North Carolina Hospital Fire Highlights Risks at Home and Work

November 13, 2012, by

A patient has died in a sixth-floor acute care room after a fire at Durham Regional Hospital that sent three others to the emergency room, the News & Observer reported.

Three staff members were treated for smoke inhalation. The hospital has released little information about the victim, except to say the patient was critically ill before the fire and cause of death will be determined by a medical examiner. Firefighters received an alarm at 2:19 a.m. when the building's sprinkler system activated. Cause of the fire is under investigation. 38746_oxygen.jpg

Our North Carolina personal injury lawyers know hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and elder care facilities have a special duty when it comes to protecting occupants from fire, evacuation hazards and other associated risks. This week's tragedy underscores the dangers, as does an incident late last month in which a 94-year-old nursing home resident in a wheelchair died after rolling downhill into a ditch of water during a fire drill at an Alabama facility.

Space heaters, holiday decorations and candles increase the risks through the holidays and cold winter months. In fact, the National Safety Council supported National Fire Prevention Week last month as officials kicked off the autumn awareness campaign. Each year, more than 3,000 people are killed in unintentional structure fires.

Unfortunately, fires and workplace explosions are also a common cause of workers' compensation claims in North Carolina, and of reported serious and fatal work injuries nationwide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its annual report on work injuries last month; 143 employees died in work injuries caused by fire or explosions in 2011.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration makes various requirements of general industry, including compliance with exit codes, design and construction requirements, adequate exit routes, emergency action plans and fire-prevention plans.

The hospital suffered water damage and all six-floor patients were affected. Patients were being moved to open beds as Durham police and Duke University police responded to investigate. Durham Regional Hospital is owned by Duke University. A hospital spokesperson praised staff for quick action during the emergency.

WFMY News reports an explosion rocked the hospital's entire sixth floor. The news outlet also reported that the hospital's sixth floor houses Select Specialty Hospital, a separate facility that provides long-term acute care.

Risks and regulations specific to the health care industry may also govern requirements for various facilities. For example, those working with bottled oxygen, are at increased risk of an explosion accident. In April, an Oregon ambulance worker was injured after an oxygen bottle exploded as he was filling tanks. Last month, an exploding oxygen tank started a house fire in Peoria.

Those who survive a fire or explosion are frequently left to deal with serious burn injuries. These injuries are among the worst injuries a victim can suffer. The American Burn Association reports about 450,000 patients received medical treatment for burn injuries last year and about 3,500 died. Almost 50,000 were hospitalized as a result of their injuries.

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845 for a free case evaluation. There's never an attorneys fee unless you've been paid.*

*Attorney's fees are a percentage of the entire recovery and will be deducted before other expenses. In addition to the fee, Client will be responsible for litigation expenses, which will either be deducted from the recovery or paid by the client.