While having an oxygen tank at home may be a necessity due to various health issues, storing and using it incorrectly can create a dangerous situation. Oxygen makes things burn faster, so it’s important to take extra precautions in case of a fire, according to the National Fire Protection Agency. Here’s what to keep in mind.

About your oxygen tank

Your doctor may prescribe an oxygen tank as oxygen therapy. Your oxygen will be stored under pressure in a tank or produced by a machine called an oxygen concentrator.

Oxygen administration equipment was involved in an estimated average of 182 home fires reported to local fire departments per year, between 2002-2005, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

To get oxygen from the tank, you’ll need either a mask over your nose and mouth or a nasal cannula (placed in your nostrils), says the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These are usually attached to the tank via a hose. Change your cannula and mask every two to four weeks and the tube every two months, the NIH says.

Related: Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy: What It Can and Can't Do

How to use the cylinders

The cylinder, or oxygen tank, is where your oxygen is stored. It can be kept on a cart or stand for easy mobility. Remember to keep an extra cylinder or two on hand as they can safely be stored on their side.

Here’s how to use one per Intermountain Healthcare. (Photo: Intermountain Healthcare)

oxygen tank illustration
  1. Be sure the flow regulator knob is set at 0.
  2. Make sure the T-handle is tight.
  3. Place the cylinder wrench on the cylinder’s on/off valve, located at the top of the cylinder.
  4. Open the valve by turning it counterclockwise one full turn. As the valve opens, the gauge on the regulator will show the amount of pressure in the cylinder.
  5. Adjust the flow regulator knob to the flow rate your doctor prescribed.
  6. Attach tubing to the nipple adaptor on the regulator.

It is normal for small amounts of oxygen to leak from cylinders, so it is important to always keep oxygen cylinders in a well-ventilated area, according to Intermountain Healthcare.

When the needle gets to the lower part of the red section on the regulator, it is time to change the cylinder. Make sure to change it before the needle gets below 200 psi.

Related: 8 Innocent-Seeming Habits that Put Your Home at Risk

Prepare your home

It’s important to have your home ready before you arrive with your new oxygen tank. Follow these tips from Intermountain Healthcare and the National Library of Medicine:

  • Check that your smoke detectors are in working condition and have new batteries.
  • Have a working fire extinguisher in your home. You may need more than one if you’re using the oxygen tank in different rooms.
  • Post an “Oxygen in Use” sign where visitors can see it. It often comes with your tank kit.
  • Avoid open flames, sparks or smoking where the oxygen is being used.
  • Tell your local fire department and power company that you use oxygen in your home. It can alert them to restore power faster.
  • Keep the tank at least six feet away from toys with electronic motors, space heaters, wood stoves, fireplaces, electric blankets, hair dryers, electric razors and toothbrushes.
  • Keep tubing out of the way and avoid creating a tripping hazard. If needed, try taping the tubing to the back of your shirt.
  • Do not store your oxygen in a trunk or small closet. Storing your oxygen under the bed is okay as long as air can flow freely.

Related: How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

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Muriel Vega is a writer with a passion for budget travel and staying safe while abroad. A Georgia State University graduate, she has over 6 years of editorial experience and has written for The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Billfold, among other outlets. In her free time, you can find her baking pies, playing with her two dogs and cat, or planning her next vacation. She spends way too much time on Twitter, one of her favorite social media channels. Her favorite safety tip: Make sure you have all the necessary shots before you go abroad.