As residents look for ways to warm up from the current cold snap, Qatar authorities have issued a number of safety warnings to help prevent fire or injury.
The drop in temperatures to single figures at nighttime and a lack of central heating in homes has contributed to a rise in the number of related injuries, Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) said as it offered advice alongside the Ministry of Interior (MOI) this month.
“With the persistent cold weather, some residents of Qatar have used additional means to stay warmer at home and at bath time.
Unfortunately, we have been seeing a rise in the number of patients with injuries due to accidents with their heating system. These include scald injuries, electrical or contact burns, and even serious flame burns from house fires,” Dr. Rafael Consunji, director of the Hamad trauma center’s injury prevention program, said in a statement.
While most electric burns and fires happen as a result of the incorrect use of electrical heaters, scald burns usually happen while bathing or cooking with hot liquids.
The majority of victims are children or the elderly, because they are physically unable to move themselves out of the way of the scalding liquid, and because their skin is thinner and so more sensitive.
“They can sustain severe scald burns within just a few seconds,” Consunji said.
Blazes in homes and vehicles make up more than half of all Qatar’s fires, according to the latest available figures issued at the end of last year by the Ministry of Development, Planing and Statistics (MDPS).
There were 1,158 fires, or an average of more than three a day in 2013.
While the cause was not stated for more than 90 percent of recorded fires, electrical short circuits were cited as the primary identifiable cause in the other 10 percent of cases.
On its Facebook page, the MOI has issued some tips for safe heater use. In addition to HMC’s advice, these include:
- Make sure an heater is bought for a reputable store and is ‘UL’ certified, which means it complies with international safety standards;
- Have a qualified professional install wall heaters and central heating systems;
- Only plug electric heaters directly into the wall socket – do not use an extension cord. Cords with multiple outlets can lead to an overload of the system, causing a fuse to blow or for the device to overheat, which could lead to a fire;
- All heaters should be at least one meter from any combustible materials – including furniture, curtains, tablecloths, blankets, bedding or electronic devices;
- Keep a minimum of a one-meter “kid free zone” from all heaters and do not use in them in play areas or in corridors;
- Turn off all heaters when leaving the room or going to bed;
- Make sure that automatic timers on the heaters are working. Make use of these in order to limit the amount of time that the unit is fully powered. This reduces the risk of overheating and fire.
- Ensure automatic timers on heaters are working, and use them to limit the amount of time the device is fully powered, to avoid overheating; and
- Always use only the type of fuel specified by the manufacturer for fuel burning space heaters.
HMC has also warned parents to be especially vigilant with children when around hot water, to avoid scalding.
Simple tips include testing the water temperature before putting an infant of young child in the bath – it should be less than 45C – and ensuring that bathing children are properly supervised.
Children should stay out of the kitchen when hot liquids are being used for cooking, and never carry a child and a hot drink at the same times, HMC adds.
What would you add? Thoughts?