Recently in Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning Category

June 5, 2012

Smoke Inhalation Occurs at Factory Where Industrial Batteries Overheated and Leaked

In eastern Pennsylvania last week, a machine battery at a production plant overheated and ruptured, and then began leaking acid onto other batteries that were nearby. This caused the other batteries to melt and release poisonous smoke that filled the entire building.

Although all employees evacuated safely, a number of them later in that week experienced breathing problems, coughing, headaches and other illness. Doctors who treated these employees said that in most cases, the lungs and throat are mildly inflamed from the smoke inhalation (the smoke contains hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide in it, both of which are potentially deadly in humans). The doctors' suggested remedy: Drink lots of water and take Advil or another ibuprofen product to reduce the inflammation in the body. It was fortunate that no employees touched the leaking batteries, as it is very easy to suffer third degree burns from battery acid.

Although there will probably not be a lawsuit filed against the company for legal liability due to negligence--batteries do sometimes overheat and leak--this story is a good reminder for anyone who work in an industrial facility: make sure the facility has working smoke detectors, and also know where the emergency exits are so you can escape quickly even if visibility is bad due to a smoke condition. Also, be sure to get your face down to the floor in order to avoid smoke inhalation--when there is smoke or fire, the cleanest air to breathe is down at floor level.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

May 29, 2012

House Fire Due to Faulty Electrical Wiring Kills a Child Through Smoke Inhalation, Severe Burns

In mid-May in Joliet, IL, an investigation found that there was no criminal activity involved in a fire that caused the burn death of a 3-year-old boy just days before. The cause of the fire was an accidental electrical malfunction, local fire officials said. There will probably be no liability lawsuit for negligence stemming from this incident.

The child was found in a second-floor bedroom of a home on Sterling Avenue in Joliet, IL. The boy died of soot and smoke inhalation from the house fire, according to the Will County coroner's office. The boy was pronounced dead shortly after the fire.

The boy's uncle and another child were on the first floor when the fire started. The uncle had been watching the children because the victim's mother had left to take a relative to a doctor's appointment. "The uncle tried to make entry to the room but he was forced back by the fire,'' said one fire official. Neighbors who heard the man crying came to his aid but were also not able to help. They too ran into the house, "but the flames coming out of this bedroom were so intense that no one could get to this child.''

The fire seemed to start because of faulty wiring near a microwave and a small refrigerator that were set up in that bedroom, according to the deputy chief, who said that "it was a bad electrical situation" caused by overloaded electrical outlets. The fire official added.that the child died of smoke inhalation but was also suffered severe burns because he fell unconscious, probably just seconds after inhaling the poisonous smoke and soot. There are chemicals such as hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide within smoke that make people fall unconscious after just a few breaths. So if you find yourself in a smoke situation, you must drop down and put your face very close to the floor in order to breathe clean air, because smoke and poisonous gases rise.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

May 17, 2012

Man Suffers Severe Burns from Propane Tank Explosion at Special Event. Who Has Legal Liability?


In Washington DC in mid-May, a man suffered severe burns when a small propane tank exploded during a buffet dinner event at the National Building Museum, a museum dedicated to architecture, design, and construction. The museum frequently hosts exhibitions and special events that offer food and beverage service.

The dangerous incident happened when a catering company's propane tank exploded, causing a flash fire inside the building during the event. One man was rushed to a local hospital with potentially life-threatening third degree burns.

Two issues come into play regarding this incident:

First, the catering company will likely be the target of a lawsuit claiming that it has legal liability for injuries suffered by the severely burned man.

Second, anyone who attends an event in a public place should make sure to locate the nearest emergency exits immediately upon arriving at the event. The reason: In case of a fire or smoke condition, you can evacuate the area quickly. Otherwise, once fire or smoke builds within a room, there is very little time left to find the emergency exits and evacuate before suffering burns or smoke inhalation, which can be deadly.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

May 1, 2012

Basement Fire in House Due to Flammable Materials Causes Smoke Inhalation and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


In Arlington Heights, IL last week, a man was burned in his own home and a firefighter was injured when he responded to the fire--a fire that started from careless use of flammable materials inside the home.

The man was able to escape his smoke-filled basement after chemical fumes exploded in his face. Moments later, firefighters pulled out of the building just before the first floor collapsed. "We got out just in time," said the Arlington Heights fire chief.

The homeowner was attempting to plug a hole in his basement with a flammable patching material when the nearby water heater turned on. The spark from the water heater ignited fumes created from the patching material. The man suffered first- and second-degree burns to his face from the ignited fumes but was able to escape along with his wife before firefighters showed up to the home.

The homeowner was treated at Northwest Community Hospital for his severe burns and for smoke inhalation. He was expected to spend the night at the hospital. The victim was lucky in that the home is located just two blocks from the hospital.

When firefighters entered the house, a firefighter going down the stairwell to the basement was thrown back by the force of an explosion from inside the basement, where the flammable materials ignited other items. Only seconds after the firefighters retreated from the home, the first floor collapsed into the basement. The firefighters would have been trapped and possibly killed had they still been in the house when the floor collapsed.

The firefighter who was injured during the explosion was taken to Northwest Community Hospital for a back injury, smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. Fire officials said that a stairwell is a vulnerable spot for the firefighter to be, but it was the only way to reach the basement. "When there's a fire in the basement, the stairwell acts like a chimney, which is very dangerous," the fire chief said.

Firefighters battled the flames, which had reached the first and second floors through the walls, for about two hours until it was under control. The home sustained major damage; officials estimated the damage to the structure at more than $200,000.

The lesson from this story is that flammable materials and liquids should not be used or stored in a home. Also, it does not even require a fire to kill a person from cyanide poisoning--many chemicals give off this gas and can overwhelm a person, making them unconscious and unable to escape.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

April 24, 2012

Huge Workplace Fire at Oil Company Creates Possibility of Dangerous Smoke Inhalation for Miles

In Pike Township, Ohio, last week, firefighters from dozens of departments needed six hours to get control of a massive fire at an oil company. The damage from the fire, smoke, and hazardous materials that leaked will require an extensive environmental cleanup in the area.

More than 50 agencies responded to the workplace fire. The blaze produced flames that shot 200 feet into the air, and black smoke could be seen several counties away. The clouds of smoke could even be seen on weather radar. The oil company supplies diesel fuel, heating oil, gasoline, racing fuel, bio-diesels and lubricants.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials at the scene determined that oil spilled into a tributary of Donnels Creek, which feeds into Mad River. Officials used vacuum equipment and other techniques to remove environmental contaminants. "We pushed hard to protect the environment," said a local fire chief. "We should have things back to normal in a couple days."

Public and private hazardous materials teams contained petroleum-based contaminants to no more than a quarter mile downstream, said another fire chief who is a member of the county's hazardous materials team.

Firefighters ramped up the use of water and foam to quench the flames after the fire spread throughout the entire facility. One firefighter was treated for a minor leg injury, and all 15 employees at the company's plant were accounted for. Homes in the surrounding area had minimal to no damage.

The fire started about 11 a.m. as the oil company's crews loaded a tanker truck. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but fire officials believe it ignited while workers transferred a fluid from one tank to another. It was not immediately known what type of fluid was being transferred.

After about 45 minutes, firefighters ordered first responders and company employees to get back as the blaze spread. Electric transformers exploded and electric lines fell on the scene a short time later, forcing firefighters back even more. And as the fire spread, the building began to collapse.

Before the fire spread, oil company employees were able to salvage all computer servers and some files. But once the flames began advancing and the possibility of severe burns and smoke inhalation became higher, people were told to evacuate.

At the time of the fire, the company said it only had lubricants at the site. However, a fire chief said the fire involved several petroleum products and fuel oil, including 55 gallon drums of petroleum product. There might be legal liability on the part of the company if any employees or local residents were injured in this incident, or afterwards as a result of environmental contamination.

Some oil was found in the stream near the facility. One official said that this tributary was "running orange-red." Veolia Environmental Services of Dayton, Ohio had booms in the tributary to try to stop the flow of the oil.

Michelle Simmons, environmental manager for the Dayton Water Department, said her department recommended that the Mad River intakes be closed overnight as a precaution, even though the Ohio EPA does not expect any impact to the Mad River surface water from runoff. Any possible runoff will have passed the water supply intakes by morning, she said.

The city of Springfield's water well taps an aquifer along Mad River. It also has a ridge line along it, creating almost a confined pond that provides more protection. Fortunately, "we are upstream of their problem," said one city official.

Runoff of contaminated surface water is a common concern in fighting fires near hazardous materials. "When you knock down a fire of any size, you're going to have the water you use picking up contaminants," said one fire chief.

The Ohio EPA likely will monitor the stream and other water sources for the foreseeable future. Residents near the fire have well water, and several horse farms in the area rely on the stream, so they need to monitor the quality of their water.

This chemical fire posed numerous risks. One fire chief said that firefighters have to be aware of numerous risks when fighting a fire of this magnitude. The chemicals can seep into the clothes and skin of first responders, contaminate the air, and when mixed with water can create a slurry that will create an environmental hazard as it seeps into streams and waterways. Some surrounding homes were evacuated and people with farm animals had been advised to keep them away.

Having enough water to keep flames under control was a challenge. Without hydrants, fire crews trucked water into the site, including from schools and a local water tower. Firefighters used 5,000 to 6,000 gallons of water a minute, said a fire chief.

Firefighters handling the blaze went to Springfield's distribution district and filled up tankers with water from the city's hydrants. As crews worked to keep a steady supply of water on hand, officials remained concerned about the potential for explosions. There were many large explosions during the first several hours of the fire -- a large boom followed by a ball of flame and a heat wave that spread across the area. Soot and ash rained down cross the scene, raising the possibility of dangerous smoke inhalation.

The Clark County Sheriff's Office advised people in the immediate area to close their windows and turn off air conditioning. The advisory was issued about 1 p.m. and lifted about 6 p.m.

Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said his agency worked closely with incident commanders on the scene, as well as the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency. Brian Huxtable, of the Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, advised people to avoid the smoke if possible but said as far as he knows, it's not a serious inhalation hazard if people stay far enough away. "It may cause coughing... Just try to avoid going outside in it." People with prior breathing problems like asthma would probably be affected most, he said.

The two air pollution monitors in Clark County picked up any smoke by mid-afternoon, probably due to their placement in relation to the smoke plume. Officials closed ventilation systems at local schools anyway.

Kelly Phares lives across from the scene of the fire, and said that "I heard some pops and literally my house shook," she said. "I'm concerned that something flammable could fly over, but we don't have any trees or anything (that would catch fire)." She said black debris from the fire is in her yard.

"I just happened to look outside and I thought it was getting cloudy," she said. "But then I saw (the fire) before the fire trucks got here. It's pretty scary."

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

April 19, 2012

Hydrogen Cyanide Plays a Large Role in Fire Deaths from Smoke Inhalation

A recent article in the trade publication EMS World discussed how the newer materials being used in home construction are actually making the homes more dangerous in the event of a house fire. And it is not the flames that make fires in new and recently built homes so dangerous, but rather it is the danger of smoke inhalation, which kills many more people in fires than do third degree burns.

With the number of smoke inhalation deaths between 5,000 and 10,000 each year in the U.S., experts looked at possible factors in those numbers being so high. And what they found is that because of lightweight construction materials and the increased use of synthetics in buildings and furnishings, a house fire is likely to reach "flashover" in a shorter period of time in the past. Reduced flashover time means there is a reduced time for firefighters to intervene, and it also means that potential smoke inhalation victims have much less time to escape from the fire. And the levels of toxic gases in the fire smoke also increase dramatically. All that adds up to increased potential for becoming incapacitated from smoke inhalation, and thus more possibility of death.

So it is important to know about the materials that were used to build the house or apartment you live in, so you can figure out how much time you would have to escape in case of a fire.

You see, fire smoke contains particulate matter as well as heated gases such as hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, ammonia and carbon dioxide. It also generates toxins including hydrogen sulfide and hydrogen cyanide.

Recent research from independent studies about smoke inhalation victims may very well change the treatment protocols. More evidence now suggests that victims of smoke inhalation also suffer significantly from cyanide poisoning. Cyanide kills quickly by disabling the blood's mechanism for carrying oxygen. Cyanide in a fire comes from natural substances such as wool, silk, cotton or paper. Synthetic substances, such as plastics and other polymers, also produce cyanide.

Two studies in different countries were designed to assess the role of cyanide in fire-related mortality. In both studies, blood samples were drawn from smoke inhalation victims as close as possible to the times of exposure to smoke.

In one study, blood was collected by the first-arriving medical squads to residential fires. A total of 109 fire victims were studied - 66 who survived and 43 who died. The data was compared against 114 control individuals - 40 with drug intoxication, 29 with carbon monoxide poisoning and 45 with major trauma. The study showed that in some victims who died, blood levels of cyanide were in the potentially lethal range while blood levels of carbon monoxide were in the non-toxic range.

These results were directly opposite the thinking that smoke inhalation victims die only from carbon monoxide. Instead, the study showed that cyanide and carbon monoxide were both important when determining mortality risk associated with smoke inhalation. Other results of the study showed that cyanide concentrations were directly related to the probability of death, and that cyanide poisoning may have been the leading cause of death in some fire victims, and that cyanide and carbon monoxide may have possibly helped the toxic effects of one another.

The other study collected blood within eight hours from victims exposed to smoke. The study compared 144 smoke inhalation victims who arrived alive over a two-year period at the University of Texas Health Science Center emergency room against 43 smoke inhalation victims who were dead on arrival at the Dallas County Medical Examiner's Office during the same period.

The study found that the average blood cyanide concentrations in victims arriving alive at the emergency room were lower than concentrations in victims who were dead on arrival. The Dallas County study concluded that elevated cyanide concentrations were more present among smoke inhalation victims. It also concluded that cyanide concentrations were directly related to the probability of death, and cyanide poisoning may have been the leading cause of death over carbon monoxide poisoning.

And in a study using monkeys, researchers found that even sub-lethal concentrations of cyanide in a fire can still cause death because it rapidly brings on unconsciousness, thus preventing escape from the fire and permitting more exposure to fatal concentrations of other toxins.

As a result of these studies, it is easy to conclude that cyanide plays an important role in causing death and incapacitation in fires. Further, medical providers and firefighters should suspect cyanide poisoning in any person exposed to smoke from a fire in a closed space and any other smoke inhalation victims with soot in the mouth, an altered mental status and low blood pressure.

Obviously, the difference between life and death of a smoke inhalation victim is dependent upon the concentration of exposure and the time between exposure and treatment.

The current treatment of smoke inhalation victims is to administer pure oxygen and stabilize vital signs.

Some fire departments and ambulances carry cyanide antidotes kits specifically for smoke inhalation victims, called Cyanokit. By protocol, if a victim has soot in the nose or mouth and suffers an altered level of consciousness, the Cyanokit is used.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

April 17, 2012

Mayor of Newark, NJ Saves Neighbor From Severe Burns and Smoke Inhalation in House Fire


On April 12, Newark Mayor Cory Booker saved a neighbor from a blazing house fire -- a dramatic rescue that he admitted was absolutely terrifying.

The dramatic rescue began at around 9:30 p.m. that night, when Booker and two officers from the Mayor's security team spotted a fire at a house on Hawthorne Avenue belonging to Booker's neighbor. They went over to investigate.

On the first floor, they found a couple, who told them that the woman's daughter and a man were trapped upstairs. Booker and Newark Detective Alex Rodriguez then went to the top of the stairs, where the home's kitchen had erupted in flames.

They first saw a man trying to douse the fire, and told him to get out. Then they heard Zina Hodge, 47, yelling for help from somewhere beyond the burning kitchen.

"This woman is going to die!" the mayor recalled saying at that moment.

"It was very scary, and I consider myself very lucky," Booker said. "There was a time I got through the kitchen and was searching for her, and I looked back to see the kitchen in flames. It was really a frightening experience for me. I didn't think we'd get out of there."

Despite the flames, Booker was determined to get Hodge, whom he has known for six years and considers a good friend. "When I come home from a really tough day, she's there to tease me," he said. "She's just a really good human being."

Rodriguez, however, tried to stop his boss because the fire was getting worse. "Something exploded [in the kitchen], and at that point, my security men did what they're trained to do, which is get me out of danger," Booker said. "So Detective Rodriguez and I had a bit of an altercation. He was literally pulling me by the belt. Finally, I whipped around, we had some words, and he relented. In the end, I am his commanding officer."

Booker said he had to crawl on his hands and knees to get to the bed where Hodge was lying, because the rising smoke was so thick that he would have passed out from smoke inhalation if he did not get down on the floor. In a smoky fire, the cleanest air can be found near the floor, so the correct thing to do is to crawl to safety.

Booker put Hodge over his shoulder and carried her back through the kitchen -- where fire was shooting up the wall and flaming embers were showering down around them. At this moment, Booker said he feared for his life.

"Honestly, at that point, I did not feel bravery -- I felt terror," he said. "It looked like I couldn't get back from where I came from. And I couldn't breathe." But he eventually got back to Detective Rodriguez, and they both took Hodges out of the house.

"She didn't have many clothes on, so she sustained more severe burns than I did," Booker said. "I was holding her and my clothes got burned, but my hand was the only part of my body that got burned."

Two days later, as Hodge was treated for a few third degree burns plus other second degree burns, her mom, Jacqualin Williams, showered Booker with praise. "I think he's Super Mayor," she said. "He should stay mayor and then become president." Booker said he didn't feel like a hero, and balked at being called Super Mayor. "I think that's way over the top. There are people who do this every day," he said, referring to police officers and firefighters.

But Hodge's family feels that Booker was a real hero. "That was great," said Hodge's brother, Roderick Lucas, 38. "My uncle tried to get into the burning house, and my nephew too. Neither one of them could get through, but the mayor did."

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

April 12, 2012

Smoke Inhalation During Night-Time Fires is Often Deadly--Smoke Detectors Are Absolutely Necessary

We hear the warnings all the time, but too many of us do not listen to them: Smoke detectors are absolutely necessary inside homes. Night-time fire can kill the occupants of a home while they sleep; the carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and other poisons that enter our bodes from smoke inhalation can kill a person within seconds.

Unfortunately, lack of smoke alarms or faulty smoke detectors caused two terrible tragedies in the past few weeks. First, In Charleston, WV, in mid-March, a fire tore through a two-story home that had no working smoke detectors, killing eight family members--including six children.

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said he believed it was the city's deadliest fire in at least six decades. Jones said only one smoke detector was found in a cabinet, and it was not working. The Mayor said he was "devastated" by the news when he got a phone call after the fire was reported around 3:30 a.m.

"I walked up there and caught a glimpse of some of the fatalities, and it's something that's hard to grasp. The fact that there are [six] dead children, it's unimaginable." In addition, one child was on life support at a hospital and not expected to survive, the mayor said.

Neighbors indicated there had been a birthday party at the home a few hours before for one of the adults. An adult female from the home went to a neighbor's house to report the fire overnight. The home was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.

The fire chief said that firefighters knocked down the flames quickly. But when they got inside the house, they found five victims and "started realizing there were a lot of people in this house, a lot of children." The fire seems to have started in the middle of the home's main level. The cause is under investigation.

And in Jacksonville, AR the same week, the bodies of a mother and her four children were found inside a duplex apartment, and authorities believe they were killed by smoke inhalation from an overnight fire that had actually died out before firefighters arrived.

A maintenance worker found the bodies around 7 a.m., about an hour after firefighters first knocked on the door to follow up on a neighbor's report of smelling smoke. At the time, nobody answered the door and the firefighters could not detect any sign of a fire from outside, so they left without entering, said the fire chief.

Firefighters had three engines deployed to another house fire nearby, and they believed that was the source of the smoke. After firefighters returned to the scene following the discovery of the bodies by the maintenance worker, they determined that a fire burned overnight and smoldered itself out, causing a lot of smoke to build up in the duplex.

The 31-year-old mother died in her sleep, along with her four children: ages 11, 9, 7, and 4. The maintenance worker found the bodies in their bedrooms and saw extensive smoke damage in the kitchen. "The damage around the stove and the cabinets beside the stove," said the fire chief. "Evidently, something was cooking and caught fire."

A police spokeswoman said there was smoke and soot damage throughout the duplex and in the ventilation system, but no fire damage to the outside of the duplex.

"I got the call this morning and I couldn't believe it," said a family friend, who was godfather to the family. "The last thing I heard the son say was that we were going to get together this weekend and go to the park."

Authorities say a smoke alarm is being tested as part of the investigation. They say smoke detectors in the duplexes do not send signals directly to the fire department and that the detectors do not require regular battery replacement because they are hard-wired into the complex. It is not known at this time if the building's fire alarms were working properly. If they were not, then the complex might have legal liability for injuries that caused the deaths of the occupants.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

April 10, 2012

Smoke Inhalation, Not Severe Burns, Is Most Deadly Aspect of House Fires

Since the start of April, there have been more than a dozen deaths around the United States from smoke inhalation during fires in houses and other buildings. This is a clear indication that smoke from fire is even more dangerous to people than the flames themselves. Why? Because it only takes one or two breaths of smoke to cause a person to become unconscious, and become unable to escape a burning building. And just a few more breaths of the hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide in the smoke can kill a person.

Here is a grim example from just last week: In Northeastern Pennsylvania, a four-month-old girl was killed by smoke inhalation in a fast-moving fire in a trailer home. The county coroner said that the girl died of carbon monoxide poisoning from the smoke, although all other occupants got out safely or were rescued by neighbors. The infant was not able to be rescued in time from her bassinet. Three boys and a woman were treated at Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton and released, while a man was admitted in stable condition.

The local fire chief stated that the trailer was engulfed in flames when he arrived. He and a state police fire marshal said the cause is unknown, but the fire is not believed to be suspicious.

And in Fitchburg, MA, last week, a police officer was taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation after responding with firefighters to a kitchen fire. The officer, whose name was not given, entered the building believing there was a child inside the house, because a woman there made statements indicating her 3-year-old baby was inside. But the woman was actually referring to her dog, who made it out of the fire. Firefighters were on scene about 45 minutes after the blaze was reported. It appeared to have started with unattended food and spread into the kitchen cabinets.

In case of fire, it is important that adults find children immediately and get them to safety. The best thing to do is for everyone to then drop the floor and then crawl towards a door or window. Remember that smoke rises, so the only breathable air during a fire is right down at the floor.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

March 13, 2012

High-Rise Hotel Blaze in Bangkok Offers Lessons on Avoiding Deadly Smoke Inhalation and Severe Burns

Last week, a small fire at a high-rise hotel in the main tourist district of Bangkok, Thailand caused the upper floors to become filled with smoke, killing at least one foreign tourist and injuring 23 others.

When firefighters arrived at the 15-story Grand Park Avenue Bangkok hotel last Thursday evening, they saw people screaming for help from the upper floors. The smoke had risen so quickly and had gotten so thick that "people were panicked and some of them wanted to jump from windows. We had to tell them to wait and we sent cranes in to help," said a local fire chief.

One foreign woman who suffered from smoke inhalation was unconscious when taken from the building and later died at a Bangkok hospital. It can take just two or three breaths of smoky air that contains carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide to cause permanent injury to the brain, heart and lungs, and even death.

The other victims included two Thais and 19 foreign tourists, most of whom suffered from smoke inhalation.

Investigators were still trying to determine the cause of the fire, which started on the building's fourth floor shortly before 10 p.m. and was quickly extinguished, but sent suffocating smoke to the upper floors at a time of night when most people were in their rooms.

Dozens of people were evacuated and rescue teams treated at least 12 people at the scene to clear their lungs of smoke.

The three-star hotel, formerly known as the Grand Mercure Park Avenue, has 221 rooms and is located in a tourist and residential district popular with foreigners.

The lesson to be learned from this incident is that hotel guests should locate the fire exits on the floor they're staying on as soon as they arrive. As the victims who were trapped in this hotel found out, even a small a small fire needs only a few minutes to cause choking smoke that will rise through a building, just like in a chimney. This can cause death and injury to people who are located far away from the actual fire. In a hotel fire situation, every second counts, so knowing where the exits are located before an emergency happens could mean the difference between life and death.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

February 9, 2012

A Wrong Decision to Extinguish a Fire Results in a Severe Burn Accident

In Knoxville, Tennessee last week, a fire in the middle of the night from a fireplace that was not properly monitored cause severe burns to a 23-year-old man. Apparently, the man tried to put out the spreading flames by stomping on the burning materials and by placing towels over the flames to smother them. As a result, the victim suffered second degree burns and third degree burns to his hands and feet. He was flown to the Vanderbilt Burn Center in Nashville for more advanced treatment. The victim might need a skin graft to fully heal his burn wounds.

A neighbor said that the man, who was alone in the house at the time of the fire, was using the fireplace to stay warm. "When fire crews got to the house, the victim was outside already," said the local fire chief. "He had apparently made an attempt to put the flames out before they got out of control. That's usually when you suffer burns to your hands and feet."

Firefighters attended to the victim, and started a defensive attack to keep the fire from spreading to houses next door. But the fire became so intense that a neighbor's home, including the roof and siding, was damaged by the heat. In addition to the victim's house being destroyed, there is now the possibility that the burn victim has legal liability for damages inflicted upon the adjacent house.

The victim told firefighters that he had started a fire in the fireplace in the late evening, before going to bed, and left the fire burning.

There are a few important lessons to learn from this incident:

First, it is very dangerous to leave a fire unattended! The same goes for candles and food that is cooking. You should NOT leave any room using fire or a flame for more than a few seconds.

Second, if a fire starts in your home, do NOT try to put it out yourself unless it is small AND only if you use a fire extinguisher. Getting close to a fire with your hands and feet is very dangerous, and even your clothes could catch fire, which can kill you before you can perform the "stop, drop and roll" procedure.

Third, remember that three out of every four people who die in a fire suffer smoke inhalation rather than severe burns. It takes only one or two breaths of fire smoke, which is contaminated with poisonous carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, to make a person unconscious, and thus unable to escape the fire.

If a fire starts in your home and no fire extinguisher is available, you should immediately yell "fire!" to all other people in the house so that they know they must evacuate, and you should then get yourself out of the house as quickly as possible. Once outside, you should call 911 or the fire department and give them the address of the house. Do NOT go back into the house under any circumstances!

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

January 24, 2012

A Free Smoke Detector Program is Born From Smoke Inhalation Deaths Suffered in a Tragic Fire

A family in Clinton, Iowa is teaming up with firefighters around the midwestern U.S. to turn a terrible tragedy into an educational program that will probably save many people from suffering deadly smoke inhalation or severe burns due to house fires.

Four members of the town's Molitor family--two young boys, their mother, and their grandmother--all died of smoke inhalation after a chair caught fire in their Clinton home two years ago. The most heartbreaking aspect is that this was a small fire, which started in a chair. Unfortunately, the burning chair generated a lot of smoke quickly, and the family members who stayed too long in the house (rather than evacuating immediately and calling 911 from outside) were overcome by smoke, fell unconscious, and died. It takes just one or two breaths of smoky air to make a person pass out. In fact, 70 percent of all fire deaths are from smoke inhalation, not burns.

Furthermore, "there was not a smoke detector in the house, and there wasn't even a heat detector," said one family member recently. "There was nothing to alert some of them until it was too late. That is the worst part about it--this tragedy could have been prevented."

But since the fire, the family and the Clinton Fire Department have found a way to use this great loss to help save others. "The best thing we could do was get that information out to the public so it doesn't happen to anyone else," says one local fire official. So the Clinton FD created the "smoke detector project" just days after the fire. They will provide a smoke detector to anyone who needs one, for free--they'll even install it.

In the last two years the Clinton FD has installed more than 2,500 smoke detectors, and their program is now being instituted across the state. Also, Iowa firefighters are working to create a national smoke detector project.

The best part: The local smoke detector project has already saved a number of lives, which makes the Molitor family's terrible loss a little easier to bear. "If one life was saved, that is more than enough for them to use our last name in publicizing the program," said one Molitor family member. "If a thousand lives can be saved, I'll say that my family members' lives were not lost in vain."

Iowa's Smoke Detector Project is organized by fire marshals from around the state. Other states around the country also have free smoke detector programs. For information on obtaining a free smoke detector, call your local fire department or type in the words "free smoke detector" plus the name of your state into www.Google.com.

If you or someone you know suffers an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

January 10, 2012

Fire in Stores or Malls Can Cause Deadly Smoke Inhalation

Here's a story that provides a very good lesson for all of us on the need to think about fire safety not just at home, but also when walking around in stores, malls, and other public places.

In early January in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, four people had to be treated for smoke inhalation after a fire broke out in a store. A clothing shop caught fire at about 8:15 p.m. on a Friday night, and firefighters were called away from a small fire in another neighborhood to fight the shop fire.

On arrival, fire crews found the fire was already extinguished. But even so, there were people in need of medical treatment, so paramedics were called in. Two ambulances and a rapid response vehicle were sent to treat three females who suffered smoke inhalation. They were taken to Peterborough City Hospital for further care.

Now, it is unlikely that many people think about where the nearest public exits or emergency exits are located when they enter a store, or a mall, or a sports arena, or another public place. But if you do not know where the exits are located, you have shortened the amount of time you have to escape and survive if a fire does break out.

So, always find the nearest public exit or emergency exit as you enter any building. Why? Because fire smoke spreads quickly, and is so poisonous with carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide that inhaling just one or two breaths of fire smoke can make a person unconscious and unable to escape. And even if an unconscious person is rescued by someone else, damage to the lungs, heart and brain from smoke inhalation can be permanent, forever changing a person's life.

If you or someone you know does suffer an injury such as third-degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

January 7, 2012

Fire Prevention Tips for the Winter Season

Winter is the time of year when home fires are more prevalent, and the Elgin, Illinois Fire Department offers excellent tips on how to stay safe as people try to stay warm in their homes.

"Winter storms can interrupt heating and electric service, and many times people attempt to heat their homes using alternative means, increasing the risk of fire," said Elgin Fire Chief John Fahy. "What's more, even cooking or trying to generate additional heat from traditional sources can also increase the risk of fire."

The United States Fire Administration reports that each winter, more than 108,000 residential building fires occur in the United States, resulting in 945 deaths, 3,825 injuries and about $1.7 billion in property loss.

Cooking is the leading cause of residential fires, followed by heating. And space heaters account for about one-third of home heating fires, plus about 80 percent of deaths from home heating fires, according to the USFA. And nearly 70 percent of these deaths are from smoke inhalation, and not from severe burns. Even a small kitchen fire that is contained to the stove top can produce enough smoke to kill occupants of the home--one or two breaths of poisonous smoke is all it takes!

Fahy recommends the following to keep you and your family safe this winter:

-If you are cooking anything on the stove, do NOT leave the kitchen while it cooks. Using the stove to fry, grill, or broil food creates an opportunity for something to catch fire. If you must leave the kitchen, turn off the stove!

-Give a space heater some space--keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from a space heater.

-Check electrical cords for cracks or exposed bits of wire, and replace those cracked or damaged electrical or extension cords. Do NOT try to repair them!

-Never use your oven or stove-top to heat your home. This is a fire hazard because they aren't designed to heat a home, and the carbon monoxide gas emitted from the burning gas could kill people or pets.

-Don't leave Christmas trees, wreaths, or cut flowers too long. Do NOT keep these items in the house longer than two weeks. And keep the tree stand or the flower vase filled with water. Dried-out trees, wreaths, and flowers burn very easily and quickly!

-If you use candles, place them in a sturdy candle-holder with a wide base, and which will not burn. Do NOT leave a room that has a burning candle in it--if you must leave the room, blow out the candle!

-If you smoke cigars, cigarettes or pipes, smoke outside the house and make sure all ashes and embers are extinguished by pouring a small amount of water on top of them. Many times, using your foot to put them out does NOT work!

The fire chief also made this very important point: "Most fires are preventable."

For more information about fire safety, go to the USFA website (see link above) and also visit the National Fire Protection Association.

If you or someone you know does suffer an injury such as severe burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

December 29, 2011

Smoke Detectors and Smoke Alarms Save Lives--but Too Many People Ignore Them

In our last blog post, we wrote about five family members who died of smoke inhalation during a house fire in Connecticut. The fire raged so quickly through the wooden house that investigators still do not know if there were smoke alarms in the house that alerted the occupants.

But consider this: if these fire investigators think that people could have died in a fire even though there might have been smoke detectors in the house, how can anyone think that they could escape a fire when they do NOT have working smoke alarms in their house? Smoke inhalation kills people so quickly that even one or two breaths of air contaminated with smoke and carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide can render a person unconscious, and cause them to die even if they are rescued before suffering any third degree burns.

Here is just one recent example of such a situation: A woman died from smoke inhalation in Washougal, Washington in large part because the smoke detector in her apartment had been disconnected. The 28-year-old woman's apartment caught fire not while she was asleep, but right in the middle of the day! And the fire was not very big--it was contained to an upper-floor apartment and did not spread to the lower floor, and was extinguished within a few minutes. But the woman was found unconscious in a bedroom, and there were no other occupants in the apartment. The Clark County Fire Marshal's Office said a few days later that there was not a working smoke detector in the apartment--it had been disconnected.

"It's tragic, that is for certain," said the property manager. "We've done our best to reassure the other residents that there are no structural problems in the building. It appears that this was an anomaly. As far as we know, there are no electrical, structural or mechanical problems with the unit that would be of concern to the other residents." In other words, this fire might have started from something as simple as a pot or pan left on the hot stove and then forgotten.

If this tragic story does not convince you to install smoke detectors near the kitchen and the bedrooms of your home, and also to check the batteries and the working status of these smoke alarms regularly, then you are simply risking your life and the lives of others who come through there.

Lastly, if you or someone you know does suffer a smoke inhalation injury or severe burns, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injuries suffered, and if the injured party has a solid legal case.