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Eileen Byrne* has been a registered nurse for more than 16
years, and has spent the past five years as Burn Community Educator for the
Burn Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ. As a member of
the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Coalition, Ms. Byrne offers a unique perspective
on the effect that residential sprinklers can have on burn injuries and deaths.
“From the medical perspective, we don’t understand why this
(requirements for sprinkler installations in all new homes) hasn’t been taken
care of already,” she told attendees at NFPA’s Home Fire Sprinkler Summit in
Chicago. “We didn’t realize how
difficult this effort was. In fact, a lot of us assumed there were already
sprinklers in homes.”
Ms. Byrne said that a fire at Seton Hall University in New
Jersey in 2000, which killed three students, resulted in sprinkler requirements for campus dorms. “And that was good headway, but there’s so much
more we can do,” she said.
She said that last year, her facility, the only burn center
in the state, had 49 in-patients due to house fires. “Burn patients are not
like any other patients,” she said. “They don’t stay for 3-4 days. They stay
weeks and weeks and months and months.” Every day, they must endure painful
bathing to fight off infections, the removal of dead skin, and physical
therapy. “And when they finally get out of the hospital, it’s just the
beginning of their healing,” she said.
Ms. Byrne said that she knows accidents will
happen. “But when we see patients whose burns were preventable, we must never
rest until something is done.”