Fires causes great damage to people and property every day. We therefore want to give you some of our most valuable tips on how to minimize the risks of a fire arising by having well-functioning fire protection. But we will also hand out tips in how to think and act in case a fire starts in your home or at the workplace. We have chosen to split the tips and knowledge into a 2-part article series.
Part 1: (This article) Equipment you should have to prevent fires and fire damage.
Insurance – An important part of your fire protection
No matter how effective you are at creating a fireproof home and workplace, an accident can still occur. Therefore, you should always make sure there is an existing and comprehensive insurance, both for the home, the workplace & everyone staying there.
The right equipment for a fireproof home & a fireproof workplace
With the right equipment, you can effectively avoid fires and fire hazards. There are many different manufacturers & sellers of fire protection products, in this article series we will abide by the recommendations that are available from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB – Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap).
Fire Alarm – As important for fire protection as a seat belt is for road safety
Detecting a fire early is extremely important. A fire usually increases in size rapidly, without a smoke detector / Fire detector, the risk of detecting a fire too late is all too high. A functioning and well-placed fire alarm is therefore one of the cheapest & most important life insurances you can have.
What type of fire alarm should I buy?
There are several different types of fire alarms that all work well and have the same purpose: To detect a fire and to warn any person affected. The detectors/alarms is called Smoke detectors / Fire detectors / Smoke alarms / Fire alarms etc. But no matter what type of fire alarm or detector you choose, there are 3 basic rules that each time has have proven to be more important than what model you choose.
- That a fire alarm / Smoke detector exists
- That the detector is correctly positioned
- That the function of the alarm / detector is regularly tested
Where to place the Smoke detectors for best fire detection?
- You should have at least one fire alarm on every floor of your home or workplace.
- At home, fire detectors should be placed in, or close to each bedroom. This is especially important if the bedroom doors often are closed.
- You should also place a smoke detector near the kitchen, where fires are common to start. But to avoid false alarms, avoid having the detectors inside the kitchen itself or in a bathroom.
- The fire alarms are to be mounted at the ceiling, at least 50 cm from the nearest wall.
- For placement of fire alarms and detectors at work: A basic rule is that at least one fire alarm should be detectable regardless of where the employee or potential visitor is, and regardless of what he or she is doing at the moment.
- When it comes to implementing fire protection in public places or at your workplace, we always recommend that you take help from someone with fire protection expertis
How often do I need to test the fire alarm?
Every month you should test the function of the fire alarm. Not just to check the battery, most important is the testing of the function of the detector itself.
By pressing the test button, you simulate that smoke enters the fire alarm. All the functions of the fire alarm are then tested, including the battery. If the fire alarm does not emit a signal when you press the button, the battery may need to be replaced. If replacing the battery does not help, you may need to replace the entire fire alarm. Never test a fire alarm by using an open flame or real smoke.
How often do I need to change the battery in a fire alarm / fire detector?
When it is time to change the battery, the fire alarm is supposed (not always working) to emit a short signal about once per minute. The fire alarm starts warning when it is about 30 days left until the battery is completely discharged. Replace the battery as soon as possible and remember to test the fire alarm after replacing the battery.
What maintenance does a fire alarm / Smoke detector require?
Clean the fire alarm at least once a year and in connection with the battery change. Dust and particles can impair the function of the fire alarm and cause it to alarm without any real reason. You can clean the detector by vacuuming and wiping off the fire alarm from the outside. Remember to test the function after cleaning.
Fire-extinguishing equipment to create a fireproof environment
If a fire is detected at an early stage, it can often be extinguished even before the emergency service arrives. But then it is necessary that good extinguishing equipment is easily accessible for all present. Satisfactory extinguishing equipment for the home is according to MSB; one or more 6kg dry-powder extinguisher and at least one fire blanket.
With a 6kg dry-powder extinguisher you can extinguish most types of smaller fires. If the fire has grown too big, then a handheld fire extinguisher will not be enough. Then it is important that you save life quickly in other ways.
In part 2 of the article series we will learn more about How fire extinguishers & fire blankets should be used, but also how you should act if you assess that the fire cannot be extinguished.
What fire extinguisher should I have at home?
You should buy at least one 6kg dry-powder extinguisher approved according to the standard EN 3, 1-10. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EN_3) The only color of the extinguisher that is allowed according to the standard is red. If you choose to buy a fire extinguisher in a different color, it is important that the extinguisher in all aspects, except color, meets the requirements according to the mentioned standard.
Where should I place the fire extinguishers?
Place the fire extinguishers in a clearly visible & easily accessible place, preferably at an entrance. In large buildings or multi-story homes, several fire extinguishers should be available. If one of the extinguishers is not standing on a floor with an entrance / exit, then place the fire extinguisher close by the stairs. Also make sure the extinguishers are easily accessible with the user instructions outward, visible, and easy to read.
How often do I need to service my fire extinguisher?
You should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance and service. But simpler checks can & should be done regularly. When testing your fire alarm, we recommend that you also check your dry-powder extinguisher by making sure:
- The pressure gauge is green,
- That the hose is intact,
- That the extinguisher is sealed,
- That no part of the extinguisher is damaged.
- That the powder in the extinguisher has not solidified and has become a lump at the bottom. Turn the extinguisher upside down and listen for the sound of powder sprinkling in the extinguisher. If not heard, the powder may have solidified and become like a cake in the bottom. If so, the extinguisher will not work.
A fire blanket works well for extinguishing fires in smaller objects, for example in clothing, pots or in a limited part a furniture. The fire blanket is therefore a good complement to a dry-powder extinguisher. The size of a fire blanket should be at least 120 x 180 cm, so that it cover most of an adult body.
Complement to existing fire protection & extinguishing equipment.
In addition to the equipment that MSB recommends as a minimum, here are some extra products that may be good to have in your home.
Stove guard / Stove alarm
Stoves are the most common place for a fire to start in private properties / housing. A Stove guard or a timer is therefore an effective and affordable supplement to the fire protection. The Stove guard either alerts or breaks the power supply to the stove if there is a risk of fire.
Contamination-free fire extinguisher
A contamination-free fire extinguisher that complements your dry-powder extinguisher can be good to have in close proximity to common fire sources, such as next to a stove or fireplace. We can highly recommend the potassium-based smoke extinguisher, Maus Xtin, which is no bigger than a pepper mill. The extinguisher has its size despite exceptionally good extinguishing capabilities in most fires.
Do you live in a multi-storey house but do not want or can´t have a fixed mounted fire ladder? With a portable fire ladder, you can quickly create an extra escape route and thus increased security for you and your family.
About Safe@Work Sweden
Safe@Work is an educational organizer who helps organizations all over the world to create a safe & prosperous work environment. Every year, we help thousands of workers to minimize their risks through the quality education & equipment.
Safe@Works fire safety department consists of well-experienced personnel with many years of experience as firefighters, firefighters & course leaders, both in Sweden and abroad.
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