A fire is a state of combustion, as a result of which heat and light are produced. In other words, a fire is the destructive burning of material that produces light, flame, heat and smoke.
The menace of a fire as a potential disaster is with us every day. Most of the deaths which were a result of fires could have been avoided. Fires have become increasingly life threatening hazards, since it can kill and destroy in a few minutes.
Types of Fires
There are four categories of fires:
1. Class A fires: These fires that are burning of ordinary materials like burning paper, lumber, cardboard, plastics.
2. Class B fires: These fires involve flammable or combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene and common organic solvents used in laboratories.
3. Class C fires: Theses fires involve energized electrical equipment, such as appliances, switches, panel boxes, power tools, hot plates. Water is a particularly dangerous extinguishing medium for class c fires because of the risk of electrical shock.
4. Class D fires: These involve combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium potassium and sodium (these are more likely to be found in labs). These materials burn at high temperatures and react violently with water, air, and /or other chemicals.
Some fires may be a combination of all of the above!
Common Fire Hazards in the Home
It is a fact that seven out of 10 fires occur in the home. Therefore you should check the rooms of your home and make it safe for your family. A tidy house seldom burns.
1. Remove pans or bottles of cooking fats and oils from the stove when not in use. It’s easy to turn on the wrong burner.
2. Unplug electric kettles, frying pans and other appliances when not in use.
3. Do not hang clothes above the stove to dry.
4. Keep matches out of the reach of children.
5. Have an approved fire extinguisher which is handy for grease fires.
1. Do not use extension cords in place of permanent wiring.
2. Provide sufficient electrical outlets for your needs.
3. Provide deep substantial ashtrays for smokers and ensure that the contents are placed in a metal container or toilet each evening before retiring.
Never smoke in bed. Many people are killed in fires because the bedding catches fire from a cigarette in the hands of a sleepy person.
Matches and Careless Smoking Habits
Careless discarding of lighted matches and smoking materials are responsible for about twenty percent of all fires from known causes. A burning match, tobacco debris or a cigarette carelessly left burning may start a catastrophic fire which may take a heavy toll on lives and property. Remember, one little thoughtless act may take your home or even your life!
Here are a few common sense precautions:
1. Keep all matches away from children.
2. Have ashtrays in all rooms.
3. Be sure your lighted matches or smokes are completely out before you discard them.
4. DO NOT SMOKE IN BED!
5. Do not strike matches in closets, garages, or other places where flammable materials, dust or vapours may be ignited.
Faulty Electrical Wiring and Appliances
More than one in ten fires of known causes is of electrical origin. Circuits are designed to carry certain loads; however, the blowing of a fuse is a danger signal that the circuit is overloaded or defective.
Here are a few common sense precautions:
1. Employ a skilled electrician to repair wiring when necessary.
2. Buy electrical appliances bearing a recognized seal of approval.
3. Do not string wires under rugs, over hooks or in any exposed place. Worn out wires may make them dangerous.
Improper care and unsafe use of stoves – electrical, coal, gas or oil – often cause fires. Protect walls and ceilings near stoves with insulating material to reduce the risk of fires
Kerosene and Carelessness
Many fires are caused by careless use of kerosene, gasoline or other flammable fluids, and by careless handling of candles, open lights, lamps, open gas jets, torches, etc. Pouring kerosene on wood or coal fires is extremely dangerous. You can never be safe using flammable, explosive fluids in your house, or in filling kerosene or gasoline stoves or lamps while they are lighted. If your clothing catches fire do not run. Running fans the flames and increases them. Lie down on the floor and roll if you can. Don’t wear fuzzy, filmy, flammable clothing around a stove or range.
Protect Yourself from Fires
How to Prevent Fires
1. Do not keep gasoline in or near domestic areas.
2. Do not buy or keep gasoline or other highly inflammable liquids in breakable containers.
3. Do not leave inflammable liquids carelessly at home or in immediate reach of children.
4. Do not leave open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, in the reach of children. If possible, avoid using candles, especially when there are children in the house. Never allow children to use matches, or leave them within their reach.
5. Do not leave electric irons, hot plates or other appliances plugged in as over- heating can cause fire.
What to Do If There Is a Fire
1. Raise an alarm to warn others of the emergency.
2. On suspicion of fire, get children and helpless persons out of the building immediately.
3. Get out of the building immediately.
4. Do not get back into the burning building. You may not come out alive.
5. If you are trapped in the building, lie flat on the ground and try to creep out; the air is clearer near the floor.
6. Call the Guyana Fire Service (GFS) at 112.
7. No matter where you live or work, be familiar with all exits, including windows.
8. Remember to turn off gas connections and electricity
Conduct Fire Drills Regularly
Fire drills enable us to react quickly and sensibly when confronted with a fire emergency or bomb threat. We need to empty a crowded building quickly and orderly. Fire drills should be practiced at home, schools and offices. These drills should be practiced using all possible alternate safe routes that lead to open air and safety.
Steps in Planning a Fire Drill
The sequence for a fire drill is:
Alarm → Evacuation → Assembly → Head Count (roll call) → Debrief
The function of the alarm signal is to warn everyone in the building that a state of emergency has arisen and that they are to leave the building at once. Where two or more departments or homes occupy the same building, there should be complete co-operation between them. The sounding of the fire alarm in any part of the building should be the signal for complete evacuation of the building and not just a part thereof.
Make sure you know the location and sound of the alarm in your building. Smoke detectors should be installed near each sleeping area in the home and in high-risk areas in the office and school compound.
On hearing the fire alarm, persons in charge should immediately instruct their charges to line up and leave in an orderly fashion. No talking should be allowed so that any instructions given can be heard. Stairways should be descended in single file using the left of the stairway. Never use an elevator. No one should be permitted to overtake during the evacuation as this may start a stampede.
Know at least two ways out of every room in your home, office, or school.
If you live or work in multi-story building, map as many routes as possible to exit stairways on your floor or other floors of the building.
If one of your escape routes is on the second, third or higher story, consider investing in a safety ladder.
If the door leaving your room is cool to the touch, open it slightly to check for smoke. If there is none leave by your planned escape routes.
Do not open the door if it feels hot to the touch; use your alternate exit.
Teach small children never to hide under beds or in closets.
Everyone should gather at a pre-determined meeting place outside the home, classroom or office. This meeting place should be well away from the building. Each group of persons should set up a pre-arranged position and stand in a compact group. Once outside, stay outside! Never risk life in an attempt to save personal possessions.
4. Head Count (Roll Call):
A head count or roll call should be taken as soon as the group reaches the assembly point. Report the count immediately to the person in charge. Missing persons will be assumed to still be in the building. If anyone is missing inform the fire personnel so a search can be made.
5. The Debrief:
On completion of the evacuation drill, spend a few minutes to identify areas of weakness in your existing alarm or evacuation process and ways of improving the factor of safety. Do not forget to secure document.
Types of Fire Extinguishers
There are four types of fire extinguishers:
1. Water extinguishers: these are suitable for Class A fires, but not for Class B, C and D as burning liquids, electrical fires or reactive metal fires. In these cases the flames may spread and the hazard will be greater.
2. Dry chemical extinguishers: these are useful for Class A,B and C fires and are your best all around choice. They have an advantage over carbon dioxide extinguishers in that they leave a blanket of non- flammable material on the extinguished material, which reduces the likelihood of any re-ignition.
3. Carbon dioxide extinguishers: these are for Class B and C fires. They do not work very well on Class A fires because the material usually reignites. Carbon dioxide extinguishers have an advantage over dry chemical in that they leave behind no harmful chemicals. This extinguisher is not for Class D fires.
4. Metal/sand extinguishers: these are for flammable metals (Class D fires) and work by simply smothering the fire.