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What is a fire?

A fire is a state of combustion, whereby heat and light are produced. In other words, a fire is the destructive burning of material that produces light, flame, heat and smoke. 

The menace of fire as a potential disaster is with us every day. Most of the deaths that have resulted from fires could have been avoided. Fires have become increasingly life threatening hazards, because within a few minutes it can kill and destroy.

Common Fire Hazards in the Home

  1. Remove pans or bottles of cooking fats and oils from the stove when not in use. It’s easy to turn on the wrong burner.
  2. Unplug electric kettles, frying pans and other appliances when not in use.
  3. Do not hang clothes above the stove to dry.
  4. Keep matches out of the reach of children.
  5. Have an approved fire extinguisher handy for grease fires.
  1. Do not use extension cords in place of permanent wiring.
  2. Provide sufficient electrical outlets for your needs.
  3. Provide deep substantial ashtrays for smokers and ensure that the contents are placed in a metal container or toilet each evening before retiring.

Never smoke in bed. Many people are killed in fires because the bedding catches fire from a cigarette in the hands of a sleepy person.

More than one in ten fires of known causes are of electrical origin. Circuits are designed to carry certain loads, however, the blowing of a fuse is a danger signal that the circuit is overloaded or defective.

Here are a few common sense precautions:

  1. Employ a skilled electrician to repair wiring when necessary.
  2. Buy electrical appliances bearing a recognized seal of approval.
  3. Do not string wires under rugs, over hooks or in any exposed place. Worn out wires may make them dangerous.

Improper care and unsafe use of stoves – electrical, coal, gas or oil – often cause fires. Protect walls and ceilings near stoves with insulating material to reduce the risk of fires.

Many fires are caused by careless use of kerosene, gasoline or other flammable fluids, and by carelessness in handling candles, open lights, lamps, open gas jets, torches, etc. Pouring kerosene on wood or coal fires is extremely dangerous. You can never be safe using flammable, explosive fluids in your house, or in filling kerosene or gasoline stoves or lamps while they are lighted. If your clothing catches fire do not run. Running fans the flames and increases them. Lie, down on the floor and roll if you can. Don’t wear fuzzy, filmy, flammable clothing around a stove or range.

Tips To Prevent Fires

  • Do not keep gasoline in or near domestic areas.
  • Do not buy or keep gasoline or other highly inflammable liquids in breakable containers.
  • Do not leave inflammable liquids carelessly placed at home or in immediate reach of children.
  • Do not leave open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, in the reach of children. If possible, avoid using candles, especially when there are children in the house. Never allow children to use matches, nor leave them within their reach.
  • Do not leave electric irons, hot plates or other appliances plugged in as overheating can cause fire.

What to Do If There Is A Fire

  • Raise an alarm to warn others of the emergency.
  • On suspicion of fire, get children and helpless persons out of the building immediately.
  • Get out of the building immediately.
  • Do not get back into the burning building. You may not come out alive.
  • If you are trapped in the building, lie flat on the ground and try to creep out; the air is clearer near the floor.
  • Call the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) at 110.
  • No matter where you live or work, be familiar with all exits, including windows.
  • Remember to turn off gas connections and electricity.

Conduct Fire Drills Regularly

Fire drills enable us to react quickly and sensibly when confronted with a fire emergency or bomb threat and we need to empty a crowded building quickly. Fire drills should be practiced at home, schools and the office. These drills should be practiced using all possible alternate safe routes that lead to open-air and safety. 

Steps in Planning a Fire Drill

The function of the alarm signal is to warn everyone in the building that a state of emergency has arisen and that they are to leave the building at once. Where two or more departments or homes occupy the same building, there should be complete co-operation between them. The sounding of the fire alarm in any part of the building should be the signal for complete evacuation of the building and not just a part thereof.

Make sure you know the location and sound of the alarm in your building. Smoke detectors should be installed near each sleeping area in the home and in high-risk areas in the office and school compound.

On hearing the fire alarm, persons in charge should immediately instruct their charges to line up to leave orderly fashion. No talking should be allowed so that any instructions given can be heard. Stairways should be descended in a single file using the left of the stairway. Never use an elevator. No one should be permitted to overtake during the evacuation as this may start a stampede.

Know at least two ways out of every room in your home, office, or school.

If you live or work in multi-story building, map as many routes as possible to exit stairways on your floor or other floors of the building.

If one of your escape routes is on the second, third or higher story, consider investing in a safety ladder.

If the door leaving your room is cool to the touch, open just a crack to check for smoke. If there is none leave by your planned escape routes.

Do not open the door if it feels hot to the touch; use your alternate exit.

Teach small children never to hide under beds or in closets.

Everyone should gather at a pre-determined meeting place outside the home, classroom or office. This meeting place should be well away from the building. Each group of persons should set up a pre-arranged position and stand in a compact group. Once outside, stay outside! Never risk life in an attempt to save personal possessions.

A head count or roll call should be taken as soon as the group reaches the assembly point. Report the count immediately to the person in charge. Missing persons will be assumed to still be in the building. If anyone is missing inform the fire personnel so a search can be made.

On completion of the evacuation drill, spend a few minutes to identify areas of weakness in your existing alarm or evacuation process and ways of improving the factor of safety. Do not forget to secure the document.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

These are suitable for Class A fires, but not for Class B, C, and D as burning liquids, electrical fires or reactive metal fires. In these cases, the flames may spread or the hazard will be greater.

These are for Class B and C fires. They do not work very well on Class A fires because the material usually reignites. Carbon dioxide extinguishers have an advantage over dry chemical in that they leave behind no harmful chemicals. This extinguisher is not for Class D fires.

These are useful for Class ABC fires and are your best all-around choice. They have an advantage over carbon dioxide extinguishers in that they leave a blanket of non- flammable material on the extinguished material, which reduces the likelihood of the fire reigniting. 

These are a new agent that extinguishes the fire by removing the heat of the fire triangle and prevents re-ignition by creating a barrier between the oxygen and fuel elements.

The wet chemical Class K extinguishers were developed for modern, high efficiency deep fat fryers in commercial cooking operations. Some may also be used on Class A fires in commercial kitchens.

A head count or roll call should be taken as soon as the group reaches the assembly point. Report the count immediately to the person in charge. Missing persons will be assumed to still be in the building. If anyone is missing inform the fire personnel so a search can be made.