The Fire Triangle

The fire triangle is a model for understanding the relationship of how the three main components of fire work together. 

The triangle illustrates the three elements a fire needs to ignite: heat, fuel, and an oxidizing agent (usually oxygen). A fire naturally occurs when the elements are present and combined in the right mixture,[2] meaning that fire is actually an event rather than a thing. A fire can be prevented or extinguished by removing any one of the elements in the fire triangle. For example, covering a fire with a fire blanket removes the oxygen part of the triangle and can extinguish a fire. In large fires where firefighters are called in, decreasing the amount of oxygen is not usually an option because there is no effective way to make that happen in an extended area.[3]

Important Places to Keep a Fire Extinguisher Part I

Everyone knows that fire extinguishers should be stored on every floor in the home and workplace, but owning and keeping it charged and inspected is one thing, but knowing the best place to put them is something else. Have you ever thought specifically about which rooms are the best to keep them?

The kitchen is the site of 65 percent of all household fires. Kitchen fires involve grease, and grease fires burn extremely hot and can’t be put out with water since water and grease don ‘t mix. Do not keep the extinguisher near the stove, as it might become too hot to handle if fire breaks out! The best place for a fire extinguisher in the kitchen should be about 15 feet from a stove- meaning it can be kept in the next room over for small kitchens.

The laundry room is the next most important place for a fire extinguisher, specifically the dryer machine. Dryer lint highly flammable, and that’s why you need to clean the lint trap. If the lint build up too much, it can land on the coils and be set aflame. However, even if you do clean the lint trap, it happens that fire still occurs. It’s rare but it does happen, with the dryer exhaust tube being the usually place. The Laundry room is an ideal place for Auto Fire Guard

[Note that AFG is not appropriate for kitchen and grease fires.]

Avoiding Electrical Fires

 onclick=Electrical fires are particularly hazardous, because they can spread quickly; and for this reason it” onclick=”return TrackClick(”,’%2Fpurchase’)”s essential that you pay attention to warning signs that can pop up. There are a number of causes for electrical fires: faulty wiring,  malfunctioning appliances and overloaded circuitss being among the most common.  If you find yourself in an emergency situation with respect to an electrical fire, we suggest following these simple steps.

  • Cut the Power: If the fire is caught soon enough, simply turning off the power can extinguish the flames.  Unplugging the device at the wall won” onclick=”return TrackClick(”,’%2Fpurchase’)”t do it. Go to the circuit breaker and shut off the main power.
  • Blanket the Fire: Having a fire blanket on hand to smother the fire , thereby extinguishing flames by depriving oxygen to the fire.  They are cheap and easy to use.
  • Use a Fire Extinguisher: Use a fire extinguisher that is approved for fighting electrical fires. Do not use a water fire extinguisher, as the fire will spread and could cause further damage.
  • Auto Fire Guard is an excellent solution for electrical fires. Simply mount it above the circuit board or anywhere else electrical fire is possible and let it do its job. When flame reaches it, it will self activate

The most common way that people can detect electrical fires is by the smell. The smell of rubber getting hot or burning is a indicator that a fire is in its incipient states. If you own appliances that emit a rubbery odor when they are plugged in, it is important to discard and replace the appliance.

The best way to avoid an electrical fire is to take precautionary measures to ensure that circuits are not overloaded and that appliances are in good repair.  Avoid using small appliances that produce a rubbery odor when they are under power.  This is a warning sign that a flame could generate quickly.

 

 

 

Fire Alarm Basics

Without a doubt the fire alarm system in your building is one of the most important parts of your building safety strategy. Without it, you’re putting the occupants in your building in danger, maybe even yourself. Additionally, damage that comes from fire can  result in costly repairs that could have been reduced or eliminated with a well designed and properly implemented system.

This raises the question as to how one does this effectively. In this post, we will discuss what to look for in a fire alarm system to ensure it’s properly designed and fully functional.

Fire Alarm System Parts

Fire Alarm Control Panel

The fire alarm control panel is kind of the nerve center of the fire alarm system. This crucial piece of equipment monitors the building for fires, manages outputs, and relays information when there’s an issue or hazardous situation.

Primary & Secondary Power Supply

Every alarm system must have both a primary and secondary power supply, with the latter making sure you’re covered during a power outage.

The primary power supply should be a standard non-switched 120 or 240-volt AC source provided by the power company. The secondary power supply is typically a lead-acid storage batteries. In larger buildings a generator can be used.

Initiating Devices

The initiating devices sent information to the fire alarm panel and trigger the fire alarm when appropriate.  The system should have both a manual and automatic way to initiate the system there’s a fire.

Manual initiating devices include:

  • Fire alarm boxes
  • Manual pull stations
  • Break glass stations

Common Automatic initiating devices include:

  • Heat detectors
  • Smoke detectors
  • Flame detectors

Notification Appliances

Notification devices alert the building occupants when there’s an emergency. Devices in this class include  flashing lights, strobes, horns, bells, chimes, or other noises.

Sometimes an emergency voice alarm communications systems (EVACS) is activated, voice alerts which help the occupants safely evacuate the building. This application will ease the pressure of the situation and securely guide people out of the building.

Building Safety Interfaces

The building safety interfaces are used so that the fire alarm system can prepare the building for a fire by adjusting certain elements in a building. This system can reduce the spread of smoke and toxic fumes by adjusting the air movement, lighting, process control, human transport, and more.

Auto Fire Guard is the self activating fire extinguisher that lets out a loud bang to notify anyone in the area that there is a fire present.

 

The Importance of Fire Safety System Testing

With the responsibilities that come with being a business owner or building manager, it’s easy to neglect fire safety tests, and you probably haven’t given much thought as to the last time you had the fire protection system in your commercial building tested. Regular system testing is vital for adequate fire protection, and here are the benefits of having a professional test your fire protection system. If your building catches fire, your the people, building and the assets inside are at risk. If you don’t have a functional fire protection system, one stray spark could cause your entire business to go up in smoke, and can happen in a surprisingly short period of time. It’s imperative that you test your fire protection system at the regular intervals recommended your AHJ, to ensures the system is operating correctly.

Fire suppression systems are a complex beast, and all the components must be working together. A fire suppression system inspection verifies that these parts are working if a fire ignites.  The most important parts of the system include the fire alarm, fire sprinkler system and the fire department alert.  Fire deaths in buildings that have working systems are virtually non existent.

Local fire departments conduct inspections to assess and mitigate potential fire hazards in a building. These inspections vary in type and frequency and in some municipalities may be unscheduled. Recommended cleaning and testing schedules will ensure that you pass those inspections.

Emergency Lighting in the Public Places

Emergency lighting is the lighting designed that identifies and illuminates places on a fire route like hallways, stairwells and exits, to help people safely evacuate from a building. Emergency lighting is required by code in nearly every commercial, industrial, educational, religious, institutional, public housing, medical and many other facilities whether for-profit or non-profit. Interestingly, OSHA does not have any emergency lighting specific regulations, though NFPA’s  (National Fire Prevention Association) Life Safety Code addresses the topic in detail. The local AHJ (authority having jurisdiction) is the body that ensures emergency lighting compliance, and it is they who can answer questions related to your specific occupancy. Emergency lighting also known as “egress lighting”.

The NFPA’s Life Safety Code indicates that emergency illumination (when required) must be provided for at least of 1.5-hours of normal lighting in the event of a power outage. It must provide illumination of not less than an average of one foot-candle (10.8-lux) and a minimum at any point of 0.1-foot-candle (1.1-lux) measured along the path of egress at floor level. These levels can decline to a minimum of 0.6-foot-candle (6.5-lux) average and 0.06-foot-candle (0.65-lux) at any one point at the end of emergency lighting time (1.5-hours). In other words, you should be able to see the nearest and the next point on the emergency egress route. The maximum illumination at any one point can be no more than 40 times the minimum illumination at any one point to prevent excessively bright and dark spots.

Testing Requirements for Emergency Lighting

The Life Safety Code, includes a section on emergency lights testing and it acknowledges three different categories of emergency lights: traditional, self-testing/self-diagnostic and computer based self-testing/self-diagnostic. It essentially requires both a monthly activation test, where the lights remain illuminated for a minimum of 30-seconds, and an annual test where the lights are activated for 1.5-hours to simulate a long term emergency event. Written records of theses tests must be on hand for inspection by the AHJ.

Are modern building materials dangerous in a fire?

New home building has become less expensive over the years, and much of the reason can be attributed to cheaper building materials. One would like to assume that there are materials that require that these materials be safe, but the truth is otherwise. While firefighting techniques have made that job safer, and there has been an increase in the awareness of fire safety, you might find it surprising that building materials have become less safe in a fire. In face of this, it is a strange irony that buildings burn faster and hotter than they ever have, and that means that firefighters have to be all the more speedy at getting to the fire.

The main culprit is the building materials, including more flammable textiles and plastics, both of which have petroleum based products as one of the main components. These synthetic materials are not only more flammable, their light weight allows for more thinner, more easily penetrable walls. Other places where you will find highly inflammable materials include foam cushions in sofas and chairs, nylon and acrylic upholstery and appliances with gases that become combustible when hot.

These materials not only burn hotter, but they can release toxic gases not found in natural materials. And these materials are everywhere, from roof struts, to insulation, to carpets and clothing. It’s true that carbon monoxide is the big killer in house fires, but synthetic materials can releases hydrogen cyanide, which is causes brain damage through damage to the central nervous system.

What’s the answer?

Stopping the fire is of utmost importance, and that means making the investment in fire prevention devices. Fire extinguishers work well, but there has to be someone present who knows how to used them. Fire sprinkler systems are also great, but can be expensive. Auto Fire Guard makes an excellent alternative because it works like both. AFG contains fire suppressant materials that are similar to those found in fire extinguishers, but AFT is self activating, and so acts like a fire sprinkler system as well.

Exit Lighting in Your Business

There are numerous regulatory agencies and codes that govern emergency lighting and exit sign requirements, among them Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), International Building Code and International Fire Code and the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).

OSHA’s requirements for lighting and marking exit routes are covered under 1910.37(b), and state that each exit route must be adequately lighted so that an employee with normal vision can see along the exit route and each exit must be clearly visible and marked by a sign reading “Exit.” Additional requirements include the following:

Any exit signs must be located so that no point in an exit access area is more than the sign’s viewing distance, or 100 feet from the nearest sign.

Most exit signs are lit by incandescent bulbs; and to ensure continuous lighting in the event of an emergency or power outage, the signs are typically internally wired into emergency backup power.

Emergency exit lights should be tested every month by a licensed professional.

Emergency exit signs should be backed up with an external power source (typically batteries), and tested by a licensed technician. He will check for signs of damage and wear.

The AC ready light should be on and the lamps should be lit and connected to backup batteries. All bulbs will be checked for proper illumination.

Exit signs must be in proper locations for prime visibility.

The batteries in your emergency exit lights should be checked annually with what is called a 90-minute “burn test”. This test will simulates 90 minutes of lighting time on the backup power source, at which point all defective units and parts will be replaced. Along with your standard monthly maintenance checks, this proactive annual strategy will ensure that your facility is safe in the event of an emergency and fully compliant with NFPA code.

How often do I have to change my smoke detectors?

If you don’t know how often to change out your  smoke alarms or detectors, you are in good company. Surveys show that  almost no Americans know that you should swap out your fire alarm every 10 years.

And it’s something that has fire prevention specialists “alarmed.” Many in the industry will tell you that most Americans are at least generally familiar with necessity of having a fire alarm/smoke detector, and the majority know that you should change the batteries every 6 months (thanks to the Daylight Saving Time prompts offered as a public service), but when to replace the alarms is a mystery to almost all. It’s promising that more than half of the homes in the country have 3 or more smoke detectors in their homes. However, it is believed that about 25% of Americans have a smoke detector that is over 10 years old, and almost as many couldn’t even tell you how old the smoke detectors in their homes are.

How will I know how old my smoke detector is?

The date of manufacture is on the back of the alarm. It is recommended to replace every 10 years from the date of manufacture, as opposed to the date of purchase. Always remember to check the batteries once a month or so.

 

 

Fire Protection Plans for Businesses

When it comes to fire protection for your business, there is no generic course of action. The fire protection you choose will be a function of the types of fires that can break out, the size of your building, the type of building it is, and how many  employees you have, among other things. Nevertheless there are a number of steps all businesses would take.

Steps you take should include:

  • Making sure that all employees are familiar with escape routes.
  • Provide a fire alarm that employees can activate, not just an automated system.
  • Have a plan in case there are employees who have to stay in the building in case of fire, e.g., if equipment must be shut down for safety reasons.
  • Have a certain number of portable fire extinguishers, even if not required by law. And make sure they know how to use them.
  • Putting in place a way of accounting for the number of employees after evacuation.
  • Put in place a plan for evacuating handicapped.
  • Inform all employees about the fire prevention measures you take.
  • Enacting policies for handling flammable materials
  • Enacting policies that reduce fire (as in shops that use welding, boilers)

Other more general steps you can take include good housekeeping policies that keep your place of business free of clutter, which would include keeping escape paths unobstructed, making sure that waste is properly disposed of, keeping fire extinguishers charged, making sure that all electrical control panels are easy to gain access to, and generally keeping your property well maintained.