How many of you have smoke detectors installed in your homes? Do you also own a fire extinguisher and if so is it the correct one? In this blog post I want to go into a little more detail on these products and why they are so important to have in your home.
SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS
A smoke detector alarm detects the presence of smoke and possible fire in your home whereas a carbon monoxide (CO) detector alarm alerts you when the levels of CO in your home are dangerously high. Smoke detectors are a must for all homes. You only need a carbon monoxide detector if you use fuel-burning appliances such as gas stovetops, heaters and geysers. CO detectors are also important if your home has a fireplace.
These detectors need to be installed where you can hear them, especially while you are sleeping. It would be pretty pointless to put one in the garage if your bedroom is on the top floor. It is recommended that you have a smoke and carbon monoxide detector either inside or just outside of every bedroom. You also need to make sure there is one on each floor of your house.
Carbon monoxide detectors should also be installed near fuel-burning appliances, just outside the garage and in rooms with wood burning fireplaces. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. You cannot see or smell the gas and in the early stages CO poisoning will feel more like the flu. You can read more about carbon monoxide and how it affects the body in my previous blog post: https://www.oneaid.co.za/gas-or-wood-how-to-safely-keep-warm-this-winter/
Most of these alarms run on batteries so they need to be tested regularly, at least every month. The batteries should also be replaced once a year.
There are at least four different types of fires that can happen in your home and water is definitely not the safest way to extinguish all of them.
Common causes of house fires:
1. Class A
These fires involve combustible materials such as wood, textiles, straw, paper etc. These are materials that can combust, i.e. burn in air.
2. Class B
These fires are caused by the burning of liquids or materials that liquify, such as petrol, paint, alcohol and paraffin.
3. Class F
These fires involve cooking oils and fats in the kitchen.
4. Electrical appliances (formerly type E)
These are fires caused by electrical appliances
What fire extinguisher do you need?
There are five main types of fire extinguishers; water, foam, dry powder, CO2 and wet chemical. The different types of extinguishers are used to put out different classes of fires. There is not one extinguisher type that works on all classes of fire.
- Water fire extinguisher
These extinguishers are used to put out class A fires. The water has a cooling effect, which causes the fire to burn more slowly until all the flames have been extinguished. These extinguishers should not be used on or near electrical appliances.
These are not recommended for class F fires. If you had to use this extinguisher on such a fire in your kitchen, there would be an explosion of steam much larger than the one you see when rinsing a hot pan under water. This explosion would throw hot oils all over your kitchen, which could cause a new fire and most definitely result in thermal burns to your skin and eyes.
2.Foam fire extinguisher
Foam extinguishers are useful against both class A and B fires. Similar to water extinguishers, foam extinguishers have a cooling effect. These should also not be used on or near electrical appliances.
3. Dry powder fire extinguisher
These extinguishers can be used on class A, B, C and electrical fires. They work by forming a barrier on top of the fire so that the burning fuel has no more access to the oxygen it needs to burn.
These extinguishers should not be used in enclosed spaces as the powder that is dispersed can be inhaled. Therefore they are not recommended for home use.
4. CO2 fire extinguisher
CO2 extinguishers are used on class B and electrical fires because CO2 does not conduct electricity. These extinguishers work similar to the dry powder ones whereby they suffocate the fire by removing the oxygen from its surface.
5. Wet chemical extinguisher
These are the extinguishers you would use on a class F fire. They can also be used on class A fires. They work by creating a layer of cooling foam on top of the burning oil or fat and therefore also cut off the oxygen supply.
Before going out to buy a fire extinguisher you need to identify the different fire risks you have in your home, because this will determine which type of extinguishers you need and where you need to keep them. It is probably best to have an expert come and inspect your home and assess your individual needs. They can also guide you on where to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
If you do have a fire extinguisher in your home make sure you know how it works. Read the manual or have someone show you, because in an emergency you really don’t want to be figuring out how the safety pins work.