Devastation from a fire can strike anywhere at any time. Fire destroys homes, memories, families, and lives. It is so important for families to have a plan and prepare for fire safety.
Here are some simple facts about fire:
- Each and every day on average seven people die in a fire.
- Local fire departments respond to over 350,000 fires each year.
- Kitchen stoves or other cooking appliances are the primary culprits in causing fires.
- A smoke alarm could have helped save 65% of the people that died in home fires.
- It only takes 30 seconds for a spark to become a spreading fire.
Here are tips recommended by fire safety experts to help you prepare your family to prevent a future disaster.
Fire is a chemical reaction that requires these three elements – an ignition source or heat, fuel, and oxygen. These elements are known as the “fire triangle.” If one element is missing, the fire will not start or if a fire is already burning, and one element is removed – the fire will die.
The ignition or heat source includes equipment or something that emits a spark or flame – including, but not limited to, torches, static electricity, and grinding operations.
Combustible materials include wood, paper, trash, clothing or flammable liquids or gases fuel the fire.
The third component is oxygen or air.
BASIC FIRE SAFETY EQUIPMENT
Knowledge is power when it comes to learning how to prevent home fires. If a fire breaks out, you and your family may only have two minutes to escape from a home fire. Here are some tips for basic fire safety equipment.
Smoke alarms are your first line of defense to alert you of excessive smoke in the air. By not only detecting smoke but flames, as well, they save lives.
- New Constructions – The fire code regulations from the National Fire Alarm Code (NFPA 72) have been adopted at the local, state, and federal levels across the United States as the standard of enforcement. According to the NFPA, new home constructions are required to hard-wired smoke alarms with battery back-up on each level of the home, inside and outside each bedroom or sleeping area. Another code regulation is that the alarms are interconnected, so when one sounds, they all do.
- Existing Homes – At a minimum, a smoke detector should be installed on every level of the home and outside each bedroom. For extra protection, alarms should also be installed inside each bedroom because if a fire occurs while you are asleep, dangerous gases – like Carbon Monoxide (CO) releases and causes you to go into a deep sleep. If possible, interconnect all smoke alarms in your home.
- Testing Your Alarm – Pick a date each month to press the test button on the alarm.
- Keep Batteries Fresh – Some agencies recommend replacing the batteries once a year, others recommend twice a year. Either way, pick a date to change the batteries. People often use anniversaries, birthdates, or when the Daylight Savings Time begins or ends. Otherwise, you will not need to replace the batteries unless the alarm begins to chirp.
- Replace Smoke Alarms – Because smoke alarms become less sensitive over time, the NFPA recommends replacing detectors every 10 years.
While smoke detectors alarm when fire or smoke is present, they do not help control the fire. A sprinkler system will begin immediately fighting flames. Some benefits of sprinklers –
- Sprinklers prevent a fire from spreading while waiting on the fire department.
- They help prevent deadly gas and smoke from reaching your family.
- The system can help contain fires when away from home and notify the fire department.
To ensure you get the proper sprinkler system for your home, contact a sprinkler engineer that adheres to NFPA codes and understands local regulations.
A version of a fire extinguisher has been around for thousands of years and are often the first line of defense in fighting a fire. However, not all extinguishers are the same.
First of all, you should consider having more than one working fire extinguisher in your home. Each one should be hung away from heat sources and close to an exit – also out of reach of children.
Next, everyone needs to understand the different fire classifications based on the fire’s properties – A, B, C, D, and K. By knowing a fire’s heat source, you can use the correct extinguishing method and possibly prevent an explosion.
Here are the five fire classes:
- Class A – Common Combustible Materials – The most common fire class found in the home is Class A. They are normally started by fabric, plastics, garbage, paper, and wood. These fires are fought with a regular fire extinguisher or water.
- Class B – Flammable Gases and Liquids – Class B fires are caused by paint, grease, oil, and solvents. They do not respond well to water as an extinguishing agent. In fact, water may cause a Class B fire to spread by dispersing the flammable liquids. Rather, they need a fire extinguisher to smother the source.
- Class C – Live Electrical Fires – Class C fires call for a two-step plan of action. Since the source is an electrical step one is to disconnect the electrical supply. Then use a fire extinguisher to diminish the fire.
- Class D – Combustible Metals – Although Class D is the least common class, they rapidly can become intense, spread, and cause excessive damage. Class D fires are often found in laboratories and commercial settings. Never use water on Class D because it only energizes the fire. Instead, Class D has special fire extinguishers that require additional training.
- Class K – Commercial Kitchens – Class K fires are often found in the commercial food industry. These fires have unique characteristics because they involve fats and oils that burn hotter. Only fire extinguishers rated for Class K should be used in kitchen grease fires.
CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS
Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless, invisible gas that in only a small concentration if breathed in over a period of time – such as overnight while sleeping, it can cause loss of consciousness, coma or even death.
CO is created when fuels – propane, oil, natural gas, coal, wood, gasoline, and methane do not completely burn. To protect yourself and your family, never use a camp stove, grill, generator or any charcoal-burning device inside your home or in any partially enclosed area including a basement, garage or crawlspace.
The best protection for your home is a CO detector. If a CO alarm rings, immediately get to a fresh air location or open a window.
By implementing these simple tips today, you may save your or your families’ lives in the future.
Michael Tobias is the founder and principal of Nearby Engineers and New York Engineers, which is an Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Company in America. He leads a team of more than 30 mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineers from the company headquarters in New York City, and has led numerous projects in New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, and California, as well as Singapore and Malaysia. He specializes in sustainable building technology and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council.