Fire Safety

Fire safety:


Each year, more than 4,000 Americans die in fires, more than 25,000 are injured in fires, and more than 100 firefighters are killed while on duty. Eighty three percent of all civilian fire deaths occurred in residences.Many of these fires could have been prevented.

Cooking is the third leading cause offire deaths and the leading causeof injury among people ages 65 and older. Direct loss due to fires is estimated at nearly $8.6 billion annually. Intentionally set structure fires resultedin an estimated $664 millionin property damage.

In order to protect yourself, it isimportant to understand the basic characteristics of fire.

•Fire is FAST. In just two minutes, a fire can become life-threatening. In five minutes, a residence can be engulfed in flames.

•Fire is DARK. Fire produces gases that make you disoriented and drowsy. Instead of being awakened by a fire, you may fall into a deeper sleep. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a three- to- one ratio.

•Fire is HOT.Heat and smoke from fire can be more dangerous than the flames. Inhaling the super- hot air can sear your lungs.

Elements of Combustion:

  • Oxygen
  • Fuel
  • Heat
  • Chemical reaction

Basic fire prevention involves separating the elements that contribute to combustion. Fuel, heat, and an oxidizer (typically oxygen in air) combine to create a sustained combustion chemical reaction. Together, these four elements are represented by the fire tetrahedron. Below are some examples of each.

Remember to keep storage of fuel and oxidizers to a minimum and away from the other elements. Always monitor operations to avoid excessive heat.

Flash Point – The lowest temperature at which a material can vaporize to form an ignitable mixture in air.

Boiling Point –The temperature at which a given material changes from liquid to gas.

Types & Applications

Class AClass A

Class A fires are fires in ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, trash, and plastics.

Class BClass B

Class B fires are fires in flammable liquids such as gasoline, petroleum oil and paint. Class B fires also include flammable gases such as propane and butane. Class B fires do not include fires involving cooking oils and grease.

Class CClass C

Class C fires are fires involving energized electrical equipment such as motors, transformers, and appliances. Remove the power and the Class C fire becomes one of the other classes of fire.

Class DClass D

Class D fires are fires in combustible metals such as potassium, sodium, aluminum, and magnesium.

Class KClass K

Class K fires are fires in cooking oils and greases such as animals fats and vegetable fats.

Some types of fire extinguishing agents can be used on more than one class of fire. Others have warnings where it would be dangerous for the operator to use a particular fire extinguishing agent.

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Water and foam extinguishers

Water and Foam

Water and Foam fire extinguishers extinguish the fire by taking away the heat element of the fire triangle. Foam agents also separate the oxygen element from the other elements.

Water extinguishers are for Class A fires only - they should not be used on Class B or C fires. The discharge stream could spread the flammable liquid in a Class B fire or could create a shock hazard on a Class C fire.

Carbon DioxideCarbon Dioxide extinguishers

Carbon Dioxide fire extinguishers extinguish fire by taking away the oxygen element of the fire triangle and also be removing the heat with a very cold discharge.

Carbon dioxide can be used on Class B & C fires. They are usually ineffective on Class A fires.

Dry ChemicalDry Chemical extinguishers

Dry Chemical fire extinguishers extinguish the fire primarily by interrupting the chemical reaction of the fire triangle.Today's most widely used type of fire extinguisher is the multipurpose dry chemical that is effective on Class A, B, and C fires. This agent also works by creating a barrier between the oxygen element and the fuel element on Class A fires.

Ordinary dry chemical is for Class B & C fires only. It is important to use the correct extinguisher for the type of fuel! Using the incorrect agent can allow the fire to re-ignite after apparently being extinguished successfully.

Wet ChemicalWet Chemical extinguishers

Wet Chemical is 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.

Wet chemical of 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.

Dry PowderDry Powder extinguishers

Dry Powder extinguishers are similar to dry chemical except that they extinguish the fire by separating the fuel from the oxygen element or by removing the heat element of the fire triangle.

However, dry powder extinguishers are for Class D or combustible metal fires, only. They are ineffective on all other classes of fires.

Cartridge Operated Dry ChemicalCartridge-Operated Dry Chemical extinguishers

Cartridge Operated Dry Chemical fire extinguishers extinguish the fire primarily by interrupting the chemical reaction of the fire triangle.

Like the stored pressure dry chemical extinguishers, the multipurpose dry chemical is effective on Class A, B, and C fires. This agent also works by creating a barrier between the oxygen element and the fuel element on Class A fires.

Ordinary dry chemical is for Class B & C fires only. It is important to use the correct extinguisher for the type of fuel! Using the incorrect agent can allow the fire to re-ignite after apparently being extinguished successfully.

The Rules for Fighting Fires

Just remember the three A's

ACTIVATE the building alarm system or notify the fire department by calling emergency. Or, have someone else do this for you.

ASSIST any persons in immediate danger, or those incapable on their own, to exit the building, without risk to yourself.

Only after these two are completed should you ATTEMPT to extinguish the fire.

Fire Extinguisher Use

It is important to know the locations and the types of extinguishers in your workplace prior to actually using one.

Fire extinguishers can be heavy, so it's a good idea to practice picking up and holding an extinguisher to get an idea of the weight and feel.

Take time to read the operating instructions and warnings found on the fire extinguisher label. Not all fire extinguishers look alike.

Practice releasing the discharge hose or horn and aiming it at the base of an imagined fire. Do not pull the pin or squeeze the lever. This will break the extinguisher seal and cause it to lose pressure.

When it is time to use the extinguisher on a fire, just remember PASS!

Pull the pin.

Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire from the recommended safe distance.

Squeeze the operating lever to discharge the fire extinguishing agent.

Starting at the recommended distance, Sweep the nozzle or hose from side to side until the fire is out. Move forward or around the fire area as the fire diminishes. Watch the area in case of re-ignition.

Flammable and Combustible Materials

Ignitable liquids generate vapors that burn. Vapors may travel significant distances before reaching a heat source or build up in an enclosed space and cause an explosion. Minimizing the amount of fuel in your areas and properly storing materials you have, are two important ways of preventing fires.
Ignitable liquids are designated as flammable or combustible, depending on flash point and boiling point. Flammable and combustible materials are further designated as Class I or Class II. This is important, as different storage rules apply to each class.

All flammable and combustible liquids must be stored in approved, sealed containers. Approved containers include the original (factory) container or designated safety can.

A maximum of 10 gallons (40 liters) of Class I flammable liquid may be stored in a room outside of a flammable storage cabinet. Additional flammable liquids must be kept in an approved cabinet.

Electrical Safety

Electrical sources are common causes of fires, shocks, and burns. Improperly maintained or operated electrical equipment may short, arc, or overheat, creating an ignition point.

Extension Cords, Outlets, and Surge Protectors

Fire Doors and Wedges

Most buildings at Iowa State University have a number of fire doors to resist the spread of flames and smoke. If used properly, fire doors contain fires and protect exit passages. Fire doors can be identified by a rating plate or the presence of a closing device.

  • A fire door can be held open with an approved door mechanism that will automatically close the door in the event of a fire.
  • Never place objects in the swing of a fire door.
  • Even non-fire-rated doors can help stop the spread of fire and smoke. Close them when leaving at the end of the day, or when evacuating from a fire.
  • Do not disable the closing device on any door.
  • Do not hold a fire door open with a wedge, wire, string, or other unapproved methods.
  • A chair can be used to hold open an office door, but should be closed when leaving the office.
  • Do not panic if fire doors close when an alarm goes off. This is normal and you can still exit through these doors, if they are designated emergency exit routes.

Sprinkler Systems

Sprinkler systems are an effective method for extinguishing fires before they grow out of control. It takes as little as 155° to activate a sprinkler and release pressurized water. Only the sprinklers that are directly contacted by high heat from a fire will activate, open, and shower the fire with cooling water. To be effective, the heads must remain undamaged and unobstructed. You can help ensure system operation in the following ways:

Learn to identify sprinkler heads

  • Not all sprinkler heads look alike.
  • Learn where the sprinkler heads are in your area.
  • Contact FP&M or Department of Residence (DOR) (depending on location) if you see a damaged or leaking sprinkler head.


A. Conspicuous & clearly visible

B. Readily accessible for immediate use

C. Located along normal paths of travel & exit

D. Not blocked

E. Kept in designated locations when not being used

F. Installed on hangers, brackets, in cabinets, or on shelves

G. 40 lbs or less extinguishers - top of the extinguisher not more than 3-1/2 feet above the floor.

H. Class A & D Extinguishers travel distance 75 feet or less

I. Class B Extinguishers travel distance 50 feet or less

J. Class C Extinguishers - no minimum travel distance - locate in areas with electrical distribution equipment 

IV. Markings

A. Classification markings located on the front of the shellB. Markings must be legible from a distance of 3 feet. 

V. Inspection and Maintenance

A. Monthly checks for

1. Inspection Tag

2. Anti-tamper seal

3. Weight or pressure check

4. Damage or missing parts

5. Rust or corrosion

B. Maintenance

1. Remove from service & place a spare in location

2. Only trained & certified people may repair or fill extinguishers 

VI. Extinguisher Use

A. Only when use does not present personal hazard from fire

B. PASS System

1. P - Pull Pin

2. A - Aim at base of fire

3. S - Squeeze the actuating handle

4. S - Sweep from side to side

C. Class C fires - turn off power - Never touch electrical equipment or boxes with any part of the extinguisher - shock hazard

D. Never allow a full or empty extinguisher to stand upright - falling cylinder could break off valve and cause a missile hazard

E. Never place an empty or partially discharged extinguisher back in it's location - replace with a fully charged extinguisher

F. Report any damaged or missing extinguishers

Fire extinguishers must be:

1. Approved by a recognized testing laboratory

2. Proper type for the class of fire expected

3. Easily accessible for immediate use

4. Proper quantity & size to deal with the expected fire

5. Inspected and maintained on a regular basis

6. Used only by trained employees

Fire Prevention Plan

  • Employers need to implement a written fire prevention plan to complement the fire evacuation plan.  Stopping unwanted fires from occurring is the most efficient way to handle them.
  • Housekeeping procedures for storage and cleanup of flammable materials and flammable waste must be included in the plan.
  • Procedures for controlling workplace ignition sources such as smoking, welding and burning must be addressed in the plan. Heat producing equipment such as burners, heat exchangers, boilers, ovens, stoves, fryers, etc., must be properly maintained and kept clean of accumulations of flammable residues.
  • All employees are to be apprised of the potential fire hazards of their job and the procedures called for in the employer's fire prevention plan. The plan shall be reviewed with all new employees when they begin their job and with all employees when the plan is changed.

Additional Tips For Fire Safety

Space Heaters Need Space
Keep portable and space heaters at least 3 feet from anything that may burn. Never leave heaters on when you leave home or go to sleep. Children and pets should always be kept away from them.

Smokers Need To Be Extra Careful

Never smoke in bed or when you are sleepy. Carelessly discarded cigarettes are a leading cause of fire deaths in the United States.

Be Careful Cooking
Keep cooking areas clear of combustibles and wear short or tight-fitting sleeves when you cook. Keep the handles of your pots turned inward so they do not over-hang the stove. If grease catches fire, carefully slide a lid over the pan and smother the flames, then turn off the burner.

Matches and Lighters are Dangerous
In the hands of a child, matches and lighters can be deadly! Store them where kids can't reach them, preferably in a locked area. Teach children that matches and lighters are "tools" and should only be used by adults.

Use Electricity Safely
If an appliance smokes or has an unusual smell, unplug it immediately and have it repaired. Replace frayed or cracked electrical cords and don't overload extension cords. They should not be run under rugs. Never tamper with the fuse box or use the improper size fuse.

Cool a Burn
If someone gets burned, immediately place the wound under cool water for 10 to 15 minutes. If the burn blisters or chars, see a doctor immediately!

Be Careful of Halogen Lights
If you have halogen lights, make sure they are away from flammable drapes and low ceiling areas. Never leave them on when you leave your home or office.

Work place fire safety precaution:

A - Controlling sources of ignition

  • Remove unnecessary sources of heat from the workplace.
  • Make sure that your machinery and equipment has beendesigned to limit the risk of fire and explosions.
  • Make sure that all your electrical equipment is regularly serviced and fit for the purpose it is being used for.
  • Smoking should only be allowed in safe areas away from any sources of fuel.
  • Make sure that any processes involving 'hot work' (such as welding) are properly managed and controlled.
  • Keep in a safe condition any equipment that could provide a source of ignition.

B - Limiting the fuel for a fire

  • Remove or reduce flammable materials and substances and replace them with less flammable ones if possible.
  • Make sure that flammable materials are handled, stored and used correctly.
  • Store flammable substances in their proper storage containers in fire-resistant cabinets.
  • Store larger amounts of flammable substances in a fire resistant store.
  • Do not allow waste materials and rubbish to build up.
  • Do not allow grease, dust or oil to build up around equipment.
  • Make sure you keep flammable materials away from any sources of ignition (for example matches).

C - Detecting and warning about fires

You must have an effective way of:

  • detecting any fires; and
  • warning people in your workplace quickly enough to allow them to escape to a safe place before the fire spreads and makes it more difficult for them to leave the building.

Detecting a fire

Consider arrangements for detecting a fire. You should decide whether you need to install automatic fire detectors or smoke alarms. These may not be necessary in smaller workplaces

Warning about a fire

  • In smaller workplaces where all exits are clearly marked and employees only need to travel a short distance to escape, you may only need to give a shouted warning.
  • If employees are spread out over a wider area and you cannot guarantee that they will hear a shouted warning, you could use a manually operated sounder (for example, a rotary gong or a hand bell).
  • Larger premises may need an electrical alarm system with manual call points.
  • If there is a lot of background noise in your workplace or you have an employee with a hearing problem, you may also need to install a visual alarm, such as a distinctive flashing or rotating light.

D - Escaping a fire

Once people are aware of a fire, they should be able to leave the building safely. When considering how your employees can escape if there is a fire, you should think about:

  • the size of the workplace, how it is built, its layout,its contents and the number and width of available escape routes;
  • where people may be in the workplace and what they might be doing when a fire starts;
  • the number of people who may be in the workplace and how familiar they are with the building; and
  • whether employees are able to escape without needing help.

You should also have an agreed safe assembly point which all employees are aware of.

General principles for escape routes

  • Escape routes should always lead to a safe place. They should also be wide enough for the number of people inside the building.
  • Escape routes, exits and doorways should always be available for use and kept clear of obstacles at all times.
  • There should be more than one escape route in larger or higher-risk premises.

Escape route doors

You should make sure that people escaping can open any door on an escape route easily and immediately, without having to use a key. All outward opening doors on escape routes should be fitted with a device such as a panic latch or push pad.

Fire doors

Fire doors should close themselves and be labelled 'Fire Door - Keep Shut'.

Emergency escape and fire exit signs

Emergency escape routes and exit doors should be clearly identified by suitable signs.


All escape routes, including outside ones, must have enough lighting to allow people to find their way out safely. Emergency escape lighting may be needed in poorly lit areas or if the workplace is used at night.

Emergency lighting

Emergency lighting needs to work if the normal lighting fails completely. It should:

  • show the escape routes clearly;
  • provide lighting along escape routes to allow people to move safely towards the final exits; and
  • make sure that fire call points and firefighting equipment can be found easily.

Emergency plan

You should prepare an emergency plan which provides clear instructions on:

  • the action employees should take if they discover a fire;
  • how people will be warned if there is a fire;
  • how the workplace should be evacuated;
  • where people should go after they have left the workplace and procedures for checking whether the workplace has been evacuated;
  • where the main escape routes are and how people can use them to escape to safe places;
  • the firefighting equipment provided;
  • which employees have specific responsibilities if there is a fire (for example, the fire warden) and what their duties are (for example, making sure that all areas of the building have been
  • safely evacuated and taking a head count);
  • how to safely evacuate the people identified as being especially at risk, such as disabled people, members of the public and visitors;
  • if appropriate, which machines, processes and power supplies need to be stopped or isolated if there is a fire;
  • specific arrangements, if necessary, for areas of the workplace which are a higher risk.
  • how the  Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) and any other necessary emergency services will be called and who will be responsible for doing this;
  • procedures for communicating with the FRS when they arrive and telling them about any special risks (for example, where any highly flammable materials might be kept or the location of any asbestos); and
  • what training employees need and arrangements for making sure they receive this training.

E - Fighting fires

All workplaces should have equipment for putting out fires.

Fire extinguishers

  • Portable fire extinguishers allow suitably trained people to tackle a fire in its early stages (if they can do so without putting themselves in danger).
  • When deciding on the types of extinguishers to provide, consider the materials you use and store in your workplace.
  • Fire extinguishers should be kept in obvious positions on escape routes and close to high-risk activities such as welding.
  • If possible, fire extinguishers should be securely hung on wall brackets and not placed directly on the floor.

Fire blankets

  • Fire blankets should be kept near the fire hazard they will be used on.
  • Store blankets in a position which is easy and safe to get to if there is a fire.
  • Light-duty blankets are suitable for dealing with small fires in containers of cooking oil or fat and fires involving clothing.
  • Heavy-duty fire blankets are for industrial use where there is a need for the blanket to protect against molten materials.

Sprinkler systems

If your workplace is small, portable fire extinguishers will probably be enough for tackling small fires. However, in larger buildings, or if you need to protect the escape routes or the property or contents of the building, you may need to consider a sprinkler system.

F - Maintaining and testing fire precautions

You must keep fire safety measures and equipment in the workplace in effective working order. This includes the following:

  • Fire detection and alarm systems
  • Firefighting equipment
  • Fire doors
  • Stairways
  • Corridors
  • Emergency lighting
  • Fire notices

You will need to:

  • appoint a competent person (someone with the necessary knowledge, experience and ability) to carry out regular checks,
  • servicing and maintenance, whatever the size of the workplace;
  • put any faults right as quickly as possible;
  • keep a record of the work carried out;
  • carry out regular fire drills; and
  • appoint a competent person to act as fire warden, both during fire drills and if there is a fire.

G - Housekeeping

Good housekeeping will reduce the possibility of a fire starting. Some suggestions are as follows.

  • Do not allow rubbish, waste paper or other material which could catch fire to build up.
  • Do not store large amounts of flammable materials unless this is absolutely necessary.
  • Store flammable materials in an appropriate place.
  • Turn off electrical equipment when it is not being used (unless it is designed to be permanently connected).
  • Make sure that you do not leave material which could easily catch fire close to a source of heat.
  • Make sure that machinery and any office equipment is well ventilated and regularly cleaned.

H - Fire safety information for employees


You should give your employees information about fire precautions in the workplace and what to do if there is a fire.

You also need to consider employees who:

  • work outside normal working hours;
  • work alone;
  • have disabilities; or
  • have communication difficulties.

Make sure that you provide training and written information in a way your employees can understand.

You should give all employees information about:

  • which escape route to use from where they are working; and
  • the fire warning system used in the area they are working in.

Fire extinguisher training video-1

Fire extinguisher training video-2