In the blink of an eye, a fire can start. An unattended stove, an electrical socket overloaded with cords or a forgotten cigarette can result in smoke and flames that can quickly grow out of control. Before this happens, though, it may be possible to put out a fire with water, a fire extinguisher or another item, preventing a disaster. However, don't hesitate to call 911 for assistance if a fire is too much to tackle.
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Water is often the first thing people think of when trying to put out a fire and is often a good choice. According to the Fire Science Schools website, water extinguishes flames by "diminishing the heat of fire, as well as creating vapour that clouds the fire and keeps it from spreading." However, water can only be used to fight fires from "ordinary combustibles," like paper, plastic, wood and cloth. Throwing water on a grease fire will cause the liquid to splash and spread, worsening the situation and increasing the danger. Trying to put out an electrical fire with water can result in sparks and even electrocution, meaning other substances must be used in such situations.
A fire extinguisher is a basic piece of safety equipment that should be placed in every office and home, and all occupants should be trained in its proper use. Fire extinguishers are labelled with the letters A, B and C, or some combination thereof, depending on what kind of fire they can put out, according to This Old House. Those bearing an A can handle ordinary combustibles; B is for flammable liquids and C for electrical fires. For maximum coverage and safety, choose one able to extinguish all three types of fires and place an extinguisher on every floor in a visible, easy-to-access place. Make sure the extinguisher is not so large that it can't be easily manoeuvred and ensure that children realise it is not a toy.
A fire blanket works by smothering flames and robbing them of needed oxygen. Blankets can be wrapped around a person who has caught fire and used in conjunction with the stop-drop-and-roll method. They are also good for coping with a kitchen or electrical fire. The Firehand.com website recommends blankets for use in putting out fires on expensive equipment like computers; while water would completely ruin the machine, the blanket might leave some parts of it in a salvageable state.
Call the Pros
Even a small fire can quickly grow out of control, posing a threat to life and property. While some flames can be safely doused with a splash of water or a squirt from a fire extinguisher, others require the help of trained firefighters. If the fire is growing, do not try to tackle it alone. Instead, gather friends, family and coworkers, vacate the premises and call 911 for further assistance.
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