Tips From NJ’s Only Certified Burn Center
Burns receive specialized care at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center, but it’s better to avert injury altogether with essential safety practices.
“Few people seem to think they’ll ever have a significant burn injury,” says Kathe Conlon, RN, MSHS, reflecting what she often hears from patients as Director of Burn and Disaster Programs with The Burn Center at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center (CBMC). Conlon knows the unfortunate truth. “Burns are the third-leading cause of traumatic injuries in the United States,” she says. “One million people nationwide require hospitalization for burns each year.”
That’s why community education about burns is critical, Conlon says. Outreach efforts at The Burn Center—the only such facility in New Jersey and one of the busiest in the country—address two major populations.
One is medical professionals such as paramedics, EMTs, nurses and physicians, who must know how to care for burn patients until they’re transported—sometimes from distant communities—to The Burn Center for specialized care.
The other is the community at large, where education about burn prevention can be especially helpful for high-risk groups such as older adults and children. “Approximately 25 percent of burn admissions are pediatric, and most of those [kids] are under age 5,” Conlon says.
The Burn Center offers training and tips to the community though initiatives including health fairs and other events, along with two educational fire-safety trailers that replicate a home environment filled with simulated hazards. “One third grader toured the trailer and later experienced a fire incident in which the child knew what to do and was instructing the parents,” Conlon says. “That’s the value of community education.”
Burns occur in myriad ways, but Conlon is especially concerned about forestalling common scenarios. Here’s some of her best advice:
- As backyards become more inviting with warmer weather, keep children from playing near grills and fire pits.
- Never hold a child while sipping a hot drink. “Children often grab for a coffee cup, which can result in a scald injury—a major burn category,” Conlon says.
- Set your home’s hot water heater no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which significantly reduces the risk of scalding while keeping water hot enough for standard household uses.
- Be alert to common kitchen hazards such as reaching across a burner for a spice, utensil or pot—especially if you’re wearing a loose garment like a bathrobe. “We see a lot of burns, particularly among the older population, in which long, flowy sleeves catch fire from stoves,” Conlon says.
- Create and practice a home escape plan. “Make sure you have at least two ways out, which reduces the likelihood of a fire injury happening or, if it does, potentially reduces its severity,” Conlon says. When traveling, scope out hotel stairs and fire escapes.
- Follow recommendations on proper use, storage and disposal of lithium-ion batteries found in rechargeable devices like phones and laptops: Batteries can ignite if mishandled and/or defective.
For more information about The Burn Center at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center or community outreach and burn prevention, call 973.322.8071 or visit njburncenter.com.