How to be Fire-Safe and What to Do if You Get Burned

Every February, elementary-age school children across North Texas participate in National Burn Awareness Week, during which they learn about different types of burns and their causes and prevention. Hmm. We suspect that most of the 450,000 burns that require emergency room medical treatment each year (and the cooking fires, worn-out space heaters and scalding hot cooking liquids that cause them) could be avoided if the same training were available to adults.

So here’s our grown-up version of Burn Prevention Week. You won’t receive a certificate of completion. But you will learn from real North Texas burn survivors and get plenty of practical tips to help you fireproof your home and workplace.


Mrs. Potts … in the kitchen … with the frying pan. 

You don’t have to be a detective to guess that more than a third of all home fires in Texas in 2014 started in the kitchen. Or that cooking fires were largely responsible. You just have to have a clue about what to do when cooking.

  • Keep your eye on what you fry: most cooking fires involve fried foods
  • Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove or use back burners
  • Wear oven mitts and roll up long sleeves
  • Keep a pan lid or cookie sheet nearby to smother flames
  • The kitchen is an excellent place for a fire extinguisher

Real-life kitchen fire survivor Chris Kouba from Prosper, TX.

While preparing a meal on his stove top, Prestonwood Baptist Church Pastor Chris Kouba was engulfed in the flames of a grease fire. Prosper EMS took him directly to Medical City Plano’s Burn & Reconstructive Center, which offers advanced burn care to patients from Texas and surrounding states.

If you get burned, follow these tips from Salil Gulati, MD, plastic surgeon and burn specialist at Medical City Plano.

  • Don’t panic
  • Get away from the source of the burn
  • Don’t immerse burns in water or apply ice, butter or ointments
  • Cover the burn with a clean, dry cloth
  • Call 911 and seek medical treatment

Sometimes fire can be the pits.

In 2014, Texas fire departments responded to 38,440 outdoor fires; the most fires in any single category. The No. 1 accidental outdoor fire culprit? Open flames, embers and torches, which includes fire pits and grills. Here’s how to operate them safely.

Grilling safety:

  • Grill outdoors only, away from structures and overhanging branches
  • Clean grates and drip trays
  • Gas grills account for 4 out of 5 grill fires, so check for leaks or cracks in the hoses and connections annually; here’s how:
  • Apply a light soap and water solution to the hose using a brush or spray bottle
  • Turn on the propane tank; if there is a gas leak, the propane will release bubbles around the hose (big enough to see)
  • No bubbles means your grill is safe; bubbles indicate your grill needs servicing before use

Campfire safety:

  • Place outdoor pits on concrete, dirt or gravel in flat, open areas away from trees and structures
  • Always use a fire screen and have a fire extinguisher handy
  • Place nonflammable seating four feet away
  • Don’t light in wet, windy conditions
  • Extinguish completely before leaving
  • Use only seasoned woods to light/maintain fire; never use accelerants, garbage or other materials

Real-life campfire survivor Joel Hall.

Joel Hall arrived at Lake Texoma with his family and the first thing the kids wanted to do was make s’mores. The wood was wet, but Joel, an experienced fire builder, thought he could get it going with lighter fluid. After an entire can failed to produce flames, he turned to something stronger. Sadly, the s’mores never got made and Joel was brought to the Burn and Reconstructive Centers of Texas for treatment of third-degree burns.

Final exam: Get your degree in burns.

As Joel’s story illustrates, the more serious a burn is, the less it will hurt. Brush up on burns so you’ll know when to seek help.

  • First-degree: involves only the epidermis (outer layer of skin) and is red and painful — think sunburn
  • Second-degree: involves parts of the dermis (inner layer) and displays wide variation, from red, blistered, painful and swollen to blistering with whitish tissue underneath the skin
  • Third-degree: involves all of the dermis and displays deep, whitish color; there is no pain when you press on the burn since nerve endings are destroyed
  • Fourth-degree: damage extends to tendons and bones and there is no pain

Matthew Carrick, MD, Trauma Medical Director at Medical City Plano, discusses burn degrees.

Burn sources at home and work.

There are many ways to get burned, especially in the winter. Dr. Gulati discusses the following potential sources and more in the video below.

Fire or flame

  • 30 percent of home-heating fires happen between 5 to 9 p.m.
  • One-third occur because the heat source is too close to flammable items

Scalding from hot water or cooking liquids

  • The No. 1 way children get burned
  • Set your hot water heater to 120°F or low-med

Electrical burns

  • Space heaters are responsible for roughly one-third of all home-heating fires and 80 percent of home-heating fire deaths
  • These can be dangerous when used at work, too, so make sure you unplug them when you leave and replace if worn out

We hope you put your degree in burns to good use, but if things get too hot to handle, one of our many Medical City Healthcare ER locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you or call our free, 24/7 Ask a Nurse hotline.

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Revised 12/12/2017

How to Play with Knives and Fire and Not Cook Your Goose on Turkey Day

We know why you guys like the fall holiday season. Besides feasting and football, there are legitimate reasons to play with fire and knives. Fair enough. So here’s what you need to know to prevent and treat burns and cuts.

Last year, we told you that real men wear mitts to prevent burns (and burning down the house) while cooking Thanksgiving dinner — specifically, deep-fried turkey. But did you listen? Maybe some of you did. But from others we heard the all-too-familiar, “Relax, we’ve done this a million times.” Famous last words if there ever were any.


So, okay, we won’t nag you about combustible turkeys again, even though Texas led the nation in deep-fried turkey fires eight years in a row. However, we’d like to remind you that cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and home injuries in Texas and that on Thanksgiving Day, the number of cooking fires is triple that of an average day.

Which makes this a great time for a quick refresher course on fire and burn safety. Ready? Here it is:

Top 5 rules of cooking fire safety:

Follow these hard and fast rules at all times and you’ll be on your way to a safe supper.

  1. Man your pan, man: never leave your cooking unattended
  2. Wear oven mitts and roll up long sleeves
  3. Keep small children and pets away from all flammable heat sources
  4. Grills, fire pits and yes — fryers — should be used outdoors only and away from flammable structures and trees
  5. Keep pot lids close by to smother flames and have at least one fire extinguisher in your home and know how to use it

Sometimes you’re doing everything right and disaster still strikes. That’s what happened to Prestonwood Baptist Church Pastor Chris Kouba, who was engulfed in the flames of a grease fire while cooking on his stovetop. Thankfully, Prosper EMS took him straight to Medical City Plano’s Burn & Reconstructive Center, which offers advanced burn care to patients from Texas and surrounding states.

If you are involved in a fire:

  • Don’t panic
  • Remove yourself from whatever is burning; stop, drop and roll
  • Check closed doors with the back of your hand; if hot, don’t open
  • Stay low to the ground and follow your escape plan
  • Call 911 and seek treatment for burns

Matthew Carrick, MD, trauma medical director at Medical City Plano, explains what to do in a burn emergency.

Put that down, you’ll cut yourself.

In addition to burn injuries, many people accidentally cut themselves over the Thanksgiving holiday. Know how we know? We asked Tim Hartman, DO, an emergency medicine physician at Medical City ER Stonebridge.

“Last year, we saw a lot of cuts in the ER,” said Dr. Hartman. “The first 6 patients we had on Thanksgiving were all hand lacerations, ranging from a fellow with a hunting knife working on a deer to mothers working on turkeys in the kitchen and opening cans.”

Dr. Hartman says people are often unsure how to tell when a cut is severe enough to go to their local emergency room.

“First of all, if the wound is dirty, such as from a hunting knife, you’re probably going to want to go to the ER and let us wash it out thoroughly,” Dr. Hartman said. “Secondly, if you’re not able to stop the bleeding at home, you need to come in to the ER.”

Watch Dr. Hartman’s video for these tips and more, including when it’s a good idea to use tissue glue on your kids’ cuts and when it’s not.

Safe knife handling tips.

Most cooking lacerations can be avoided by following these cutting safety tips:

  • Always use the correct knife (size and blade) and a cutting board
  • Use sharp knives; dull blades cause more accidents
  • Pay attention to what you’re doing; don’t multitask
  • Don’t attempt to catch a falling knife
  • Don’t leave knives in the sink; wash them immediately and put them away

BurnInfographicFINALWe wish you and your family a very safe and happy Thanksgiving, but if famous last words leave you in need of expert emergency care, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you or call our free 24/7 Ask a Nurse hotline.

Sign Up for the LifeSigns E-Newsletter

Revised 11/21/2017

Know How to Celebrate Fourth of July Safely

Let freedom ring this summer with yummy grilled foods, family fun and fireworks!

As parents, we work really hard to keep our children healthy and safe. We would never, for example, encourage them to pick up a burning ember or touch a hot grill. If we’re so protective of our offspring, why then do we, once a year (at least), knowingly hand even the younger ones a lit fireball and cheer as they wave it a mere arm’s length from their little faces? I’m not suggesting we abolish sparklers — those ever-present Fourth of July fireworks kids all over North Texas wave in celebration of Independence Day — not at all.

But we are talking about playing with fire.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2014 there were approximately:

  • 10,500 fireworks-related injuries treated in hospital emergency rooms
  • About 7,000 (67%) treated between June 20 and July 20

Of those treated:

  • 74% were males/26% were females
  • 50% were under 20 years old and 35% were under 15 years old
  • Children 5 to 9 years old were the age group most treated
  • Approximately 1,400 were injured by sparklers and 1,400 by firecrackers

So it can’t hurt to brush up on how hot things can get on the Fourth. From fireworks to grilling to campfires and s’mores, we’ll give you tips to keep your family burn-free.

How hot can things get? See if you can match each activity to its degree of heat:

1.    Water boils at a)    700°F
2.    Cakes bake at b)    1200°F (and up to 2,000°F)
3.    Wood burns at c)    350°F
4.    Sparklers burn at d)    212°F
5.    Charcoal in a Smokey Joe® grill burns at e)    575°F

A couple of them are pretty easy. You probably know water boils at 212°F and most cakes bake at 350°F. But what about the others? Read on to find the answers.

Starry, starry night.

There’s nothing quite like a Fourth of July fireworks show to make you feel good about living in the U.S. of A. Here’s how to enjoy yours safely:

  • Consider attending one of the many DFW fireworks shows and leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals
  • If that’s not an option, know and obey all local laws regarding fireworks
  • Use fireworks outdoors in areas clear of people, homes, trees and other flammable materials
  • Keep a bucket of water or a hose nearby
  • Supervise children at all times and don’t allow horseplay
  • Don’t give fireworks to children younger than 5 years old; even those considered “safe” like sparklers, which burn at 1,200°F and higher
  • Don’t relight duds; soak them in water and dispose of them
  • Don’t try to light fireworks in the dark; use a non-flammable light source so you can see what you’re doing
  • Wear safety goggles and heat-resistant gloves

Following these commonsense tips should ensure a fun and sparkly independence day, but be sure you know what to do if someone gets burned.


Grill master.

You’re the king of kebabs. The ruler of ribs. The minister of meat. You’re the grill master. But are you practicing grilling safety? According to the National Fire Protection Association:

  • In 2014, 16,600 people sought ER treatment for grilling injuries
  • More grill fires happen May through August, and July is No. 1
  • While gas grills start more home fires than charcoal grills, coals in a Smokey Joe® grill burn at 700°F and higher.

The rules of safe grilling are pretty simple:

  • Use grills outdoors away from flammable structures
  • Man your grill at all times
  • Keep a squirt bottle of water or a fire extinguisher handy
  • Keep kids and pets away from grills
  • Wear high-heat oven mitts and use utensils made for grilling
  • Keep your grill clean and check propane connection points annually

Cooking over an open wood fire.

It might be too hot to gather around a wood fire in the middle of summer, but it’s still a great way to cook your meats and marshmallow treats. Here’s what happens when you light the fire:

  • At 212°F, any water inside the wood boils and escapes as steam

This is typically when dad starts squirting lighter fluid like there’s no tomorrow. And why it’s a good idea to start with dry wood.

  • At around 575°F the wood begins to burn from the release of combustible gases that ignite when they contact an open flame

But that’s just the beginning. As the gases continue to burn, they can raise the temperature of the wood to 1,100°F or even higher, depending on the size of the fire and other dynamics.

Fiery fact: You can receive a third-degree burn from as little as 1 second of contact with a piece of wood heated to 160°F.

Here’s how to stay safe around the campfire:

  • Build fires in designated pits on flat, open areas away from flammable objects
  • Use only seasoned hardwoods and natural kindling to light and maintain fires
  • Wear high-temp oven mitts and use appropriate outdoor cooking utensils to hold food over flames
  • Adults should remove cooked food from skewers to avoid burning little hands
  • An adult should supervise the fire at all times until it has been completely extinguished

For more fire safety and burn prevention tips, read Don’t Get Burned: Know the Top Rules of Fire Safety.

For fast, emergency help with these common health symptoms and more, look to one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you or call our free 24/7 Ask-A-Nurse hotline.

For serious burn treatment, Medical City Plano Burn & Reconstructive Centers of Texas provides high-level burn care and serves patients from Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Louisiana and beyond.

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Revised 12/13/2017


New Burn Center Will Advance Medical Services in North Texas

plano-exterior-lifesigns-logoYears ago, my husband and I moved to Plano, Texas, to raise our family. Back then we focused more on the schools than the hospitals, but between us and the kids we’ve had our share of emergency room experiences. So it’s made me more attuned to keeping up with the health care services in our area.

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