SAFETY AT HOME
Often most of us perceive safety as a practice related to job and we don’t educate and advise our dear ones to be safe at home. It is also true that we do not have feeling for safety at home.
Safety is a practice, which has to be, followed everywhere needless to say whether the person is on duty or is at home.
For most people, their homes spell a sense of well being, safety and security. But how safe is your house really is a big question.
Statistics say that all fires are small to start with and how quickly they spread depends on contributing human elements. Carelessness, negligence, and plain ignorance could often be the cause for major conflagrations.
Statistics and analysis of past accidents rate frayed wiring, carelessly installed gas cylinders, kerosene stoves, and even a carelessly thrown cigarette or match as most common cause of fires.
Let us Begin with kitchens
Check the gas cylinder as soon as you get it. Unconnected cylinders should be capped with the security cap. Cylinders that develop a leak should be moved out to an open area. The rubber tube is the weakest link; change it periodically (once a year) with a genuine LPG gas tube and not a ‘look alike’ of the same color, found in vessel and hardware shop.
Kerosene stoves catch fire when the oil leaks, or if it is refilled while in use. Pumping stoves and petrol-max lanterns burst when safety valve and gauge are struck and inflated beyond the permissible pressure. Put out candles and oil lamps when no one is at home or at night when going to sleep.
Use an apron while cooking and never lean over the stove to pick up anything. Use only tongs and not old pieces of clothes to lift hot vessels. Kitchen is a hazard prone area for children. Don’t allow them to play there. Store matches and lighters out of reach. Inflammable materials, oils and fuels, must be stored safely in closed containers and kept away from hot zones. Clothes, calender and old newspapers can also catch fire in the immediate vicinity of stoves and burners. Strike matches away from yourself. A match can break and fall on your clothes.
Electricity is one of the most useful inventions of mankind but overloading, bad connections and joints; faulty wiring are all potential fire hazards. Old homes with white wiring that is more than 20 years old rise sparking, apart from steep power bills on account of distribution losses.
Never have a temporary or naked joints. Avoid multiple pin plugs. When electricity flows heat is produced. Overloading can cause a rapid build up of heat and cause short circuits, that in turn can trigger a fire. The fire can then spread through the plastic insulation and where it passes over windows or doors the falling embers can set curtains, and subsequently doors and windows afire.
Never plug in more than one appliance into one plug. Use only three pin plugs and plug them in to three pin sockets. The third pin is actually the earth pin with an earth core connected to the metal casing. Good earthing should obviate shocks, so if even if you have a slight suspicion of shocks, check the entire earthing circuit.
Never keep wires under mats or carpets or doorways where they can get
crushed and loose their insulation.
Always switch off electrical appliances after use and then remove the plug from the socket. Electrical appliances become potential ignition sources when left energized for a long time.
Irons left on to perform a future task and forgotten is one of the major causes behind many fatal accidents.
When leaving on a long vacation or overnight trip, switch off the mains.
Long term measures
Electrical heating appliances like ovens, geysers, heaters and irons need special precautions, because the heavy flow of current can cause the insulation to deteriorate. And never store clothes or old newspapers near them.
Always use the correct gauge and quality of fuse wire for replacement. A fuse not only protects the wiring but also the appliance by blowing itself out if there is a short circuit. However, if the fault is appliance-induced, this must first be corrected before replacing the fuse. Never use a fuse of higher capacity, as it will not serve the purpose for with it is meant. A miniature circuit breaker is the best bet and for wiring. Leading manufacturers like finolex have introduced flame proof / fire retardant wiring. It is now compulsory in commercial buildings but not in homes as yet.
Don’t go up in smoke
The tip of a burning cigarette is as hot as 400 degree C. any combustible material coming in contact with it ignites easily. This type of fire is totally avoidable if you follow some safe smoking practices.
Avoid smoking indoors. If this rule is not followed, provide sufficient ashtrays in the house. Fill the tray with a little water or sand – this will be sufficient to extinguish the cigarette. Never throw paper or trash in the ashtray. Trashcans should never be a substitute for ashtrays, as they may contain oily rags and paper. Never leave a burning cigarette in an ashtray if you are leaving the room even for a minute. It takes only that much time for a cigarette dropped on a pillow or mattresses for the whole bedroom to go up in flames.
In high-rise buildings
The consequences will be massive in case of a fire in crowded places like commercial complexes, residential buildings, cinema theatres, airports and railway stations. In these places, the staircase, which becomes the only safe exit, can be the location of a stampede.
The National Building Code of India stipulates the width and number of staircases that a public building should have. For example, a 1000 capacity hall should have staircases of a minimum width not less than 6 feet. Brought by the ISI in 1980, it serves as an excellent reference book for layout planners, designers, architects and construction companies. There should be sufficient space around the building to prevent spread of fire from or to the next building. There should be space for entry and operation of the fire tender. Vertical spread of fire is stupendous given the chimney effect. Radiated heat from below can ignite curtains and furniture in upper floors.
Since most high-rise buildings have high occupancy, evacuation should be orderly and planned. Have a practice fire drill to familiarize every one. Invalids, elderly and senior citizens along with children should get precedence. Electrically operated passenger lifts and elevators behave erratically during fires; quite often they get stuck at the floor where the fire is raging. Since there is a restriction on the height of the fire ladder available with fire brigades, the fire has to be fought from within.
All electrical wiring must be encased in metal conduits. A master control switch for each floor can be located at the ground floor for emergency switch-off. Cable passages from one floor to another or one wing to another must be closed and sealed with a non-flammable compound or material. Since fires spread through AC ducts, individual air conditioning for each occupancy or floor is preferable. Use automatic fire dampers for each floor if a central system is in use.
Right from the commencement of design and construction, architects and builders can contribute substantially to fire loss prevention by minimizing the use of combustible material. Plenty of good quality fire retardant material for decorating, furnishing, partitioning and false ceiling is now domestically being produced.
In developed countries, every kitchen and every automobile has a small portable fire extinguisher. While insurance may give monetary compensation, the loss never be substituted. So it is time Indians become safety conscious and keep a handing Carbon-dioxide cylinder in the kitchen and another in the car on inside panel near the feet. Remember, fires start as small ones but soon fan out and spread consuming everything in its path. In a car, the paint and petrol burn fiercely, destroying the entire vehicle in minutes.
- When fire strikes, there will be little time to think. So have a contingency plan and train yourself to handle an emergency.
- If paper or clothes catch fire (wood also) pour water on them. Never pour water on electrical or oil or chemical fires.
- If cooking oil, grease, ghee or butter catches fire, do not use water - it will cause can explosion and spread the fire faster. If a pan is on fire, put off the stove and put a lid on the pan.
- In case of electrical fire, switch off the mains and use sand or a CO2 fire extinguisher. Dry powder type fire extinguishers too are approved for electrical fires.
- When the clothes are on fire, pour water if available, otherwise drop to the ground and roll. Do not run as it will fan the flames. In case of other people, wrap a blanket or thick towel to starve the flame of essential oxygen.
- In case of a big fire, advise everyone to leave the house. Do not stay back to collect important belongings. Do not use lifts when a fire is raging- as the lift shaft may fuel the fire like an air passage.
- If trapped in a smoke filled room, get down on all fours and crawl out. Smoke free zones exist normally 12 to 24 inches above the ground level. Cover your nose and mouth with a wet cloth if possible. Even clear air could contain carbon monoxide.
- In case of minor burns, pour water till pain subsides. Never use grease or milk or any country remedies. Do not apply ointment before consulting a doctor.
- Have the telephone number of ire and emergency services pasted on your
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