Hyberbaric oxygen therapy, like most medical treatments, has risks associated with it. Because of the high levels of oxygen used, fire safety is at the heart of our approach.
The risk of fire in a hyperbaric environment is a concern for several reasons.
In order for a fire to occur three conditions must be met: there must be adequate fuel, sufficient oxygen, and an ignition source.
During treatments, the hyperbaric chamber is a high-oxygen environment. In addition, there is always fuel present in the form of cloth, paper, etc. So, the potential for a fire to occur is always present during a treatment.
Due to the enclosed and pressurized nature of the chamber, it is impossible to quickly open the door when the chamber is pressurized, so rapid evacuation is not always possible. For the same reason, it is difficult to rapidly ventilate smoke and noxious fumes that accompany fires.
Because of these risks, fire safety is of utmost concern, and several procedures are in place to prevent fire and extinguish it quickly if it occurs.
If a fire does occur, the chamber is equipped with extensive fire suppression systems. There is a fire hose inside the chamber that an attendant can use to manually extinguish any flames. The chamber is equipped with a deluge system which can be activated by the inside attendant, the outside attendant, or by an automatic fire detection system. When activated, this deluge system releases large sprays of water that saturate every surface in the chamber and quickly extinguish any flame.
There has never been a fire-related fatality in a patient treatment chamber in North America, and the strict adherence to these precautions will help to continue this excellent safety record.
To minimize the chance of fire, our protocols reduce dangerous levels of fuel, ignition sources, and oxygen concentration.
- Highly flammable materials such as grease, oil, and other petroleum products are not allowed in the chamber.
- Cosmetics and hair-sprays are prohibited.
- The amount of paper and cloth are minimized as much as possible.
- Fire retardant materials are used where possible.
- Any source of flame or spark is not allowed in the chamber. This includes lighters and smoking materials, hand warmers, and any non-approved electronic devices.
- All lighting is done through indirect methods.
- Patients and staff are required to wear 100% cotton garments since these minimize the chance of static spark and they aren't subject to releasing toxic fumes or melting on to skin if exposed to fire.
The concentration of oxygen in the chamber is constantly monitored and steps are taken to keep it from getting too high. Steps include:
- Compressing the chamber with air rather than pure oxygen
- Having patients breathe oxygen through an enclosed hood system that exhausts outside of the chamber
- Continually venting the chamber to wash-out any oxygen that might be leaking from the patient breathing system