General Fire Safety
Q – What should I know about fire extinguishers to be prepared? (Quick Guide)
Q – What can I do to improve fire safety at home?
General Fire Safety
Q – Should I try to fight a fire?
Answer – Assuming that you have been trained, are capable and willing, a charged and proper extinguisher is available and the fire has been reported (alarm sounded); you may attempt to extinguisher a small fire, but then only if you can do so safely and with a clear path out behind you.
Q – What do you do if you can’t see the fire but only smell smoke?
Answer – If you see or suspect a fire in an area, don’t hesitate! Pull the building fire alarm and evacuate the building. NOTE: If your facility has specific procedures to be followed when the fire alarm is sounded, rather than evacuation, they should be followed.
Q – How do I use a fire extinguisher?
Answer – Generally all fire extinguishers are used in a similar fashion: carry the extinguisher to the fire, pull the pin, point the hose, nozzle or horn at the base of the fire, and squeeze the handle. Use a sweeping motion (back and forth) to cover wider areas. When the extinguisher runs out, leave. It is simple, but if you haven’t operated an extinguisher it is easy to get confused, possibly hysterical during an emergency, possibly burned. So you need to be shown how and gain some hands-on experience under controlled conditions. Under New Mexico Health and Safety regulations, all employees must be trained on the use of the fire extinguishers in their area. Hands-on extinguisher training is available by the NMSU Fire Department.
Q – Are there different kinds of extinguishers for different kinds of fires
Answer – Yes, there are. The universal standard extinguisher which is good on most small fires you might encounter is the “ABC”, or multi-purpose extinguisher. It can be used on a Class A, B or C fire.
- Class A is ordinary combustible materials such as wood, cloth, paper, etc.
- Class B means flammable liquids, such as oil, gasoline, kerosene, etc. and
- Class C refers to the presence of energized electrical circuits (e.g., an electric motor, electrical wiring, etc.).
However, NMSU has several other kinds of extinguishers on campus which are only effective when used on the kind of fire for which they were intended. These include:
- Pressurized Water – Class A only
- Carbon Dioxide – Class B and C only
- B-C Dry Chemical – Class B and C only
- D Dry Chemical – for self-spontaneous igniting/burning fires, usually these involve combustible metals, such as magnesium, zirconium, potassium, and sodium. These are uncommon, but may occur with materials in chemistry, science and engineering labs.
Q – How often do extinguishers need to be inspected, tested or serviced?
Answer – Extinguishers, fire hoses and other fire safety equipment (alarms, exit signs, emergency lights) need to be checked on a regular basis to ensure they are in working condition. Typically a quick visual check is to be done at least monthly by an employee or the monitor in the area. Under law extinguishers and hoses must be checked and documented at least once a year by a qualified inspector. They also must have a sign-off tag (or other documentation) to verify that they have been inspected.
Extinguishers must be recharged anytime that they have been used, if the pin has been pulled , or the gauge is not in the green. Even if an extinguisher was only used a small amount it must be serviced as the used powder clogs the valve and prevents reuse.
Anyone noting an extinguisher or fire equipment that needs service should report it to the Fire Department or Facility Services at 646-7114 (if the problem is not corrected, please call Environmental Health and Safety 646-3327).
Q – Do extinguishers need to be serviced every year?
Answer – They may not need to be serviced but even if an extinguisher hasn’t been used, it still needs to be inspected to make sure there’s no corrosion, that nothing has been damaged, and that everything is set for it to operate properly when needed. In many cases, they just need to be examined and/or weighed (CO2 extinguishers). However depending on extinguisher type and age (usually every 6 years for those over 12 year old) they must be taken apart, inspected internally or pressure tested, then reassembled, recharged and permanently marked with a label indicating the service date.
Q – Where should the extinguishers be located?
Answer – By law, extinguishers must be conspicuously located and readily accessible for immediate use in the event of fire. Extinguishers must be distributed in such a way that the amount of time needed to travel to their location and back to the fire does not allow the fire to get out of control. OSHA requires that the travel distance for Class A and Class D extinguishers not exceed 75 feet. The maximum travel distance for Class B extinguishers is 50 feet because flammable liquid fires can get out of control faster that Class A fires. There is no maximum travel distance specified for Class C extinguishers, but they must be distributed on the basis of appropriate patterns for Class A and B hazards. They are to be located along normal paths of travel and egress. Wall recesses and/or flush-mounted cabinets should be used as extinguisher locations whenever possible, but extinguishers should be clearly visible. In locations where visual obstruction cannot be completely avoided, directional arrows or signs are to be provided to clearly indicate the location of extinguishers.
Q – How should the extinguishers to be mounted?
Portable extinguishers must be maintained in a fully charged, operable condition and kept in their designated locations at all times when not being used. Extinguishers shall be installed on hangers, brackets, in cabinets, or on shelves and so installed that the top of the extinguisher is not more than 3.5 feet above the floor. Extinguishers mounted in cabinets or wall recesses or set on shelves will be placed so that the extinguisher operating instructions face outward. The location of such extinguishers will be made conspicuous by marking the cabinet or wall recess in a contrasting color which will distinguish it from the normal decor.
Q – Who do you call when an extinguisher needs service, is damaged, or is missing?
Answer – Call Facility Services at (575) 646-7114.
Q – Who do you call when you need additional fire extinguishers?
Answer – Call the NMSU Fire Department if you need additional extinguishers or have concerns about the condition or type of extinguisher. To obtain additional extinguishers the Fire Department likes to know why. For instance, is the nearest fire extinguisher over the maximum travel distance from the hazard? Is a new or different hazardous material being used? Is there a change in room configuration that has increased the travel distance to the nearest fire extinguishers?
Q – How do fire sprinklers work?
Answer – At each sprinkler, the water under pressure in the pipe is held back by a plug held in place either by metal parts or a small glass vial filled with fluid. When sufficient heat hits a sprinkler, the special solder holding the metal parts together melts, or the fluid in the glass vial expands enough to break the glass. In either case, the plug is released and the water begins to flow.
Q – When one sprinkler goes off, won’t they all go off?
Answer – Each sprinkler is independent and has to be subjected to direct heat to go off.
Q – Will smoke set off the sprinkler system?
Answer – Absolutely not. It takes actual heat, usually 165 degrees Fahrenheit, to set off a sprinkler.
Q – Can sprinklers go off by themselves?
Answer – Rarely. Fire sprinklers are extremely reliable.
Q – Do we have sprinklers in all buildings? Why not?
Answer – Fire sprinklers are only required in certain kinds of buildings; hospitals, for example. Also, they are often added to other buildings during the design phase in order for the architect to be allowed to make a building bigger or taller than the building code would have otherwise permitted. It is general policy to provide sprinklers for all new construction, and try to retrofit sprinklers into the existing un-sprinkled facilities.
Q-What to do during a fire alarm?
Answer – If the building alarm sounds in any campus facility, STOP whatever you are doing and calmly WALK to the nearest exit. EXIT the building and move to the designated assembly location or sufficiently distant from the building to be out the way of emergency vehicles and responders. If you cannot exit, then get to a phone and call 911. Let the operator know where you are, and they will relay that information to the responders.
Q-Should you hear the fire alarm throughout a building, no matter where you are?
Answer – Ideally, yes. We’re aware that, in some of the campus facilities, there are areas of reduced or even nonexistent audibility. NMSU is currently upgrading the systems across campus. Any concerns or complaints in this area need to be referred to someone in the Fire Department office, to be sure that they are aware of all such situations.
Q –Do we have many false alarms?
Answer – There is a fairly low incidence of true false alarms, where someone sets off the fire alarms when there is no fire or other emergency. Some false alarms may be result of change or construction. These activities can create conditions (smoke, dust, etc.) which can activate fire detection systems.
Q – What can I do to improve fire safety in my work area?
Answer – First line supervisors should conduct work site surveys of their area on a regular basis, at least quarterly.
- Surveys: These surveys should include observations of worksite safety and housekeeping issues and should specifically address the following:
- Proper storage of chemicals and supplies
- and condition of fire safety equipment
- Unobstructed access to fire extinguishers
- Emergency evacuation routes
- Ensure that an emergency evacuation plan is present in work areas and that personnel are familiar with the plan
- Safety Equipment:
- All building or departmental safety equipment (extinguishers, fire hoses, exit signs, emergency lab equipment) need to be inspected at least annually and repaired or replaced if inoperative, damaged or missing.
- Safety equipment such as extinguishers and fire hoses must be at their designated location, if they are missing they must be replaced.
- Egress routes:
- Emergency egress should be kept clear and every exit clearly visible, or the route to it conspicuously identified in such a manner that occupants of the building will readily know the direction of escape from any point.
- At no time should an exit be blocked.
- Any doorway or passageway which is not an exit or access to an exit but which may be mistaken for an exit, must be identified by a sign reading “Not An Exit” or a sign indicating it actual use (i.e., “Storeroom”).
- Exit signs:
- Main building exit and main pathways to exits are to be marked by illuminated exit signs.
- Each exit sign (other than internally illuminated signs) are to be illuminated by a reliable light source providing not less than 5 foot-candles on the illuminated surface.
Q – What fire safety equipment should I have?
Answer – Generally the distribution of fire extinguishers in these areas is governed by the location, type and number of fire hazards in the area. OSHA requires that the travel distance from a Class A and Class D fire hazard to a fire extinguisher must not exceed 75 feet. The maximum travel distance for Class B extinguishers is 50 feet because flammable liquid fires can get out of control faster that Class A fires.