Fire Safety – Preparation Is Key to Protection
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When a fire breaks out in a home or workplace, those inside have mere moments to act. Indeed, it takes fewer than 30 seconds for even the smallest flame to grow into a life-threatening fire.i Installing proper detection devices and suppression equipment, and stocking up on lifesaving tools to facilitate timely escape, are key to ensuring occupant safety. Learn about the types and uses of fire safety equipment below.
Early detection can save lives, but all detectors are not created equal. Understanding the function and proper placement of each is critical to effective fire safety.
- Smoke Detectors sound when the sensor detects the presence of smoke particles in the air. Every room of every floor in a residence or facility should have a smoke detector installed. Smoke detectors come in three forms:
- Ionization – Responsive to flaming fires
- Photoelectric – Responsive to smoldering fires
- Dual-Sensor – Incorporates both technologies for optimal protection
Homes and facilities should be equipped with both ionization and photoelectric detectors, or with dual-sensor alarms.
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors sense the presence of toxic levels of carbon monoxide. CO detectors should be installed on every floor and near sleeping areas within a residence.
- Combination Detectors alert residents and tenants to the presence of smoke or carbon monoxide. Install these time- and money-saving devices on every floor and near sleeping areas in a residence or facility. Note that both photoelectric and ionization combination detectors should be installed unless dual-sensor detectors are used.
- Smart Detectors allow for on-the-go notification in the event smoke or CO is detected in a building or home. Alerts are sent to mobile devices, allowing for swift, corrective action.
Though some detectors are equipped with 10-year lithium ion batteries that do not need replacement, many others require 9-volt, AA, or AAA batteries, and hardwire models often have backup batteries as well. Smoke and CO detectors should be tested once per month, and their batteries should be replaced at least once per year. Smoke and CO detectors should be replaced every 8 to 10 years.ii
Used properly by a trained individual, a fire extinguisher can prevent a fire from growing out of control. However, different types of extinguishers exist to fight specific fire types, and it’s critical to understand each classification to ensure your home or workplace is properly prepared.
Common Fire Extinguishers:
- Class A air-pressurized water extinguishers are suitable for fires involving paper, cloth, wood, rubber, and other ordinary combustibles.
- Class B CO2 extinguishers combat fires involving oils, gasoline, grease, solvents, and other flammable liquids.
- Class C Dry chemical extinguishers extinguish fires involving wiring, computers, fuse boxes, and electrical equipment.
- Multipurpose fire extinguishers come in ABC and BC classes. Class ABC extinguishers put out ordinary combustible, flammable liquid and electrical fires. Class BC extinguishers are suitable for flammable liquid and electrical fires only. Check the label for specific class indications.
Class A, B, C, and multipurpose fire extinguisher labels include the classification code preceded by numbers. The number in front of an A indicates the amount of water the extinguisher is equal to, with every unit of 1 equaling 1.25 gallons of water. The number in front of the B and/or C represents the square footage of fire a non-expert user should expect to extinguish. Home fire extinguishers should have a rating of at least 2-A:10-B.
Specialty Fire Extinguishers
- Class K dry and wet chemical extinguishers are designed specifically for commercial kitchen fires that cannot be contained by built-in hood or Class B extinguishers. Class K extinguishers must only be used after the hood suppression system is activated and the electrical power to the appliance has been shut off. If the kitchen is not equipped with a commercial hood and fire suppression system, a Class K extinguisher is not required.
- Class D extinguishers put out fires involving flakes, shavings, or powders of combustible metals.
Fire extinguishers should be positioned on each floor of a home or business in a location that requires a user to travel no more than 40 feet to reach it.iii
In the unfortunate event of a fire that cannot be contained, it is crucial to have a well-designed, well-rehearsed evacuation plan. The NFPA and OSHA have templates and tools to help you create an escape plan for residential use and evacuation standards for workplaces. Secure escape ladders for multi-story buildings, and outfit commercial buildings and multifamily dwellings with ample, well-lit emergency exit signage.
i Department of Homeland Security, Home Fires, Learn About Fire. https://www.ready.gov/home-fires
ii Department of Homeland Security, Home Fires, Before a Fire, Smoke Alarms. https://www.ready.gov/home-fires
iii OSHA, Extinguisher Basics. https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/portable_about.html