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Eileen Byrne

 

Burn nurse: “You don’t want to be where I work”

Eileen Byrne

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. "You don't want to be where I work," she told summit attendees.

“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.” 

Video: Eileen Byrne describes the devastating effects of burns on patients, families.

Video: Eileen Byrne says she got involved with the New Jersey Fire Sprinkler Coalition after being educated about the injury prevention and life-saving impact of sprinklers.