All workplaces, big and small, require fire safety measures. If you look closely in any store, for example, at least one or two fire extinguishers or even fire blankets (and signs showing how to use them) will be visible to the public. However, when it comes to our homes not many of us have taken similar measures. Almost every home has a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide alarm but very few have a fire extinguisher or fire blanket.
Considering the dangers of cooking or electrical fires that can happen at home, a small fire extinguisher or class F fire blanket conveniently positioned can be essential in an emergency.
Types of fires:
- Class A – ordinary combustible fires
- Class B – flammable liquids
- Class C – flammable gases
- Class D – metal fires
- Class E – electrical fires
- Class F – cooking oil fires
Types of fire extinguishers:
- Water – used for Class A fires
- AFFF foam – used for Class A and B fires. May be used on electrical fires if previously tested
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) – used for Class B and electrical fires
- ABC powder – used for Class A, B, C and electrical fires
- De-ionised water mist – used for Class A, B, C and electrical fires
- Wet chemicals – used for Class F fires and sometimes for Class A
- Fire blankets – used only for small fires or as a cover while getting away from the fire
To choose the right fire extinguisher or fire blanket you need to assess the home. Identify which areas may be in more danger of a fire breaking out. Apart from the obvious places like the kitchen, other dangerous areas may be places where too many appliances are plugged in and may create an overload; work spaces used for home construction projects are also a dangerous area that needs to be taken into consideration when making a home assessment.
Second, you need to think about the types of fires that may break out in those rooms, which fire extinguishers will be appropriate to have and where to place them so they are handy in an emergency. Buying a foam extinguisher will suit many of the common hazards in a home environment.
Third, everyone in the home should know how to use a fire extinguisher or a fire blanket (fortunately, most have instructions for use on them, which should be studied when you buy one). An easy way to remember how to use a fire extinguisher is to use the P.A.S.S method:
- Pull the pin
- Aim at the base of the fire
- Squeeze the trigger/lever
- Sweep the nozzle side to side
For fire blankets, which are conveniently folded inside a box, there are three easy steps for use:
- Pull tapes to remove blanket
- Cover burning material completely
- Switch off heat, leave covered until cool
A fire blanket should only be used on a small fire that it can cover completely. If the fire is too big for the fire blanket, use the blanket as a partial cover to give you time to get away, then seek help immediately. A fire blanket should be discarded after its first use.
Untrained people should only tackle domestic fires themselves if the fire is very small or, in extreme situations, to give themselves and their family/friends time to get away. The person using the fire extinguisher should have a clear exit. The fire service should be called first thing in an emergency.