One of our deadliest enemies can be fire. Fire has the capability to be devastating to us. It can mutilate our bodies and present catastrophic injuries that can kill us. Within just a few short moments a fire can destroy structures and materials that took years to accumulate or build. Fire can take away our workplaces and completely wipe out our security—our jobs.
How can fires be stopped? The only answer is simply: prevention. However, the only way to prevent fires is by understanding what causes them and then having the knowledge on how to respond to them adequately.
We are responsible for preventing fires for our safety and the safety of our coworkers. With heightened awareness we should be watchful for conditions that present potential fire hazards.
Hazardous situations should be reported to our supervisor. We should always know the locations of our fire extinguishers, exits and any other emergency equipment (First Aid supplies, Automatic Defibrillator, Emergency Showers and Eye Wash, etc.) that is available to us.
When we discover the presence of a fire (smoke, fumes, smoldering materials, alarms, etc.) we must react quickly but cautiously and think, “should I fight the fire or flee the scene?”. Size up the situation rapidly. Knowing when to attempt to extinguish the fire yourself and when to call for additional help is an essential decision to make.
Follow your organization’s training and directions from the Emergency Response Plan. Activate the plant or building alarm system, evacuate the area, and gather outside the building. Call specific emergency numbers and be prepared to include detailed information to emergency services during this call (location, how it started, etc.).
Don’t hesitate to call the fire department, even if the fire seems minor, easily extinguishable, and you manage to put it out before firefighters arrive. The quicker the alarm is sounded, the sooner the firefighters can attempt to get the situation under control. Have someone meet the firefighters upon arrival to help them locate the fire. Very valuable response time is lost if they must find the exact location of the fire by themselves.
We must understand that we are responsible for preventing fires, but not for putting out major fires. We should only fight a fire if we can do so safely with proper fire extinguishing materials. We should never try to extinguish a raging fire, larger than one extinguisher’s capability, (for example, a fire larger than a small trash can).
The Fire Triangle – Fuel, Oxygen, and Heat
Remember, a fire needs three elements to exist—fuel, oxygen, and heat. For us to understand these relationships let’s think about them as a separate side of triangle. Fire needs all three of these elements in the correct proportions to exist. If we can eliminate or remove one side of the triangle, then the fire will be unable to exist.
For fuel to ignite, oxygen must be present: then heat must be applied until the combustion point is reached. When the combustion point is reached, the fuel will ignite with the oxygen, consuming both fuel and oxygen and giving off heat. If the oxygen is removed, the fire is smothered. If the fuel is removed, there is nothing left to burn. Oxygen, by itself, will not burn. If the heat is lowered below the combustion point, the fuel and oxygen will not ignite, and the fire will stop and go out.
Portable Fire Extinguishers:
Our understanding of fire extinguishers is very important to our safety and the safety of our coworkers. Know where your fire extinguishers are located and know how to select the correct type for each kind of fire and correctly operate them.
Portable Fire Extinguisher Types:
- Class A fires – Combustible, such as wood, paper, and cloth;
- Class B fires – Flammable liquids;
- Class C fire – Electrical; and
- Class D fires – Combustible metal, such as magnesium or sodium.
Portable fire extinguishers can be foam, carbon dioxide, soda acid, pump tank, gas cartridge, multipurpose dry chemical, and ordinary dry chemical. All extinguishers should be labeled with the type of extinguisher for your class fire type.
The most common extinguisher is the multipurpose dry chemical type. NOTE: It can be used for any class of fire. NOTE: However, if the label on the extinguisher is not listing the ABC classes, know which specific class fire to select the correct class extinguisher.
Remember the Acronym P-A-S-S:
Be sure to remember the PASS operating technique for portable fire extinguishers. PASS stands for:
- P – Pull the pin. Pulling the pin unlocks the operating lever or button so you can discharge the extinguisher. Stand at least 6 to 8 feet from the fire.
- A – Aim low, pointing the extinguisher nozzle or hose at the base of the fire.
- S – Squeeze the lever below the handle. Squeezing the lever discharges the contents of the extinguisher. When you release the lever, the discharge stops. Some models have a button to press rather than a lever.
- S – “Sweep” by moving carefully toward the fire, keeping the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire and sweep from side to side until the flames appear to be out.
Most extinguishers will only allow about 10 seconds of extinguishing media. Prevention is the key when it comes to firefighting. Good housekeeping, proper storage procedures, and safe work practices will go a long way toward reducing the likelihood that a fire will destroy valuable property or injure either you or a fellow employee.
LET’S AVOID HOT SITUATIONS!
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