top of page

It Only Takes a Spark

We've spend the entire month focusing on fire safety, preparation, and readiness. Whether the fire risk is outside the OR and we're needing to evacuate, or we're protecting our patients and ourselves from a deadly surgical fire, education and prevention is crucial to our success.

I wanted to share a story with you today, that really highlights just how dangerous surgical fires are, and how quickly they can start.

Take a walk with me down memory lane...

One afternoon, several years ago, a patient was rolled into the operating room. The room was set up and ready for her procedure. She moved from the stretcher to the surgical table, she was covered with warm blankets, and the CRNA began her induction. She was put to sleep without incident, and then prepped for surgery.

The surgeon was going to be operating on her face, and her skin had been prepped with a diluted betadine solution. Drapes were placed around the operative site, equipment was plugged in, and the timeout was performed. This 'routine' operation was ready to begin, and everything was going smoothly.


The surgeon picked up the Bovie, moved toward the patient's face, and pressed the button. In that fraction of a second, a fire suddenly sparked, right over her face. The team sprang into action, saving the patient from any burns to her skin, although her eyebrows and eyelashes weren't so lucky.

So why am I sharing this story with you today? Two reasons:

First, because it highlights just how quickly a procedure can go from 'normal' and 'routine' to emergent. In those moments, we don't have time to check a manual, or look up information, we just have to act. We must know the correct steps to take to save our patients and ourselves.

Second, don't ignore the Fire Risk Assessment in your timeout, and don't rush through it. Pay attention, know what the risk is, and be prepared. This particular incident occurred many years before this critical step was included in the timeout, and I can't help but wonder if having that discussion would have helped.

As our focus on fire safety comes to an end, remember how quickly a fire can start. Know the role that you play in preventing a fire, and your reponsibilities should a fire start. Don't ignore the education and training that you're given each year, and always be ready. It only takes a spark...

Until next time,


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page