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Scenario: fire in a MRI unit

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  • Scenario: fire in a MRI unit

    You are toned out to a fire alarm activation at the hospital in the early afternoon...temps in the low 40's, with a brisk wind from west/northwest. While en route, you see a large column of smoke coming from the Bravo side of the building. The sprinkler system has activated and is holding the fire at bay... the problem is the fire is in a mobile Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit. which is secured at a special loading dock on the Bravo side.

    The MRI is housed in a 40 foot long trailer unit and is still "active".

    Some things to consider...

    The magnets in the MRI are supercooled to -220 F by liquid nitrogen, so you have a cryogenic hazard/explosion on contact with water potential due to the vast temperature difference.

    The unit is hooked up to a high voltage electrical supply... so you have a potential electrocution hazards.

    The sprinkler system is activated, keeping the fire out of the main building area, but the doors to the loading area are still in the open position and there is heavy smoke in the building

    The hospitals' ICU is filled to capacity with critical care patients who cannot be moved readily. The ICU can be considered to be an "internal exposure".

    PS: the techincian operating the unit is MIA....
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

  • #2
    A few thoughts on the way our hook-up is configured.

    1. Our "dock" has an overhead shutter fire door. Make sure it is closed.

    2. Cut power to the unit. Ours is hooked up to an external plug-in with a disconnect switch. Pull the plug after cutting the power. Also look for an external generator compartment and cut the back-up power.

    3. If possible PPV the building.

    4. If the unit is drivable, drive it away from the dock. Ours are all tractor trailer rigs so if the tractor isn't involved, you can probably move it. If it is not drivable, protect the exposure until a wrecker can drag it away from the building. You will probably rip the entrance ramp off the unit and may damage the building but the unit is already a total loss.

    5. Allow the fire to burn out or if you can get the proper technical assistance, you may be able to attack it.

    We have not had one burn but we have discussed a plan of atack. We have an advantage of the unit being hooked up in an area that is remote from other patient areas. The waiting room and connecting corridor are brick and concrete construction, with a fire door at the waiting room entrance from the corridor. In addition there is a smoke barrier door at the entrance to the corridor.

    Stay Safe


    • #3
      I'd start with PPV and exposure protection of the occupied building. (Perhaps setting up the PPV fan in the hospital building to prevent more smoke from coming in would be considered negative ventilation?)

      Our hospital's setup is similar to the one Rayr49 mentioned in that it has a single heavy duty plug which can be used to disconnect power.

      Depending on the unit's proximity to the hospital building, I might be inclined to get a wrecker to drag the trailer to a safer distance.

      Another hazard to consider:

      The magnetic field of an MRI has been reported to be strong enough to rip an axe out of your hand and send it flying toward the coils.

      a ship in a harbor is safe. . . but that's not what ships are for


      • #4

        Do these mobile units typically have any sort of an on board suppresion system, like a halon or dry chemical dump system?

        I would agree with previous posts, try to isolate the trailer, vent the building, cut the power and pull it away from the building.

        Think this would make a good article for the magazine.
        Thomas Anthony, PE
        Structures Specialist PA-TF1 & PA-ST1
        Paramedic / Rescue Tech North Huntington Twp EMS
        The artist formerly known as Captain 10-2

        No, I am not a water rescue technician, but I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night.


        • #5
          Step one!Secure the power both primary and back up.Active these units can be a real hazard due to the magnetic fields involved.Nothing metal(loose) is safe around them until de-energized.Secondly if you're not familiar with the unit better locate someone who is.Doesn't hurt to have a working arrangement with a local contractor or cartage company as the tractor unit for these generally isn't around if you have to move one quick.And then the other hazards as already identified.T.C.


          • #6
            1) almost all these places have a person on call in case of emergencies. this is usually a technician, who knows a lot more about these things than FFs. contact this person. if this is the person that is missing, tell the hospital to get you another tech that isn't working right now. you need someone who knows this thing inside and out to fight the fire.

            2) those magnetic field can play havoc with all metal gear. this means scba tanks, tools, metalic bottuns/snaps on turnout gear, etc. watch out.

            3) call for help. while the sprinkler system might be keeping the fire at bay, get as many ALS amblunces you can in case you need to move the people out of the ICU. remember, it's better to have them and not need them, then need them and not have them.

            I'll admit in this situation, I've be asking for anyone who has more experience to help.
            If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!



            • #7
              Are these eletro magnets or permanent magnets. In other words if I cut the power can I keep my halligan?

              In regaurds to our local medical complex I would try to drive/tow the entire unit to the far end of the parking lot, isolate it, and then watch it burn from a safe distance while takeing pictures and writing down all of what has happened. Mentioning the fact that I didnt want to get magnetized, supercooled, and blown up.

              Oh, and a quick search with the TIC for the tech. I would have to be there in person to decided if it was safe enough to enter the trailer.

              I wonder what super magnets do to TICs?

              I can just hear the TIC company now.

              "What do you mean it just make a loud pop/hiss and quit working? Are you sure you didnt take it apart? Ok, so you were at a hospital fire, with what, magnets? Yeah right, you are going to have to buy another TIC, we have a new model out, go get a grant."

              -Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
              -Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.

              -Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

              -Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.


              • #8
                MRI accidents & firefighting concerns

                Originally posted by SamsonFCDES
                Are these eletro magnets or permanent magnets. In other words if I cut the power can I keep my halligan?

                Our engine company just returned from a "smell of smoke" call at a MRI facility. I was under the impression that the magnets in the MRI were "electro magnets." ...I was WRONG...

                For those who are unaware, these powerful magnets are metal and ALWAYS magnetized. They do not turn "off" or "on" so even at night, they present a concern. Imagine going to a fire in the middle of the night, crawling around and getting "sucked" through a 36-inch hole sideways because you were wearing a steel SCBA bottle.

                The technician told me that the MRI magnet was 50 times more powerful than those used to pick up automobiles in a junkyard. The tech went on to explain how it took two carpenters to pull a cordless drill off of their magnet after it was sucked across a room while cabinets were being installed. According to her story, the drill picked up enough momentum to go through a piece of 1/2 inch plywood.

                It seems hard to imagine but I'm not going to call the tech a liar. I am going to know that none of my personnel are going to get any closer than the doorway to the MRI room. As I learned, the magnet is not turned off when the power is disconnected and it ALWAYS presents an EXTREME HAZARD. As one of the other members posted, there is also a cryogenic hazard since the magnet in the MRI is cooled by liquid helium.

                The other potential hazard that I recognized is that the room I visited was lined copper and the glass windows had a metallic "screen" inside the glass. The room was built to prevent radio frequency waves from leaving the area. What that tells me is that my handheld radio may not work in the area either.

                I will look to learn more about the hazard. This was the first place I looked and I am guessing from the posts that no one has thoroughly researched this topic yet. It would be interesting to hear if anyone else has had an incident or "near miss" around an MRI.

                I am attaching an article below about an accident involving a child -vs- oxygen cylinder. Imagine what might happen with an SCBA, halligan or pick head axe.

                = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

                Hospital Nightmare
                Hospital Nightmare
                Boy, 6, Killed in Freak MRI Accident

                July 31 — A 6-year-old boy died after undergoing an MRI exam at a New York-area hospital when the machine's powerful magnetic field jerked a metal oxygen tank across the room, crushing the child's head.

                The force of the device's 10-ton magnet is about 30,000 times as powerful as Earth's magnetic field, and 200 times stronger than a common refrigerator magnet.

                The canister fractured the skull and injured the brain of the young patient, Michael Colombini, of Croton-On-Hudson, N.Y., during the procedure Friday. He died of the injuries on Sunday, the hospital said.

                The routine imaging procedure was performed after Colombini underwent surgery for a benign brain tumor last week. Westchester Medical Center officials said he was under sedation at the time of the deadly accident.

                Hospital Takes ‘Full Responsibility’

                "The medical center assumes full responsibility for the accident. Our sorrow is immeasurable and our prayers and our thoughts are with the child's family," the hospital's president and CEO, Edward Stolzenberg, said in a statement.

                The medical center, which is located 15 miles north of New York City in Valhalla, reported the accident as required, and the state health department sent investigators to the scene Monday. The hospital said it was conducting its own inquiry as well.

                A medical center spokeswoman would not say who brought the canister into the room.

                "He was a delightful 6-year-old boy," remembered Lois Gimple Shaukat, a neighbor of the family. "He, you know, had … big eyes and a bright smile."

                Procedure Considered Safe and Effective

                "These tend to be extremely safe machines if used properly," said Dr. Emanuel Kanal, the director of magnetic resonance services in the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Department of Radiology, and a widely recognized expert on MRI safety.

                He estimates between 8 million and 10 million MRI procedures are performed in the United States each year, the vast majority without complications.

                Nevertheless, in the years since the device first went into widespread use, there have been "hundreds or thousands" of incidents where objects became magnetized and attracted to MRI machines, he notes. The items have included cigarette lighters, paper clips, clipboards, and similar objects.

                Last year, an MRI scan at a Rochester, N.Y., hospital pulled a gun out of a police officer's hand and discharged a shot.

                "But [such incidents] are still the extreme minority," and serious injury from items magnetized by MRIs is even rarer, he said.

                Kanal stressed that technicians are typically extremely well-trained and careful to screen for potentially dangerous items.

                Personnel Trained to Look Out for Problem Objects

                "It is unusual for any accident to happen around an MRI because MRI personnel are generally very trained … well trained to look out for such metal objects," agrees Denise Leslie, a private radiologist.

                MRI machines have markings around them indicating the dangerous magnetic field, she explained.

                The devices are generally considered extremely safe, but some people, such as those with pacemakers, generally cannot be scanned. The intense magnetic field can interfere with the function of certain electronic devices, and will easily erase credit card strips.

                Tooth fillings and orthopedic implants are generally not problematic, Kanal said, but there are rare exceptions, such as temporary magnetic root caps.

                The National Institutes of Health has stressed the danger of leaving objects that can be magnetized near the machine.

                "The most important known risk is the projectile effect, which involves the forceful attraction of ferromagnetic objects to the magnet," the NIH concluded after a conference studying the devices in 1987.

                Magnetic resonance imaging uses electromagnetic waves to produce highly detailed 3-dimensional images of the body. The device was invented in the early 1970s and first used on humans in 1977.
                Last edited by BladesRobinson; 02-17-2004, 03:30 PM.


                • #9
                  MRI incident involving FF's in CA

                  This is from Fire Engineering magazine 1997.
                  BY CAPTAIN ANDREW M. SHAPIRO,
                  An incident involving a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) device illustrated the potential for injury to firefighters and the need for emergency responders to be aware of the "invisible forces" that can affect the safety of their work environment.
                  On August 7, 1994, at 0222 hours, the Stockton (CA) Fire Department responded to a report of a structure fire in a large medical office complex. On arrival, the first engine reported "heavy smoke showing" and potential "flashover conditions." The company officer requested that a second alarm assignment be struck...

                  And the article continues.

                  For more information see the article dated January 1997. I am sure that it is copyright protected so it is probably unfair to print the entire thing on the Firehouse forum.

                  The article states that a Stockton firefighter who had a pick head axe strapped to his waist was pulled into the magnet from a distance 10 feet away. He had to be freed with the assistance of two other firefighters.

                  The article also references a safety video (see below) that was produced in 1988. What is important to know is that this video was produced when "old" technology was "high tech." The MRI's shown in the video are between 0.5 and 1.5 Telsa, which is 25,000 to 30,000 times the pull of the Earth's magnetic field. It is not uncommon today to find 3.0 Telsa units, and in some laboratories and universities, magnets generating up to 850 Telsa (National High Magnetic Field Lab)
                  See: http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2000/AnnaWoo.shtml for more details.

                  If you have Window Media Player and want to view the MRI Safety Video (it's worthwhile), click on the following hyperlink.

                  MRI Safety Video
                  Last edited by BladesRobinson; 02-17-2004, 08:21 PM.


                  • #10
                    Check out this link. It is for a class A & C water mist extinguisher which is built specifically for this type of scenario. I never knew these existed until now.



                    • #11
                      Well to bring you up to speed on dealing with emergencies involving an MRI. I deal with this kind of situation on both ends of the spectrum. I deal with it from the firefighter aspect and I deal with it from being employeed with the Public Safety Dept. of a hospital. First let me give you kind of an idea of what you are dealing with when you are talking about MRI's. An MRI field can be extremely dangerous, since now they make machines that can go up to 30,000 joules. (joules is how you measure magnetic strength). I know that someone had already included in their post about the 6 year old boy being killed cause someone brought an O2 tank into the MRI field. But has anyone heard of recently of the firefighter over in Great Britian that was killed when he entered the field wearing an SCBA? Well needless to say this ended in tragedy. Yes, if you bring anything into the MRI field that is attracted to magnets it will do some damage. An example is a wrench can get enough momentum to go through 5 bricks. As for emergency response personnel entering this field, well it can be done, but has to be done accourding to what the MRI tech tells you. MRI fields are broken down to 3 zones, just like a haz mat call. You have a hot, warm and cold zone. Even if the MRI tech is MIA or that person is incompacitated, you can still screen each other to enter this field. (a dept should set up a class with their local hospitals to have this done) The process for screening each other is relatively simple. At each MRI, before entering the magnetic field there are hand held magnets to screen each other with. Any time the magnet is attracted to something, that item should be removed from that person. As for disconnecting power, well lets just say, yes that is something that needs to be done, but you should check with hospital administration prior to doing so. If you power down an MRI machine you basically have cost the hospital approx. $25,000.00. Cause that's what it takes to repower an MRI. There is one other way to so call power down an MRI, and is to quench the system. To quench the system, you are activating heaters within the MRI that will turn the liquid nitrogen from a liguid to a gaseous state which is released through the vent up through the roof of the trailer to the outside. Be carefull when doing this cause if the vent malfuntions the gases will not escape the room and then you are subject to suffication. Also when quenching a system, the air around the vent gets so cold that it turns to liquid oxygen, thus creating an explosion hazard. I know that I may have jumped around a little in trying to explain this, but it should give you a more detailed idea of what to look for and how you may want to develop SOG's for this type of event.


                      • #12
                        Very Good Information here


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