Preparation Is Key to Fire Safety and Prevention
When a fire breaks out at a property or facility, those inside have mere moments to act. It takes just two minutes for even the smallest flame to grow into a life-threatening fire.1 Installing proper fire safety and protection equipment and stocking up on lifesaving tools to facilitate a timely escape are key to ensuring occupant safety. Learn about the types and uses of fire safety equipment below.
Fire & Smoke Detectors
Early detection can save lives, but all fire and smoke alarms are not created equal. Understanding the function and proper placement of each is critical to effective fire safety.
- Smoke Detectors sound when the sensor detects the presence of smoke particles in the air. Every room of every floor in a property or facility should have a smoke detector installed. Equip your property with both ionization and photoelectric detectors, or with dual-sensor alarms. Smoke detectors come in three forms:
- Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detectors sense the presence of toxic levels of carbon monoxide. CO detectors should be installed on every floor and near all sleeping areas.
- Combination Detectors alert occupants to the presence of smoke or carbon monoxide. Install these time- and money-saving devices on every floor and near sleeping areas. Note that both photoelectric and ionization combination detectors should be installed unless dual-sensor combination detectors are used.
Though some detectors are equipped with 10-year lithium ion batteries that do not need replacement, many others require 9-volt, AA, or AAA batteries, and hardwire models often have backup batteries as well. Smoke and CO detectors should be tested once per month, and their batteries should be replaced at least once per year. Smoke detector units should be replaced every 8 to 10 years, and CO detector units should be replaced every 5 to 7 years or as recommended by the manufacturer.2
Used properly by a trained individual, fire extinguishers can prevent fires from growing out of control. However, different types of extinguishers exist to fight specific fire types, and it’s critical to understand each classification to ensure your home or workplace is properly prepared.
Common Fire Extinguishers
- Class A air-pressurized water extinguishers are suitable for fires involving paper, cloth, wood, rubber and other ordinary combustibles
- Class B CO2 extinguishers combat fires involving oils, gasoline, grease, solvents and other flammable liquids
- Class C dry chemical extinguishers extinguish fires involving wiring, computers, fuse boxes and electrical equipment
- Multipurpose fire extinguishers come in ABC and BC classes. Class ABC extinguishers put out ordinary combustible, flammable liquid and electrical fires. Class BC extinguishers are suitable for flammable liquid and electrical fires only. Check the label for specific class indications.
Understanding Fire Extinguisher Labels
Class A, B, C and multipurpose extinguisher labels include the classification code preceded by numbers. The number in front of an A indicates the amount of water the extinguisher is equal to, with every unit of 1 equaling 1.25 gallons of water. The number in front of the B and/or C represents the square footage of fire a non-expert user should expect to extinguish. Home fire extinguishers should have a rating of at least 2-A:10-B.
Specialty Fire Extinguishers
- Class K dry and wet chemical extinguishers are designed specifically for commercial kitchen fires that cannot be contained by built-in hood or Class B extinguishers. Class K extinguishers must only be used after the hood suppression system is activated and the electrical power to the appliance has been shut off. If the kitchen is not equipped with a commercial hood and fire suppression system, a Class K extinguisher is not required.
- Class D extinguishers put out fires involving flakes, shavings, or powders of combustible metals.
Storing Fire Extinguishers: Cabinets & Accessories
Fire extinguishers should be positioned on each floor of a property or facility in a location that requires a user to travel no more than 75 feet to reach it, including outdoors.3 Ensure fire extinguishers are stored in fire suppression cabinets to protect your extinguishers from theft or damage, and to discourage children from playing with them.
In the unfortunate event of a fire that can’t be contained, it’s crucial to have a well-designed, well-rehearsed evacuation plan. The NFPA and OSHA have templates and tools to help you create an escape plan and evacuation standards for workplaces4. Secure escape ladders for multi-story buildings, and outfit commercial buildings and multifamily dwellings with ample emergency exit lighting and signage.
1 Department of Homeland Security, Home Fires, Learn About Fire
2 Department of Homeland Security, Home Fires, Before a Fire, Smoke Alarms
3 OSHA, Portable Fire Extinguishers
4 NFPA 10, Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers