How To Choose Fire Safety Equipment
Fire safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, should be at the top of every homeowner’s list of essential must-have products to protect family, pets and guests from fire, smoke and poisonous carbon monoxide gas.
What should you know about fire?
Fire can strike anywhere, anytime. Fires can start in a variety of ways, including faulty electrical wiring, lightning strikes, cigarette smoking, cooking mishaps, dryer vent ignition, gas furnace ignition, fireplace ignition, portable heater tip-overs and more. Fire can smolder for hours before suddenly erupting into flame.
The source of fire plays a major role in determining the best way to fight it. For example, a grease fire should never be doused with water, but instead attacked with a fire extinguisher, salt or baking soda to remove the oxygen that is needed to sustain the fire.
If you have an electrical fire, a fire extinguisher, sand or baking soda can be used once the electrical source of the fire has been disrupted.
Fire extinguishers are classified by ratings of A, B and C. These ratings determine the size and type of fire that the extinguisher can put out.
A-type fires consist of burning wood, paper or fabric. B types consist of flammable liquids like gasoline and oil. C types are electrical.
The number that precedes the letter determines how big of a fire the extinguisher can put out. For example, a 10-B:C extinguisher can put out a 25-square foot fire from a flammable liquid or electrical source. A 5-B:C extinguisher can handle a 12.5-foot fire from a flammable liquid or electrical source.
Proper Fire Extinguisher Operation
The first rule in proper fire extinguisher use is making sure your extinguisher is accessible. Beyond that, there is a simple acronym that comes in handy to teach you how to properly use a fire extinguisher: PASS.
P: Pull the pin from the back of the handle
A: Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire from approximately 6 feet away from the fire
S: Squeeze the handle
S: Sweep the stream in a side-to-side manner
Proper Fire Extinguisher Maintenance
To properly maintain your fire extinguisher, check the gauge monthly to make sure it is pressurized. The gauge should appear somewhere in the green zone, which signifies it is ready for use. Make sure the pull pin is secured and that there are no cracks, dents or rust spots present on the canister. Replace extinguishers that are older than 12 years.
Most importantly, if you have time and access to a phone, call 911 before attempting to extinguish a fire yourself.
Types of Smoke Alarms
There are two basic types of smoke detectors: ionization and photoelectric. Both types are effective in detecting smoke and fire, but the best smoke alarms feature both technologies.
Ionization smoke alarms are more sensitive, i.e., better, at detecting small particles that are produced in greater amounts in flaming fires, which quickly consume combustible materials and spread in many directions.
Photoelectric smoke alarms are more sensitive, i.e., better, at detecting large particles that are produced in greater amounts in smoldering fires, which may smolder for hours before bursting into flame.
Smoke Alarm Technology
There have been some great advances made in smoke alarm technology over the past few years. One of the most appealing is lithium ion battery technology.
The inclusion of lithium ion batteries enables smoke detectors to last 10 years without needing a battery change. Because of this advancement, these smoke alarm batteries can be sealed and are considered “worry-free.” At the end of the 10-year period, simply discard and install a new model for another 10-year period of worry-free monitoring.
Smoke Alarm Placement
Most fire fatalities occur between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m. when most people are asleep. That’s precisely why it’s so important to have several working smoke alarms in your home.
Smoke detectors should be placed in each bedroom, in the kitchen and on every level of your home.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that comes from an appliance malfunction and burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal. A furnace crack, dryer vent clog or a blocked chimney can all produce CO. Under normal operation, the appliance is able to vent the small amounts of CO gas produced outside of your home. Throw in the fresh air that your home receives from air conditioners, ceiling fans, screen doors and open windows and you have virtually nothing to worry about.
However, when the vents are blocked, small amounts of CO gas can build up and become a huge, life-threatening problem.
Carbon monoxide robs you of oxygen that your blood depends on to sustain life. If you are exposed to even small amounts of CO, it quickly bonds with hemoglobin in your blood and displaces oxygen. When this occurs, you experience flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion and irritability. Because these symptoms are similar to influenza, they are sometimes misdiagnosed. As more time passes, the symptoms can worsen to include vomiting, loss of consciousness, brain damage and even death.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, place a CO detector in every bedroom, living room and basement in your home.
Carbon monoxide detectors work by measuring the amount of CO over time. The following limits were created by Underwriters Laboratory, so make sure your CO detector is UL-approved:
• 30 ppm (parts per million) for 30 days
• 150 ppm for 10-50 minutes
• 70 ppm for 60-240 minutes
• 400 ppm for 4-15 minutes
If any of these levels are exceeded, the CO detector’s alarm will go off to alert you of the threat. If your CO detector alarm is ever activated, leave your home immediately and call 911.
Fireplaces and Chimneys
If your home has a wood-burning or gas-burning fireplace, make sure you take the proper precautions necessary to ensure an enjoyable experience.
Have your chimney inspected and, if necessary, swept at least once a year, especially if you use your fireplace regularly.
You should also have a fireplace screen securely in place every time you light a fire. The screen is necessary to keep ash or spewing log fragments from igniting carpet, area rugs or other fabric nearby.
Cigar and Cigarette Smoking
If you or any family members or guests choose to smoke, consider making a rule that smoking should be entertained outside of the home. Should you choose to smoke indoors, however, smoking in bed should be avoided as many fires start when a person falls asleep in bed and the lit cigar or cigarette ignites bedding material. If you do smoke in bed, consider flame-retardant bedding to lessen the chances of fire.