The best kind of home fire is no fire. Preventing a fire is much easier than trying to put one out and dealing with the aftermath it causes, but we’re not always able to do that. Sometimes a fire happens and that’s when detection and containment become critical. Here are two pieces of fire safety equipment every home, condo, and apartment should have.
Detection: The most important piece of fire safety equipment is a working smoke alarm. This is the only equipment that can detect the presence of a fire 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are two types of smoke detectors:
- Ionization smoke detectors utilize a small amount of radioactive material between two electrically charge plates. When smoke enters the chamber containing these two plates and disrupts the current flow between them, the smoke alarm sounds. This type of smoke detector is best for active fires.
- Photoelectric smoke detectors aim a light beam at an angle away from the light sensor. When smoke reflects the light onto the sensor, the alarm sounds. This type of smoke detector works best with smoldering fires.
Ideally your home would have both types of smoke detectors present or dual sensing detectors. Dual sensing smoke detectors incorporate both methods of smoke detection within them protecting you and your family from both types of fires.
Smoke detectors should be installed on every level of the home and even in the basement if you have one. They can be either hard wired into the home’s electrical system or battery operated. Most hard wired models contain a battery enabling them to work even when the power is lost. Batteries should be changed at least once a year. I, however, recommend they be changed twice a year when the time changes (fall back and spring forward). If you didn’t change the battery in your smoke detectors last weekend, this would be a great time to do so.
Smoke detectors should be installed in the kitchen and either in or near sleeping areas. Many fires start late at night or in the early morning hours so it’s important to have them placed where they can wake up people who are asleep. Smoke detectors range in cost from $6 to $20 for single sensor models and $24 to $40 for dual sensor models. Many fire departments such as the Dallas Fire Department provide free or discounted smoke detectors to home owners.
Containment: All homes including single family, condos, and apartments should have at least one fire extinguisher in the home. Fire extinguishers should be installed where the most common causes of fire occur: kitchen, heating equipment, electrical supply, appliances, and garages. If you only have one extinguisher, install it in the kitchen which is the number one location for home fires.
There are 5 types or classes of fire extinguishers:
- Class A fire extinguishers are designed to put out ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber, and many plastics.
- Class B extinguishers designed to extinguish flammable liquids such as gasoline, grease, oil, and oil base paints.
- Class C fire extinguishers are for use on fires involving appliances, tools, or other equipment that is electrically charged or plugged in.
- Class D extinguishers are typically found in manufacturing environments and are used to put out fires involving flammable metals.
- Class K fire extinguishers are usually found in commercial kitchens and are used to put out oil fires involving vegetable oil, animal oils, and fats.
In addition to single purpose or class extinguishers, there are multi-purpose extinguishers that are designed for multiple fire sources. A good fire extinguisher to have in the home is a multi-purpose A-B-C extinguisher. These can be purchased on-line through Amazon or in many hardware stores (Lowes, Home Depot, etc.).
Fire extinguishers should only be used on small fires about the size of a waste basket or in instances where the room or home is not filled with smoke. In these instances, evacuate everyone from the home, alert the fire department, and only then attempt to put out the fire. When attempting to put out a fire, remember the word PASS.
- Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism.
- Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
- Sweep the nozzle from side to side.
Fire extinguishers are an important piece of fire safety equipment, but the primary element is a fire escape plan. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use either, but having both can save your life.
Have you had a home fire? Share your experience, thoughts, suggestions, and questions with me in the comments section of our blog or on our Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you!