Household Fire Prevention Products: Types, Features

by Purvin Arshad

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) statistics show over 350,000 home fires annually. A large number can be prevented if homeowners equip their houses with fire prevention equipment. There are many different types of products available. Employing one or more of these fire prevention methods could mean a difference between life and death.

Smoke Alarms

smoke detector alarms

Source: Amazon Kidde

A smoke detector is your first line of defense against a fire. According to Consumer Product Safety Commission, the chances of dying in homes that do not have smoke alarms is twice as much as those equipped with smoke detectors. It is vital to recognize the different types of alarms available, so you can make the best possible choice.

Ionization alarms

In this type of alarm, the smoke enters the detector and bars the electrical current, which sets off the alarm. This type of alarm can sense the unseen fire particles faster than the photoelectric alarm. Such fumes are more common in fires that are fast flaming.

Photoelectric

Smoke from fire blocks the light receptors located on the detectors, which sets off the alarm. Slow smoldering fires tend to give off visible particles, which are picked up by photoelectric alarms faster.

Dual-Sensor alarm

This type of alarm incorporates both technologies. It is capable of detecting both smoldering and flaming fires.

Heat: this type of alarm works by sensing the rise in temperature caused by a fire. But it has a reputation for giving false alarms periodically. A heat alarm also takes longer to react compared to others.

NFPA suggests that you install the dual-sensor alarm for the best protection. Otherwise, you will have to install both types of alarms (Photoelectric and ionization). It is recommended that you have alarms installed in each bedroom in addition to one alarm on each floor. Following are some features you should consider when shopping for fire alarms

Battery Vs. Hardwired

The battery-operated fire alarms are stand-alone units, and they also cost less. Additionally, only the activated alarm will go off; none of the other sensors in the house will be activated. The hardwired alarms are fitted into the home’s electrical system. If one alarm is activated, all others will also go off. Granted, this will make it hard to figure out where the actual problem is. However, the bonus is that it makes everyone in the house aware of the problem. A lot of hardwiring models also have battery backup, in case the power goes out.

Interconnectivity

If one alarm is activated, it sets off all the interconnected alarms in the rest of the house. For instance, if the fire is detected in the basement. Someone sleeping on the first floor may not hear it with a stand-alone model. Considering a fire doubles in size every sixty seconds, you may not get enough time to escape.

UL Listing

A good quality detector will have a UL label. This indicates that the detector fulfills the tough testing standards of Underwriters Laboratories. Spending money on detectors without this listing is just wasting money.

Carbon Monoxide

This is an odorless, poisonous gas. It is produced if a car is left running. In a closed space, the gas can escape to a bedroom and be lethal for the person sleeping. Other than cars, homes that burn gas or oil are also vulnerable. Installing a carbon monoxide detector adds another level of safety.

Monitoring

Frequently interconnected fire alarms are linked with home security systems. If there is a fire, or if residents are incapacitated due to carbon monoxide, the fire department is alerted automatically.

Fire Extinguishers

fire extinguisher

Classes of Fires

There are five common types of fire extinguishers available. They include water extinguishers, foam extinguishers, powder extinguishers, carbon dioxide extinguishers (CO2), and wet chemical extinguishers. Using the wrong extinguisher could make the situation worse.

Believe it or not, all fires are the same! Fires are classified based on the flammable materials used for burning. Different types of fires require a different approach in putting them out. The classes include A, B, C, D, and K. Class A fires are the most common.

  • Class A: They involve substances like trash, wood, textiles, and plastics. This type is the easiest to extinguish and can be put out with water or foam extinguisher.
  • Class B: These fires start with flammable liquids like gasoline, petroleum grease (but usually not cooking oils), paint, alcohol, etc. Use of water is not recommended as it may cause the flammable liquid to spread. These should be put out using carbon dioxide, powder, or foam. The supply of oxygen is cut off to the fire thus, putting it out.
  • Class C: This class of fires is due to electricity and is more common in a home or industrial environment. They typically start due to poor or old wiring, faulty appliances, frayed breakers or cords. The use of water or foam to put such fires out is dangerous as both materials conduct electricity. Instead, dry powder or carbon dioxide extinguishers are better to put these out.
  • Class D: Ignition of metals falls in this category. As it takes very high temperatures to start these, they are rare outside industrial settings or laboratories. While very rare in a home setting, it is recommended that only dry powder be used to put them out.
  • Class K: These fires need a high ignition point to set off. Most commonly, they start when cooking fats are left unattended on the stove. Using water to put these out can cause splatter. That is why it is recommended that any chemical extinguisher be used.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

All fire extinguishers intended for home use come with a classification of A, B, or C. A combination of these classifications is also available. The classification on the extinguisher indicates which class fire it is effective against. An extinguisher classified as A: B: C (popular household extinguisher) is effective against all three types of fires.

If you look closer at the fine print on the extinguisher, you will also find numbers preceding the letters. The numbers indicate the effectiveness of the chemical found in the extinguisher against that class. Underwriters Laboratories assign numbers like 3-A: 40-B: C. The larger number means the chemical in the extinguisher is that much more effective. So a 40-B is more effective than a 30-B

In class A each number is equal to 1¼ gallons of water. So a 2A rating means the extinguisher is as effective as 2½ gallons of water. A 20B provides 20 square feet of extinguishing agent cover. By sweeping the nozzle back and forth you can cover this area. Classes C and D are not rated.

Size of Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers have different weights. The values printed on the extinguisher indicate how much fire suppressing agent is packed inside. The weight of the canister, heat, and stem are all in addition to the weight mentioned.

10 Pound extinguisher is good for a garage or small workshop. As there are more combustible items found here, it is better to have a larger unit.

5 Pound extinguisher is appropriate for the kitchen or laundry room. The smaller size means less weight, hence easier to grab and use in confines of smaller space.

2 Pound extinguisher is most appropriate for cars or other small spaces.

Fire Blankets

fire blanket

Source: Amazon Tonyko

A fire blanket is a fast, efficient, and mess-free method of putting out a fire. It works by cutting off the oxygen supply. A fire blanket is a basic tool, so it does not have any significant features. It is usually made from fiberglass and sometimes Kevlar.

The size of the blanket makes it suitable for a given situation. You should choose them based on where you intend to use them. A large blanket will also be bulky and not appropriate for small areas. Also, the larger the blanket the heavier it will be. If you think you will struggle with the weight, then your escape may be hampered. Studies show over 30% of home fires begin with cooking utensils. According to experts, a fire blanket is the simplest way to put them out.

Home Fire Sprinklers

home fire sprinklers

Installation of a home fire sprinkler system is another effective way of preventing a home fire. In case of a fire, a home sprinkler system responds immediately, whereas the fire department takes time. In a fire, every minute lost can be critical, and by the time the fire department arrives, the damage can be complete.

According to one study, the average damage in homes without sprinklers was $45,000 against $2,166 in homes with sprinklers. According to NFPA statistics, residential fire deaths are lower by 81% and property damage by 58% in homes with sprinklers.

home fire sprinklers extinguish fire

There are 4 types of commercial water sprinkler systems available.

Wet Pipe System

This type of system is most commonly in residential and commercial spaces. The heat from the fire triggers the release of water stored under pressure in pipes. The different sprinkler heads installed are activated individually to minimize water damage. This system is the least expensive and low-maintenance option.

Dry Pipe System

In this system, the pipes have nitrogen or air stored in pressurized pipes. In a fire, the valves are activated, nitrogen/air is released and water fills the pipes to discharge. While a more expensive option, it is better suited to places where temperatures are low. As water may freeze in pipes.

Pre-Action System

Similar to a dry pipe sprinkler system, it requires a two-step activation process. When smoke or heat is sensed, the pre-action valve is activated, and water fills the pipes. Next, the sprinkler heads can be activated individually in areas where there is fire. The benefit is that it can be turned off in case of a false alarm, preventing unnecessary water damage.

Deluge System

this is also a version of the dry pipe system. In this system, the sprinkler heads do not house the heat-sensing element and always stay open. The heat sensor is located separately but once activated, all sprinkler heads release water simultaneously. This creates a flooding-type situation. It is most appropriate in industries dealing with liquids that can spread quickly.

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