Cuts Put Lives at Risk Warn Fire Chiefs

Fire brigade leaders from cities including Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool are warning that more people will die in house fires if government ministers push ahead with cuts to fire services.

An article in the Independent (22/9/12) reported that the warning was contained in a submission to a review of spending by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and seen by Exaro, the investigative website.

In the past financial year fire authorities cut 2,172 jobs, including 1457 firefighters, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. Unions and managers both believe if cuts continue response to incidents will be slower and attendance levels will shrink as capacity is stretched – increasing risk to the community and firefighters.

However, a DCLG spokeswoman said it not accept cuts could not be made without affecting the front line. “Savings can include more flexible staffing arrangements, better sickness management, sharing back-office services, improved procurement and sharing chief fire officers and other senior staff.”

Taking precautions

Whichever side of the argument one takes, the debate should encourage people to ensure all the necessary precautions have been taken to safeguard their homes. At a time of year when fires are ignited, electric blankets switched on and candles lit, it is especially important to ensure that all the necessary safety measures have been taken.

One of the most obvious steps to take is to ensure that smoke alarms are fitted on every level of a property.  There are many different types available to suit all budgets and requirements.

A battery operated device with a five year guarantee can be purchased for under £5. Radio interlinked devices, whereby a device being activated in one room triggers the alarms in other areas, are more expensive. Heat alarms are recommended for kitchens as they won’t be set of by cooking fumes. Smoke alarms for the deaf and hard of hearing feature high-intensity strobe lights and vibration pads.

Whilst the majority of homes now have smoke alarms fitted it is important that they are maintained properly. The batteries should be tested regularly and replaced according to manufacturer’s recommendations. And the unit should be replaced after ten years as the sensors cannot be relied upon beyond this time. A free reminder service on the Safelincs website reminds people by text or email when each of these activities need to take place.

Mains alarms

There is a misconception that mains smoke alarms last forever. This is not the case. Just like battery systems the sensor cannot be guaranteed to be effective beyond ten years. However, anybody with an Ei /Aico 140, 150 or 160 Series alarm system can purchase the Easichange product. This allows the main part of the alarm, containing the sensor, to be replaced leaving the base unit in place. The procedure can be simply carried out by the householder without the expense of calling in an electrician.

Fire extinguishers

Many people like the peace of mind of having a fire extinguisher in the home and there are many domestic versions now available. One of the most interesting new products on the market is the Jewel Water Mist extinguisher. This can be used on just about every type of domestic fire, including deep fat fires, and can be safely operated around electrical appliances.

The extinguisher works by dispersing microscopic ‘dry’ water mist particles to suppress fires and extinguish burning materials very rapidly. There are no chemicals involved, so it is 100% environmentally friendly. Should the extinguisher need to be discharged in a cooking area there is no danger of contaminated food. And there is no risk to children.

When purchasing any type of extinguisher you should familiarise yourself with the operating instructions. Fire extinguishers will work well on small fires but if they spread there is no alternative but to get out and call the fire service.

Extinguisher Service Engineers Wanted

Safelincs is currently recruiting for its service center in London. We are looking for capable extinguisher service engineers with experience and the relevant BAFE certified training. We do NOT pay bonuses but offer a generous salary to ensure that our engineers do not hard sell to our customers but focus on the needs of each customer. Candidates will be selected for their integrity and experience.

For details of the job visit our extinguisher service engineer job ad.

Maintenance Free Extinguishers are now MED approved

The Britannia P50 maintenance free extinguishers are now also MED (Marine Equipment Directive) approved and can be used on oil installations, rigs and ships. The extinguishers are already kitemarked, Boat Safety scheme approved and CE marked and had a very successful introduction. Now the MED approval opens an entirely new market.

The P50 range are robust and non-corrosive, making them an ideal extinguisher to install on boats and ships. Gaining the MED approval will give buyers the confidence to install this range of extinguishers. They are guaranteed for 10 years and do not require the usual discharge and refill after 5 years. No engineer visits, no consumables and no replacement components are needed for the entire lifetime of the extinguishers. Being maintenance free the P50 extinguisher will save you money and time. A quick annual visual check can be carried out by members of your staff after the initial installation and a short instruction session, which is included in the price, meaning you can verify yourself that your extinguishers are in working order no matter where you are.

The MED approved extinguishers are available as powder and foam. For more information, please contact our customer service team on 0800 612 6537

Send us your scariest photos!

We have just launched firescout, a website where people can post photos of bad fire safety examples. The site is not at all about naming and shaming; instead we are trying to spread information about best fire safety practice by learning from the bad examples! It is a lot more entertaining and a lot quicker to learn from pictures showing how not to do things!

To prevent abuse, we are vetting all submissions and are making sure that faces or features that would allow recognition of the premises are removed.  We will also add either your own comments or some advice from our fire safety specialists.

Please start snapping away! We are looking forward to your contributions

Gas Safety Week 10th – 16th September 2012

Gas Safety Week, co-ordinated by the Gas Safe Register, is a week-long event during which companies and organisations working within the industry promote gas safety.

Carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas produced by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, including natural gas, causes thousands of people every year to fall ill. It can be produced by faulty boilers, gas fires and cookers and, in the worst case, cause death by carbon monoxide poisoning.

As summer begins to fade and autumn takes its place, we start to switch on the central heating or light our fires. It is a good time of year to ensure that appliances are serviced and that chimneys and flues are swept. Carbon monoxide can be produced by an open coal or wood fire if the chimney is not drawing the smoke out of the room efficiently.

As symptoms for carbon monoxide poisoning are very similar to those of flu, it is possible for the presence of this gas to go undetected. If you have headaches and/or feelings of nausea and drowsiness, it may be due to the inhalation of carbon monoxide fumes. One of the simplest ways to protect yourself and your family is to install a carbon monoxide alarm in each room where there is a fossil fuel burning appliance. Carbon monoxide alarms sell for as little as £12.99 ex VAT . They will be triggered by the presence of carbon monoxide above 50ppm (parts per million) in the atmosphere.

On hearing your carbon monoxide alarm sound, you should open all windows and turn off the appliances that use fossil fuel. If the appliance is a gas burning device, contact the gas board and inform them of the situation. They will be able to confirm if there is carbon monoxide present and advise you on what to do next. If you were using an open fire at the point of alarm, ensure that you have swept the chimney  before relighting it; if the alarm goes off again, you may need to contact your local builder to ensure that there are no problems with the integrity of your chimney.

Visit Carbonmonoxideinfo.co.uk for useful information on this gas, including real-life accounts of people’s experiences of it. To help prevent tragic deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning, please spread the message this week to family and friends; and, if you have elderly neighbours, check that they are looking after their appliances and suggest that they install carbon monoxide alarms, too.

Extending Ei140 + Ei160 series smoke alarm groups

Many homes and small businesses are equipped with mains powered smoke alarms to BS5839 part 6 Grade D. These alarms are usually linked with cable and have to be installed by electricians. When increasing the number of smoke and heat alarms at a later date, it is costly and disruptive to run extra cable to the additional alarms, decorations are damaged and dust is created.

With the Aico Ei140 series (Ei141, Ei144, Ei146) and the Aico Ei160 series (Ei161, Ei164, Ei166), adding more smoke alarms to the group of alarms can be very simple using radio-interlinking.

Just one existing smoke alarm is taken off the ceiling and its existing base plate replaced with the RF base plate Ei168. This exchange, while very swift and simple, should be carried out by an electrician. The old alarm then simply slots onto the newly fitted base plate. Now you can install any of the radio-interlinked smoke alarm ranges from AICO/Ei in the additional rooms you wish to protect. The new radio-linked alarms will then communicate fully with the old system. This means that if any of the smoke alarms goes off (old or new alarms), the rest of the alarms will sound an alarm as well.

You have three choices to achieve this extension with radio-interlinked smoke alarms:

1) Install more mains powered alarms together with RF base plates. Their electrical power supply can be drawn from the nearest light fitting. This solution will require an electrician for all the work. However, this is a solution that will guarantee the Grade D rating of your installation. There is obviously no cabling required between the units, as the radio signal will communicate between the new alarms and, through the single converted old smoke alarm, with the old system. There are additional add-ons you can include in this system, such as RF manual break points and handheld controls for testing and, in the case of the Ei160 series, even for silencing and to locate the source of an alarm.

List of Alarms and add-ons available:

Series installed already Mains powered RF Smoke alarms available Manual break points available (optional). Wireless and 10 year battery Handheld controls available (optional)
Ei140 Ei407 Ei410TRF handheld test fob (tests interconnection, only)
Ei160 Ei407
  • Ei410 handheld test, hush and locator
  • Ei411H wall mounted test, hush and locator

 

2) If you want to save the cost for the electrician and want to speed up the installation process, you can install battery operated radio-interlinked alarms. One of the radio-interlinked families is the Ei600 series, which comes with a sealed-in ten year power supply. This system is usually accepted as a Grade D system, even though formally, as it does not contain mains power, it is not classified as a grade D system. If you have to satisfy a Building Inspector or the fire service, it makes therefore good sense to get their agreement before installing the system.

List of battery operated alarms and add-ons available:

Series installed already Battery operated RF smoke alarms Manual break points available (optional). Wireless and 10 year battery Handheld control (optional)
Ei140 Ei407 Ei410TRF handheld test fob (tests interconnection, only)
Ei160 Ei407
  • Ei410 handheld test, hush and locator
  • Ei411H wall mounted test, hush and locator

 

3) If you are not required to install in accordance to BS5839 Part 6 Grade D (eg older houses built prior to introduction of Building Regulations), you can also use radio-interlinked smoke alarms with alkaline backup batteries which must be replaced every year or two. This is of course the cheapest way of expanding your existing smoke alarm system. Again, all alarms will go off together, both the new as well as the old alarms.

List of radio-interlinked, battery operated alarms and add-ons available:

Series installed already Battery operated RF smoke alarms Manual break points available (optional). Wireless and 10 year battery Handheld control (optional)
Ei140 Ei407 Ei410TRF handheld test fob (tests interconnection, only)
Ei160 Ei407 Ei410TRF handheld test fob (tests interconnection, only)

To extinguish or not to extinguish – now there’s a question

Talk to many fire officers about fires and the use of fire extinguishers and their advice might be to get everybody out of the building and call the fire service rather than to attempt to extinguish a fire.

Which rather begs the question why do we have fire extinguishers at all?

The answer is of course that extinguishers save lives and property.

A survey carried out by the FIA found that over a twelve month period 1.629 injuries were prevented and 24 lives saved by the use of fire extinguishers. The general interpretation of the statistics was that an extinguisher (irrespective of size) will put out a small fire. Once it becomes too big it becomes difficult to tackle with any number of extinguishers. However, the success rate is impressive with 88% of fires successfully tackled using portable extinguishers and in 75% of cases the fire service was not required to attend (saving around £5 million each year in fire service resources). In addition it found that extinguishers saved the UK economy over £500 million.

In public buildings, offices, shops and schools, fire extinguishers are, as is well known, required to meet legal or insurance stipulations, and many of us have them in our homes because it gives us a feeling of well-being that we would be in some way prepared if the worst should happen.

Fortunately, it’s a fact that the majority of fire extinguishers will sit happily on the wall for their entire life without once being called in to action. But if a fire were to break out, what should you bear in mind?

Anyone tackling a fire should ensure that the fire extinguisher is suitable for the type of fire and that they know how to use it. The alarm should have first been raised and everyone evacuated from the area.

Never tackle a fire if it is spreading too quickly or if it could block your exit. If the room is already filled with smoke don’t attempt to fight the fire – smoke inhalation can be more dangerous than the fire itself. However, if the fire is still small, a fire extinguisher can be employed.

Having pulled the pin or released any locking mechanism you should aim low and point the extinguisher (or its horn or hose) at the base of the fire. Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire until it appears to be out. Watch the fire area in case fire breaks out again, and repeat the use of the extinguisher if necessary.

The latest technology

UK statistics for 2010/2011 show that more than half the fires in dwellings arose from cooking. Many of these will have involved deep fat fryers. These are always very dangerous fires to tackle and must never be attempted with a standard water, foam, powder or even CO2 extinguisher.

However, the newly available ‘Dry’ Water Mist Extinguisher can be used on just about every type of domestic fire, including deep fat fires, and can be safely operated around electrical appliances. This extinguisher works by dispersing microscopic ‘dry’ water mist particles to suppress fires and extinguish burning materials very rapidly. There are no chemicals involved so it is 100% environmentally friendly. Should the extinguisher need to be discharged in a cooking area there is no danger of contaminated food. And there is no risk to children.

3 and 6 litre models are available for commercial use and are proving popular in restaurants, schools, museums and anywhere that traditional extinguishers might only add to the damage caused by fire.

Reducing the cost of fire fighting equipment

Fire safety precautions need to be taken in all public and business buildings and form a large part of any organisation’s facilities management costs. In the case of fire extinguishers, much of the cost is down to the annual service charge for having a service engineer visit each year.

Now there is a new extinguisher on the market that can greatly reduce these costs. The Britannia Fireworld P50 does not require maintenance by an extinguisher engineer or a 5-yearly discharge test over its entire 10 year lifespan. A simple annual visual check can easily be carried out by a staff member. The P50 is kitemarked, CE marked and supplied with a ten year warranty. After ten years the extinguisher can be refurbished for another ten years’ service-free life. This amounts to massive savings over its lifetime.

It is also notable for being constructed using a composite plastic reinforced with the material from which bulletproof vests are made. This means that it is very strong and will not rust or corrode making it ideally suitable for use outdoors or areas that are subject to moisture. The extinguisher is available in both foam and powder versions.

New fire and waterproof safe section

Traditionally, Safelincs focused on the fire protection for valuables, paper and electronic data, offering a substantial range of fire safes to meet customers’ needs. Through discussions with our customers it emerged that there was a need for fire safes with additional water protection, protecting documents and electronic data carriers in case of floods or in fact from the water used for fire fighting in a blaze. The intumescent seals used in most fire safes, whilst performing fantastically in case of fire, do not help in case of flooding, as they require intense heat to fully seal off the safe.

We have therefore introduced a category of fire and waterproof safes to address this requirements. These safes, certified by ETL, can sit in water for over 24 hours and will remain sealed and dry inside.

We are always looking to improve our product range; should you have a requirement or idea for improved or new products, please let us know and we will try our best to make the changes or introduce new products to meet your needs.

Nearly £3000 cost savings achieved for guest house

When Kim and Terry of the Ramblers Guesthouse in Trusthorpe on the Lincolnshire East Coast contacted us, they had just received a request by a County Council Fire Protection Officer to upgrade their existing alarm system to standard BS5839 pt 1 2002. This would have meant that they would have had to install a central fire control panel and interlinked fire and heat detectors. The installation of this system would have made it necessary to lay cables throughout the two storey building with its 6 guest rooms during the main holiday season! The thought of all the upheaval and possible loss of revenue coupled with the cost of this system led the owners to seek our help.

Safelincs looked at the option of using a wireless system to BS5839 part 1 but the cost for this was still similar to a wired system with central alarm panel. The MD of Safelincs then rung the fire safety officer in question who, after initial hesitation and after some internal discussions, agreed that the guest house, having only two floors and a relatively small number of bedrooms could be downgraded to a domestic fire alarm system falling in category BS5839 part 6 grade D. It was agreed that the Ei radio-interlinked system with guaranteed 10 year lithium batteries was equivalent to a Grade D system. This system contains radio-interlinked manual break points as well as smoke and heat detectors. The installation was soon after carried out by Safelincs in the space of two hours without any electrical tools being required, as the alarms and break points were all installed with adhesive tape. Apart from the obvious substantial cost savings, the system has numerous other advantages. The maintenance of the system can be carried out by the guest house owners by simply pressing one of the test buttons (of course a different one each time the system is tested) and each smoke detector has an integrated sounder, which improves general sound levels significantly.

This case shows that fire risk assessments allow room for discussions and as long as the safety of the people within a building is not compromised, the fire services and the councils’ fire protection officers are happy to discuss the best and most appropriate solution.