Safety Tips

Handling Fires

Fire and You

If you are the first to see a fire at your job site, your reactions must be right for the situation. Lives may depend on your actions.

Sound the Alarm

The first step in dealing with a fire is to sound the alarm and alert others of the danger.

Assess the Situation

You may need to escape immediately. Use emergency exits.

If the fire is small and easily contained, find and use the appropriate extinguisher.

Stay near a safe exit while using the extinguisher - you may need to leave quickly if you can't control the fire. If you can't fight the fire with an extinguisher, get out fast. Close the door behind you to reduce the spread of flames and smoke.

Escape

Every worksite should have several emergency exit routes. Know your escape routes and make sure they are well marked. Do not use elevators.

Crouch low when in smoke or heat. Heat can damage your lungs. Smoke and carbon monoxide can render you unconscious. Some dangerous materials rise to the ceiling, others settle to the floor. About 1-1.2m (3-4 feet) above the floor is safest.

If you are trapped, close the doors, seal any cracks so smoke won't come in, and wait at the window. Signal for help.

Elements of Fire

It pays to know how a fire starts and what kind of fire is likely to occur in your work area. The fire pyramid in useful for learning about fire.

There are four basic elements of a fire: air, fuel, heat, and a chemical chain reaction. All four elements are needed to produce fire. Removal of one element will extinguish the fire.

Remove Heat- cool burning material below its ignition point. For example, spray water on the flame (but only it is a Class "A" fire - see Safety Tips on "Fire Extinguishers")
Remove Air- smother the fire. For example, use a multi-purpose fire extinguisher or cover the flame with dirt or a fire blanket.
Remove Fuel- shut off the flow of fuel. For example, close fuel valves, cut away combustibles to starve the fire.
Interrupt the Chain Reaction- for example, use a dry chemical fire extinguisher to alter the chain of events leading to ignition.

More about Fires

Fires come under one of the three international classifications. You need to know what type(s) of fire may be likely in your work area and what extinguisher to use.

Class A - fires that occur in combustible materials such as paper, wood, straw and cloth.
Class B - fires that occur over the surface of flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil and grease.
Class C - fires that occur in electrical equipment

Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are your first line of defense in most cases. They must be undamaged and fully charged. The extinguishers in any work area should be inspected regularly. Your life depends on the extinguisher and your ability to use it effectively.

There are many types of fire extinguishers. You must know which ones are most effective for fires of each class.

If you use the wrong method to extinguish a fire, you may cause a more severe problem. That's why it's so important to know what to do and how to do it before it becomes an emergency.

Home Fires

Handling a fire at home depends on having safety procedures in place. Fire extinguishers in the kitchen, basement, and garage are good starting points. With a nearby extinguisher you may be able to limit damage or put out a small fire. A properly functioning smoke detector will give you a head start - don't ever disconnect it - and test it regularly.

Don't take chances. You wouldn't fight a fire alone at work - don't do it at home either. Get out fast and call the fire department from a nearby home. Make the safety of your children a priority. Get them out immediately.

Practicing fire drills with your kids will help you and them in a crisis. Let them take charge and lead the exercise with your guidance. This will help them remember safe procedures in a real emergency. Everyone should know the proper escape procedures in case of a fire.

You can do other things to improve home safety. Get in the habit of turning off stove burners. Be especially careful if you smoke - keep matches or lighters in a safe place that is out of the reach of children.

Planning is the key to home fire safety. Remember the slogan "plan to get out alive"

Summary

Handling fires takes skill, experience, and proper equipment. Prevention of fires is always the best attack, but proper fire safety procedures limits damage and saves lives.

Never take on a fire by yourself. No one can handle that job alone. Depend on your co-workers for initial assistance and let the fire department take over when they arrive.

For more information, refer to current applicable Occupational Health and Safety Legislation.