setting fires.

For more information on burn safety, go to and search on “burn safety”.

(NOTE: The above press release is from the State Fire Marshal’s Office.)

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