Most often, fire is a good servant but unfortunately at times it turns out to be a very bad master in form of a fire disaster.In case such unfortunate disasters strike, you should be equipped both in skills and tools to keep the destruction at the minimum possible.
Fire is a complex chemical reaction where heat and light are released accompanied by flames. This will occur only in presence of three elements of fire that form the fire triangle, namely heat, fuel and oxygen.
Heat is required to elevate the temperature of a material to its ignition point. Fuel refers to anything that can burn be it solid, liquid or gas. The type and quantity of the fuel will determine which method should be used to extinguish the fire. Oxygen supports combustion; most fires will burn vigorously in any atmosphere of at least 16% oxygen. If any one of these is missing, a fire cannot start
Fire fighting is in fact elimination of at least one of the three elements through;
a) Starvation– Removing burning material from fire, the fire is denied fuel.
b) Smothering-Blanketing the burning material to cut off oxygen supply.
c) Cooling-Spraying water into the burning material to drastically reduce the heat.
General causes of fire include the following;
Cooking – chip pan
Natural causes e.g. sun, lightening
Class of fire and Type of Fire Fire Extinguisher to use
If you want to be successful in fighting fire, you need to know what type of fire you are fighting. In this respect you will select the right extinguishing media. Classes of fire are as follows;
Class A- Ordinary Combustible Materials Fires
such as paper, wood, plastic-use Water, Foam, Dry powder.
Powder fire extinguisher
Class B- Flammable Liquids Fires
such as paraffin, petrol, diesel-use Foam, Dry Powder, CO2
Class C- Flammable Gases Fires
such as propane, butane, methane-use Dry Powder, CO2
Class D -Flammable Metals Fires
such as Potassium, Magnesium, Titanium-use Specially formulated Dry Powder
Class F- Cooking Oil and fat Fires
such as in deep-fat fryers-use Wet Chemical, Fire Blanket
Electrical Fires do not constitute a class of fire. Any fire involving or started by electrical equipment when isolated becomes Class A, B, C, D or F depending on the material surrounding the area. For this type of fire the recommended media is Carbon Dioxide or Dry Powder.
Types of fire extinguishers;
a. Water Extinguisher, ‘Signal Red/color code– Extinguishes by removing heat and cooling burning materials. It is used on wood, paper and textiles fires only (Class ‘A’ fires)
Water fire Extinguisher
WARNING – Never use on live electricals, oils or fats.
b. Foam Extinguisher. (Aqueous film-forming foam) (AFFF) ‘Signal Cream’-Extinguishes by removing heat and cooling burning materials. It also removes Oxygen by smothering the fire. It is also used on Flammable liquid (Class ‘B’ Fires) Can also be used on Wood, paper, textiles and flammable gases.
c. Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher ‘Signal black-Extinguishes by displacing Oxygen and smothering the fire. It is used on live electrical fires. This type of extinguisher is not very effective when used outside.
WARNING – Do not touch the plastic horn during use and be aware of the loud noise during discharge.
d. Dry Powder Extinguisher. (Multi-Purpose) – ‘Signal Blue’-Extinguishes by reacting physically with the chemical reaction of fire. It is used on flammable gases. It can also be used on Wood, paper, textiles and flammable liquids and electrical
WARNING: Avoid inhaling powders. It can Cause asphyxiation. Also be aware of re-ignition. During use, visibility may be reduced.
e. Fire blankets-Fire blankets are made of fire resistant materials (Fiber Glass).
Use by placing carefully over the fire. Keep your hands shielded from the fire. Do not waft the fire towards you.
f. Fire hose reels– Operate by;
• Turning on the hose reel valve before releasing the hose reel.
• Run out the hose.
• Turn on water at nozzle and direct the stream at the
base of the fire.
CO2 fire extinguisher
g. Other firefighting equipment– Sand bucket, sprinkler system, fire beaters and gas suppression system
Fire alarm systems
The primary function of most basic fire alarm systems is warning occupants of potential or impending danger, while simultaneously summoning the fire department. It is advisable to install these systems in workplaces and homes
In the event of a fire, break the glass of the nearest manual call point that you have located. This will cause the fire alarm system to sound throughout the building
Firefighting operating procedures;
Raise the alarm!
Is it safe to tackle?
Exit route to safety?
Correct type of extinguisher?
Safe position from which to fight fire?
Fire Extinguishers Health and Safety Implications
Inhalation of smoke and toxic gases
Too close to the fire
Means of escape
On discovering fire:
• Sound the alarm- If you discover or suspect a fire, sound the building fire alarm. If there is no alarm in the building, warn the other occupants by knocking on doors and shouting as you leave.
• Leave the building- Try to rescue others only if you can do so safely. Report to the Fire Assembly Point. Don’t go back into the building until the fire department says it is safe to do so.
• Call the fire department- Dial emergency number and give as much information as possible to the emergency dispatcher
Total and immediate evacuation is safest. Attack the fire if possible using the appliances provided, but without taking risks. If you can’t put out the fire, leave immediately.
On hearing the fire alarm;
• Leave by the nearest/safest fire exit, escorting visitors, quests etc;
• Do not stop to collect personal belongings;
• Report to your designated Assembly Point;
• Do not re-enter the building until you have been told that it is safe to do so. Shut the doors behind you as you leave and if possible close windows too.
• Fire Marshals should take the role call
1. The means of escape routes, primary and secondary.
2. The nearest Fire Alarm point.
3. Where the assembly point is.
Never take risks – if in doubt GET OUT
Smoke is a combination of lethal gases, vapors and particles of partially burnt materials. Most fires release smoke and ALL smoke is dangerous – more than half of fire related deaths are as a result of smoke inhalation.
If you become trapped by smoke, you should:
• Lie on the floor;
• Breathe through your nose;
• Crawl to safety; In a fire, smoke will naturally rise leaving some fresh air about 30cm to 60cm off the floor
• If you see smoke coming from behind a closed door, NEVER open it – there is the possibility of a violent explosion as a result of a sudden in rush of air. Remember that without a supply of air (Oxygen) the fire will suffocate.
What To Do If You Are Trapped
Don’t panic. Stay calm and follow these steps:
• Enter a safe room, preferably one that overlooks a road.
• Shut the door behind you. Cover the bottom gap of the door with a blanket or rug, to prevent smoke from seeping through.
• Shout for help from the window or other openings to alert passers-by. Then wait for rescue to arrive.
If Your Clothing Catches Fire
What to do if your clothes catch fire
• Stop. Do not panic and run.
• Whether indoors or outdoors, drop down immediately, covering your face with your hands
• Roll over and over to put out the flames.
• Rolling smothers the flames by removing the oxygen.
• Covering your face with your hands prevents the flames from burning your face and helps keep fumes and smoke from reaching your lungs.
Assembly point procedures
On the sounding of the alarm people should make their way to the assembly point and gather in an orderly fashion – the Fire Warden should take the role call and then report the findings to the coordinator who in turn reports to the fire service on arrival.
Assembly should be quiet and orderly and the Fire Wardens should make sure that the people are not in danger. Sometimes there are problems when more than one department is assembling in the same area and it needs to be very disciplined so that an accurate count can be taken Protected means of escape or alternatives give people a choice of direction and therefore safety.
Early warning, good fire safety, regular drills, and good means of escape are the ingredients for success.
What to do after a fire
After a fire, danger and injury are still possibilities.
It is extremely important to keep the following information and safety standards in mind:
Do not enter a fire-damaged building unless fire department says it is okay.
If the building is deemed unsafe to enter, secure to prevent possible looting
Know who to call after a fire (family members, tenant and insurance company)
Understand what happens with a “fire report”
Consider the clean up requirements.
Have an electrician check the wiring before the current is turned back on. Do not attempt to reconnect any utilities yourself.
After a fire you may experience anxious feelings, depression, difficulty concentrating, sadness, anger, fatigue, irrational fears and nightmares. These are common responses to a traumatic event. If you or anybody else needs support and in case of any emergency, you should call or seek for the relevant professional help.
You are not expected to be a firefighter! Do not take unnecessary risks!
- Play it safe (fijitimes.com)