WE ARE THE CONSULTANTS & CUSTOMER RELATIONS OF THE FIRE
SERVICE TO ALL INTERESTED PERSONS
Be certain that the information you share is correct and accurate; not what you think, only what you know!
Recently I had the occasion to “go shopping” for a resident who was in need of smoke alarms and CO detectors (NFPA 720). I shopped at a local “box store” that was well stocked with fire safety devices. I asked a clerk about smoke alarms, the best brand and why. Prices vary, so I assumed that the more pricey the better. The response from the clerk was, “you’ll have to read the box”. I managed to get a conversation started to which I discovered the clerk was “clueless”. The clerk stated that they are U.L. approved (Underwriters Laboratories). Ok, let’s stop there and restart. U.L. does not approve anything, U.L. tests devices and appliances and lists that they perform as per the manufacturers’ instructions. CONAM-Arnold Green, Seaward-Group USA, Factory Mutual and ASTM are several organizations that test products for operation as per the manufacturer. Always read the labels on the packages before you purchase. When confronted with a situation that is a potential life safety issue, be sure you have all the correct information and share it.
Learn the differences of ionization and photoelectric detectors, Lithium Power 10 year 9 volt batteries, electrical (plug-ins), interconnected (wireless), combo smoke/heat/CO, heat only, and of course sprinklers (NFPA 13).
Of note, Kidde offers a Smoke Alarm that states “Quiets Nuisance Alarms” with a button pressed to silent alarms often caused by cooking (model i9060) U.L. Listed.
Fire extinguishers are also life-safety devices (NFPA 10). Once again U.L. Listed, FM approved; always and only. Purchase only fire extinguishers that are U.L. Listed/FM approved with a gauge to indicate the charge (Full/Empty). Keep in mind, only extinguishers that have a metal container and metal trigger mechanism can be recharged. The recommended type is “all purpose”, ABC dry chemical. These extinguishers are recommended for home, vehicle and boats. They are recommended for Class A, ordinary combustibles (wood, paper, and cloth). Class B, flammable & combustible liquids (any hydrocarbon based compounds). Class C, energized electrical equipment fires. There is a Class K type extinguisher specially designed for kitchen fires and a Class D extinguisher for combustible metal fires (magnesium, zirconium, phosphorus and others). Water is used primarily and typically used by firefighters because it is abundant and cheap.
Water, when used properly, extinguishes fire by absorbing/removing heat; by breaking the fire triangle/tetrahedron the fire must “go out”. There are three elements required to sustain a fire: Heat, Air, and a material to Burn. To hold these three elements together, a self-sustaining chemical chain reaction is necessary, this is also known as the base of the triangle thus forming the tetrahedron.
Should you consider an escape ladder (chain) for escaping from upper floors, keep in mind you or the recipient should try it immediately after getting it home. It has been described that descending a chain ladder is similar to getting into a boat on the water when you are coated with sun-tan lotion; not the best gift for grandma or small children. A practiced escape plan is necessary in conjunction with properly installed and operating smoke/CO alarms (NFPA 72).
Remember, CO gas is deadly (displaces oxygen) and when the 02 level drops below 19% you are living on borrowed time. Natural gas vapors are lighter than air and tend to congregate at the higher levels; Liquefied Petroleum (LP) gas vapors are heavier than air and will spread along lower levels (NFPA 54). You must know what vapors you are dealing with, time is of the essence and critical, never guess and never hesitate to call (9.1.1.) for assistance. As fire-safety experts, it is incumbent that we share any and all life safety information continuously with the folks who need it; everyone, everywhere.
NFPA is the National Fire Protection Association, a U.S. organization with international membership. NFPA’s purpose is to establishing and updating fire protection and prevention safeguards. NFPA publishes National Fire Codes, standards, manuals, and recommended practices. Its diamond-shaped label, issued under code NFPA704M, is known world-wide. This label consists of four boxes, starting clockwise from top, represent fire/explosion, chemical reactivity, special hazards, and health hazard/toxicity. Each box displays the substance’s hazard level as a number ranging from 0, meaning not a hazard, to 4, meaning extremely hazardous.
Educators inform us that most people have to be informed several times before they absorb the message(s). Visit NFPA.org for more information.
Ed Knight is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI/CFII); a fire instructor (O&C 1033) member of KCFSI; a retired municipal assistant fire marshal, and forensic investigator. He is Chairman of the Pequea Lane Live Burn Facility, Pequea Lane (West Lampeter Township), Lancaster, PA 17602.
Ed Knight is a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI/CFII) and a fire instructor; a retired municipal assistant fire marshal, forensic investigator having investigated several thousand fires and testified over 60 times throughout the United States and several foreign countries. He is Chairman of the Live Burn Facility, Pequea Lane, Lancaster, PA.