Fire Safety Tips For Our Homes & Schools

Category: Blog

In 2016, over 100 high schools nationwide experienced unrest between May and August as classrooms, dormitories and school facilities went up in flames. The fires were attributed to students’ protests over tough policies that had been put in place by the CS for Education, Dr Fred Matiang’i. Consultative meetings were held and for a moment, calm was restored in the schools

On September 2, 2017, Kenyans woke up to the heart-wrenching news about a fire that erupted at Moi Girls High School. The horrendous inferno claimed the lives of nine Form One girls. While investigations on what caused the fire are still underway, the unfortunate truth remains. Once again, fire had struck, robbing promising lives in its wake. Hardly had we dealt with this shocking news, when a dormitory went up in flames at Sigoti Complex girls in Sondu. Followed by another dormitory at Chuka Boys High School. Fortunately, the two subsequent schools have not reported any casualties.

The question on many minds is, can we prevent these fires? Is there a way to ensure safety in our homes, our schools and offices where we spend the better part of our day? Can we control the damages caused by a fire?
Yes. With the right information, skill and equipment, fire tragedies can be reduced drastically. We can enjoy a safer environment and in case of an accident, salvage lives and property through timely intervention. We only need to understand how fire accidents occur, refresh our skills by engaging in fire drills periodically and procure functional fire safety equipment.

Fire is a chemical reaction that involves three elements namely:-fuel, oxygen and heat. Fuel in this case refers to any matter- gas, liquids or solids that can burn. The oxygen is what supports burning while heat escalates and builds up to allow for burning/combustion. That is why we rub a matchstick to the matchbox to light a fire. When you strike the matchstick to the box, the friction generates heat which escalates to a flashpoint (flame) supported by oxygen in the air.

Fire can be classified into classes A to D universally. Class A fires involve flammable solids. Class B fires involve flammable liquids (petrol, kerosene, diesel, cooking oil, paints etc.), while Class C fires involves flammable gases such as methane, propane, butane, acetylene, LPG, etc. Class D involves flammable metals such as magnesium, lithium, zirconium, zinc, calcium and aluminium.

When a fire starts by accident, it can cause adverse damage as we have seen in our previous reflections. Uncontrolled fire is dangerous because it spreads very fast, a small candle flame can grow into a horrendous inferno within minutes. The heat from lapping flames of fire are more deadly than the flames themselves. The heat wave from a full-blown fire can cause instant death.

Where there is limited oxygen, full combustion fails to occur leading to emission of thick toxic smoke. The smoke hinders visibility frustrating any rescue efforts. In addition, this smoke at times causes suffocation due to its toxicity and may add on to the number of casualties in a fire accident.

It is important to engage a fire safety instructor to get training on how to distinguish different types of fires, to work safety equipment such as the fire extinguisher cylinders as well as how to raise alarm on a fire accident effectively.
The first thing an instructor will enlighten you on is that different classes of fire require different techniques to put the fire out. A mix-up of these methods can have the opposite effect and further aggravate the fire. Where possible, removing the fuel (burning material) is the ultimate way to put out a fire. This is referred to as starvation. If this is not possible, oxygen or heat can be removed to put out a fire.

Class A fire is best put out by removing heat. This is also known as cooling and popularly involves pouring cold water on the burning solid matter.

Class B fire is put out by removing oxygen. This is called smothering or blanketing and can be achieved by using chemical foam, Fire blanket, dry powder or dry sand.

Unlike the common blanket, the fire blanket is made of a special non-combustible material and lacks aeration hence cannot catch fire.

Class C can also be put out by use of chemical foam to smother the fire. This is however limited to shallow gas spills. In large gas spills, the best option would be to let the fuel (gas) burn out.

Class D, like B and C is also put out best by removing oxygen through smothering.

From the above, it is evident that smothering to deprive oxygen is the safest method to put out a fire especially when you are not sure about the fuels involved. Most people erroneously put out fires with water which contains oxygen thus increasing the spread of fire.

Fire extinguishers are the key equipment for fire safety. There are four main types of fire extinguishers which are universally distinguished by the colour of the labelling section on the fire extinguisher. Each is used to put one a different class of fire hence it is important to stock them all.

There are four main types of fire extinguishers which are each is used to put out different classes of fire.

In addition, fire blankets are useful in putting out small fires such as the kitchen fires. Unlike the common blanket, the fire blanket is made of a special non-combustible material and lacks aeration hence cannot catch fire. The blanket is re-usable.

It is also important to have your safety equipment and entire premise inspected by a licensed auditor at least twice a year.

The government can only do so much when it comes to safeguarding our well-being and that of our loved ones. You and I need to take initiative. Insist on regular safety audits in your workplace, churches, homes and skills.

Enrol in a fire safety class and get skills on how to handle a fire accident. Be informed. Be empowered.

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