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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.

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Asheville Injury Lawyers Wish you a Safe and Enjoyable Fourth of July

July 2, 2011, by

Our Asheville Injury lawyers wish you a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July weekend. Please celebrate responsibly, leave the fireworks to the professionals and don't drink and drive.

A horrific North Carolina fireworks accident that left three people dead last year on Ocracoke Island has prompted the City of Asheville to change plans for its annual fireworks show, Fox Carolina reported.
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The city is moving the event to Memorial Stadium, instead of holding it at its traditional location downtown. The move will also assist the pyrotechnic professionals hired to conduct the show. New state law requires licenses for all pyrotechnic operators. South Carolina has had a similar law on the books since 1991.

"We want communities to have fireworks displays and pay tribute to the holiday," North Carolina Fire Marshal Kerry Hall told the Charlotte Observer. "Prior to this law, it was up to local jurisdictions to decide what a pyrotechnics expert is. Now we have a minimum benchmark for everyone in the state."

Fireworks accidents can happen at a professional show (including falling debris) or in your own backyard. Last year's accident on Ocracoke Island was ruled an accident by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms; a truckload of fireworks exploded near the South Ferry Terminal.
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The holiday weekend will also increase the risk of traveling, whether on the roads or on the water. Car accidents in Asheville and elsewhere in North Carolina are most likely to be caused by distracted driving, drunk driving and speeding. Driving at night, in congested traffic or in areas of road construction will also increase the risk.

The USA Today reports that AAA expects high gas prices to put a crimp in travel plans. But it's all relative -- 39 million people are expected to travel at least 50 miles from home over the Fourth of July holiday, compared to 40 million last year.

Other Fourth of July Safety Topics include:

-Barbecue Safety: From food poisoning to propane explosions, grilling out can be dangerous, particularly for those families with small children or where excessive alcohol consumption marks pre-dinner celebration.

-North Carolina Boating Safety: Please be a safe and courteous captain on the water and remember that drinking and boating is as dangerous as drinking and driving.

-North Carolina Swimming Pool Accidents: Always designate an adult in shifts to be responsible for watching children around water, whether lakes or swimming pools. A recent report found even small backyard swimming pools can be dangerous. A total of 244 submersion accidents involving children younger than 12 have occurred in portable pools in the last decade.

And the Consumer Products Safety Commission reports 75 drownings or near drownings were reported before spring even got under way in May.

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