Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) room accidents have caused severe injuries to patients and workers and to first responders who have gone near MRI machines without first removing magnetic items. In Germany, a firefighter was pulled into the machine by his SCBA tank and nearly choked to death. There have also been reports of firearms being pulled into machines, sometimes discharging.
MRI machines in hospitals and medical facilities use superconducting magnets to perform tests. These magnets are extremely strong, in some cases 60,000 times stronger than the Earth’s magnetic field. This creates an incredibly dangerous situation: the magnets are always on and cutting power will not shut them down.
Departments and agencies should work with medical facilities using MRI technology within their jurisdiction to ensure personnel practice safety and understand the markings and labels in MRI areas. You should also discuss procedures to disable (quench) the magnet in an extreme emergency. Quenching the magnet may destroy the MRI machine and should only be used as a last resort.
There is a lot of information available to first responders that can easily be added to a departmental training program.
- Fire Engineering offers a continuing education course PDF 520 KB.
- University Radiology offers the MRI Safety Training for First Responders training slide deck PDF 970 KB.
- Spectrum Health and ZPRad have produced videos.
- The city of Concord, North Carolina, has a short safety article for firefighters PDF 149 KB.
Firefighters, EMS personnel, and law enforcement officers must understand the dangers associated with MRI machines, be able to easily find or identify the location of MRI equipment, know how to identify MRI-compatible equipment (e.g., fire extinguisher, stretchers, etc.), and know how to safely do their jobs around MRI machines.