Firebreaks / Thermal Fuses: what you need to know
Whether you are a home oxygen service provider, respiratory specialist, healthcare manager or insurer, this site is designed as a resource to help you understand and comply with safety standards around oxygen firebreaks / thermal fuses.
Firebreaks / Thermal Fuses: what are they and why are they needed?An oxygen firebreak is a thermal fuse designed to extinguish an oxygen delivery tube fire and stop the flow of oxygen if the tube is accidentally ignited.
A firebreak / thermal fuse is fitted into the oxygen delivery tubing close to the patient, typically around the patient sternum where the two nasal cannula tubes join and connect to the delivery tubing.
Oxygen is not flammable, but its presence in increased concentrations will enable fires to start much more easily and, once a fire has started, it will burn more fiercely. Materials that do not burn in ambient air may burn in elevated oxygen concentrations.
Most fires are caused by patients smoking whilst on oxygen. Despite the inherent dangers, researchers estimate that between 10 and 50 per cent of home oxygen patients continue to smoke.* Other risks range from gas flames to birthday candles.
Once a fire has started in the nasal cannula it will track back towards the oxygen source and if not stopped may lead to a ‘whole house’ fire. Whole house fires are directly correlated with single or even multiple deaths.
An oxygen firebreak / thermal fuse stops the flow of oxygen in the event of a fire, which then extinguishes the fire in the tube.
*Wolff , B.K. et al. Flash Burns While on Home Oxygen Therapy: Tracking Trends and Identifying Areas for Improvement. American Journal of Medical Quality. Pre-published July, 11, 2016, DOI: 10.1177/1062860616658343