Changes in legislation have brought about a greater awareness of the need for the provision of effective 'first aid' firefighting measures - in particular, the use of on-site fire extinguishers. Following the introduction of the Fire and Rescue Act, Fire Brigades may not come out to all emergency calls at the normal response time, and they may also decide not to go in to a burning building to fight the fire unless they believe they are confident the building is occupied. In this case, portable extinguishers and adequate fire extinguisher training may be all that stops a small fire escalating into a property or life-threatening fire.
The contribution made by portable fire extinguishers is undeniable. According to the Fire Industry Association – extinguishers save Britain around £500 million every year and put out around 66,000 fires. Figures that show that the fire and rescue service in the UK attended 87,400 fires in buildings in the UK in 2009.
A recent case where the managing agent of a block of flats was told to remove portable fire extinguishers from common areas 'as a way of improving fire safety' could, if accepted nationally, place a massive responsibility on the fire service.
It can be argued that we should be looking at the safe use of fire extinguishers, and the importance of fire extinguisher training. Under the Fire Safety Regulatory Reform Order 2005, the 'responsible person' has to make 'reasonable' decisions about every aspect of fire safety. This naturally includes the choice, number and positioning of extinguishers, and the need to ensure they are fit-for-purpose and become an effective and reliable part of the building's fire safety set up. It is important that this responsible person completes the level of fire marshal training required to make these decisions.
It is vital to select the right extinguisher in a given situation. Water and foam extinguishers are particularly suited to Class A fires involving flammable solid materials such as wood, paper and cloth. Foam is the correct choice for Class B fires involving flammable liquids or liquefiable solids. CO2 is idea for electrical fires. Powder portables are ideal for Class A, B and C fires that involve flammable gases. Without fire training many people would not be aware of considerations such as these.
Innovations include a new generation of powder portable extinguishers for coal dust fires; a special wet chemical agent for Class F portables for kitchens, where cooking oils and fats have the potential to flare up in an instant; and a foam agent for special polar liquid fires that can be found in the cosmetics, pharmaceutical, adhesives industries.
Other applications include: Class D portables for metal fires, for which new powder extinguishers have now been developed; antimagnetic CO2 extinguishers for applications such as hospitals and clinics, where sensitive electrical equipment may be affected by magnetizing metals.
At UK Fire Training we offer a comprehensive fire extinguisher training course suitable for all employees as well as a fire warden training course aimed specifically at the responsible persons in your workplace.