‘Fire Blankets: What Are They and How Do They Work?’
Fire safety is incredibly important to all environments – whether commercial or domestic – and it is something you should be committed to undertaking and maintaining to provide optimum levels of safety for everyone who lives in, works within or visits your property.
Ensuring that your building is as protected as possible from the threat of fire involves controlling all the risks and hazards within it, and this includes installing a range of fire safety equipment. For most people, this means fitting and regularly testing fire alarms and fire extinguishers – and rightly so – but a fire blanket can also be an essential part of your protective methods. And, although often overlooked, it can be a very useful component to any fire safety kit!
What is a fire blanket?
A fire blanket is a safety device specifically designed to tackle, and extinguish, small incipient fires quickly and efficiently. Constructed with highly flame-resistant and fire-retardant material, they have multiple uses and can be placed directly on to the fire itself, or around a person whose clothes have caught fire.
Fire blankets are made from different materials depending on their use and who manufactured them. However, woven fibreglass blankets are the most common type and are mainly used within domestic households and small commercial kitchens. They are made from two layers of fibreglass fabric and have an inner layer of fire retardant film, both of which work in conjunction with one another to smother the fire, and are folded into a quick-release contraption for easy storage.
Larger fire blankets, for use in laboratories and industrial environments, are usually made of a wool that is treated with a flame retardant liquid and they are usually mounted in vertical containers so that they can be quickly and easily pulled out.
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How does it work?
In order to comprehend exactly how a fire blanket works, it is crucial to have an understanding of the science behind fire, being aware of how a fire starts and how it continues to sustain its intensity.
Fire is essentially a chemical reaction between oxygen (the air), fuel (something that will burn) and energy (in the form of heat), and fire safety experts refer to these three components as ‘the triangle’. As long as all three aspects are present a fire can burn indefinitely. However, as soon as you take one away, the fire will go out. Therefore, in order to extinguish a fire, you must break the triangle.
This is exactly what a fire blanket does; it smothers the fire by covering its surface area and, as a result, seals off the fire’s oxygen supply. Cutting out this part of the triangle prevents the fire from spreading and growing, and eventually completely puts it out.
What types of fires can it extinguish?
Most fire blankets can be used to extinguish all fairly small, contained fires. For example, they are an ideal method of combat for chip pan fires, grease fires, stove fires and fires in small bins.
They can also be used as a protective wrap for someone involved in a fire that has got out of control, protecting them from catching fire as they evacuate the building. Additionally, it can be used to smother flames on a person who has caught fire; simply wrap the victim in the blanket and roll them on the ground.
Where should a fire blanket be located?
Most fire specialists recommend storing your fire blanket in the kitchen, as this is where most small fires begin, and suggest keeping them fixed on to the wall so that they are easily and efficiently accessible.
For maximum safety levels, you could also keep a fire blanket near any potential flame source. For example, a wooden stove, fireplace or outside grill could greatly benefit from having a fire blanket nearby in case of an errant spark, ember or sudden flame.
How do you use a fire blanket?
All fire blankets come with a comprehensive set of clear and direct instructions and you should make sure that you have read them thoroughly, and understood them, before fitting the blanket in your property. Different manufacturers have different packaging processes to release the blankets, but the most common is to pull two tabs at the bottom. Once the blanket has been released you should hold it by the fabric straps and thrown it over the fire quickly, but carefully, making sure you cover the whole area.
Once the blanket has smothered the fire and effectively put it out, do not touch the blanket or anything underneath it until at least an hour has passed.
Please note: if the fire is larger than the blanket, do not attempt to put it out. Instead, evacuate the building as safely as possible and call the fire brigade immediately.