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Fire Safety: How to protect your home

There is little time to react in the event of a house fire. The right fire safety equipment and a good escape plan will ensure that everyone gets out safely and that the fire can be put out as quickly as possible.

Pro tip

There are two different types of fire alarm sensor technology: ionization and photoelectric. Ionization sensors offer quicker detection for fast-flaming fires and are better suited for living areas. Photoelectric sensors offer quicker detection for slow-smouldering fires and are better suited for areas near kitchens. Photoelectric sensors are also less likely to sound a false alarm.

Window escape ladders

Every multi-story household should have an emergency fire escape plan that includes fire escape ladders. These ladders can help ensure that all occupants get out safely from a second or even a third floor.

Choosing an escape ladder

Here are some tips to help you choose the right window escape ladder for your home:
  • A ladder for a second-storey room should be 13 to 15 feet long while a ladder for a third-storey room should be 20 to 25 feet long.
  • Anti-slip features will make it easier for children or anyone with mobility issues to climb down the ladder safely.
  • Ladder stabilizers help both to keep the ladder steady and keep the rungs away from the wall, providing more secure toeholds.
  • A ladder rated to carry at least 1,000 pounds will allow multiple people to evacuate at once.
  • For easy storage and setup, choose a ladder that is compact and lightweight.

Testing and storing an escape ladder

It is important to test a new escape ladder before it actually comes time to use it during a fire. Hold a fire drill, set up the ladder, and give everyone the opportunity to practice climbing out.

An escape ladder should also be stored folded up in a box near the window it is intended for. Experts recommend that you keep a ladder in every occupied room above a home's main level.

Fire extinguishers

A fire extinguisher can help to protect property and even save lives by extinguishing or at least containing a small fire. Fire extinguishers should always be within easy reach. The rule of thumb is to have one fire extinguisher for every 600 square feet or one on every level of your home.

Remember that your main priorities in the event of a house fire should always be to safely evacuate and to notify the fire department. Use your fire extinguisher only if you assess that you can put out or contain the fire yourself, and only after help is already on the way.

Features

Familiarizing yourself with the different features of a fire extinguisher will help if you ever need to use one. Important fire extinguisher features include:
  • The pressure gauge, which makes it quick and easy to check the pressure and see if the fire extinguisher is ready for use.
  • The safety pin, an easy-to-pull pin that allows you to use the fire extinguisher immediately.
  • The handle, which allows for a secure grip while using the fire extinguisher.
  • The tank, made of lightweight and corrosion-resistant material, which holds the extinguishing agent.
  • The valve, which controls the flow of the extinguishing agent.
  • The hose, which delivers the extinguishing agent from the tank to the valve on larger fire extinguishers.

Ratings

Fire extinguishers have different ratings depending on the type of fire they can put out.
  • Class A fire extinguishers are made to put out fires fuelled by common household combustible materials such as paper, wood, plastic, and rubber.
  • Class B fire extinguishers should be used for rapidly spreading fires fuelled by flammable liquids, gasoline, oil, and oil-based products.
  • Class C fire extinguishers are for energized electrical equipment fires. These fires are usually started by a spark, a short circuit, or a power surge.
Some fire extinguishers have more than one rating because they can be used on more than one type of fire. An A:B:C extinguisher, therefore, can put out all fire types. A fire extinguisher will also have a number rating to indicate its capacity. For example, a 2-B extinguisher can put out twice as much as a 1-B extinguisher.

Portable fire extinguishers

Portable fire extinguishers can be a good alternative for residential use. They function much like other home aerosol spray containers such as air fresheners and hairspray. You simply remove the protective cap and press the button on the top, continuing to spray from a safe distance of 1 to 3 metres until the flames are smothered.

Formula

The extinguishing agent used in portable fire extinguishers is a combination of non-toxic foam and water. This formula smothers the flames, covers the source of ignition, and quickly cools down the affected area. Without oxygen and heat, the flames can effectively be kept from reigniting.

Advantages

Portable fire extinguishers have a number of advantages over their larger counterparts, including:
  • A compact and lightweight design for easier use
  • A non-toxic and eco-friendly formula that won't irritate the skin
  • Suitable for all types of domestic fires, including cooking fires and electrical fires
  • No messy residue and easier cleanup
  • Reusable until empty

Limitations

While a great choice for many applications, portable fire extinguishers do have a few limitations, such as:
  • A service life of only three to five years
  • Must be kept at a storage temperature between 0°C and 50°C
  • A limited duration of discharge between 19 and 26 seconds, depending on size
  • Not suitable for industrial or chemical applications