In our daily lives, we often overlook the importance of fire safety until faced with a real-life emergency. The fact is, fires can happen anytime, anywhere, often with little warning. While we hope you never have to face such a situation, it’s always wise to be prepared. One of the most effective and accessible tools for combating smaller fires is a fire blanket.
This comprehensive guide will answer these questions and more. It will introduce you to the science behind fire blankets, the different types available, and the various situations where they can be a game-changer. We’ll also provide a step-by-step guide on how to use a fire blanket correctly and advice on choosing the right one for your needs.
What are fire blankets?
A fire blanket is a safety device designed to extinguish small fires. They are typically made of a flame-resistant material such as fiberglass or aramid fibers and are often used in kitchens and other areas where small fires can break out.
Fire blankets work by smothering a fire, cutting off its oxygen supply. Oxygen is one of the three elements that a fire needs to burn, the other two being heat and fuel. so by depriving the fire of oxygen, the fire blanket helps to extinguish the flames.
Fire blankets are typically packaged in a quick-release format for easy deployment. They are stored in a small, compact container, and when needed, you simply pull the tabs to release the blanket.
What are fire blankets used for?
Fire blankets are used for a variety of purposes related to fire safety, such as:
1. Extinguishing Small Fires: A fire blanket can be used to smother small fires before they become unmanageable. This is particularly useful for kitchen fires, such as grease or oil fires, which can get out of control quickly and are unsafe to put out with water.
2. Protection During Fire Escapes: If a person needs to move through a fire or flames to escape, a fire blanket can provide a protective shield. The individual wraps the blanket around themselves to help shield their body from the heat and flames.
3. Putting Out Clothing Fires: If a person’s clothes catch fire, a fire blanket can be used to extinguish the flames. The person should stop, drop, and roll, and the blanket can then be used to smother and extinguish any remaining flames.
4. In Emergency First Aid: In some cases, a fire blanket can also be used to treat burns by covering the burned area, which can help keep it clean and protect it from further damage. However, this is a secondary use, and the blanket should not be used as a substitute for proper medical treatment.
5. In Professional Settings: Fire blankets are also used in professional settings, such as laboratories or industrial workplaces, where there’s a risk of small fires.
What are fire blankets made of?
Fire blankets are made from fire-resistant materials designed to withstand high temperatures. Each type of fire blanket has its own strengths and specific applications. Here are some of the most common materials used in their construction:
1. Fiberglass: This is the most common material used to make fire blankets. Fiberglass is a material made from extremely fine fibers of glass. It is not combustible and is able to withstand temperatures up to 1000 degrees Celsius (1832 degrees Fahrenheit).
2. Wool: Some fire blankets are made of wool that’s been treated with a fire-resistant chemical. Wool is a natural material that’s inherently fire-resistant to some degree, and the additional chemical treatment enhances this resistance.
3. Aramid Fibers: These synthetic fibers are used in some high-performance fire blankets. They’re extremely heat-resistant and do not catch fire or melt, making them ideal for this purpose. Examples of aramid fibers include Kevlar and Nomex.
4. Asbestos: In the past, some fire blankets were made from asbestos due to its excellent fire-resistant properties. However, asbestos is a harmful substance and is no longer used due to the health risks associated with it.
What are the benefits of fire blankets?
Fire blankets offer several benefits as part of a comprehensive fire safety plan. Here are a few:
1. Easy to Use: Fire blankets are designed to be simple to use, even for those with little or no training. In many cases, it’s as simple as pulling the blanket out of its container and placing it over the fire.
2. Effective on Small Fires: For small fires, especially grease or oil fires in a kitchen, a fire blanket can be highly effective. It works by smothering the fire and cutting off its oxygen supply.
3. Safe for Electrical Fires: Unlike water or some types of fire extinguishers, fire blankets can safely be used on electrical fires without the risk of electrocution.
4. Minimizes Damage: Fire blankets smother fires, which can result in less damage compared to using a fire extinguisher, which can spread chemicals and residue around the area.
5. Reusable: Many fire blankets are reusable after a small fire, as long as they haven’t been damaged. However, if a blanket has been exposed to a large fire, it should be replaced.
6. Portable and Compact: Fire blankets come in compact containers that can be conveniently stored in a variety of locations, such as in a kitchen cabinet, a car, or a workplace.
7. Personal Protection: In addition to putting out fires, fire blankets can also provide an effective shield against heat and flames if an individual needs to escape a burning building.
How does a fire blanket work?
A fire blanket works by smothering a fire, effectively cutting off its supply of oxygen. Fire needs three things to thrive: fuel, heat, and oxygen. This is often referred to as the fire triangle. A fire blanket helps to remove one of these elements – oxygen.
When a fire blanket is placed over a fire, it creates a barrier between the fire and the oxygen in the surrounding air. Without enough oxygen, the fire can’t continue to burn and will eventually go out. This is why it’s important to completely cover the fire with the blanket and not leave any gaps where air can get in.
Fire blankets are typically made of materials like fiberglass or wool that are woven in such a way that they don’t easily catch fire and can withstand high temperatures. This allows them to remain intact and effective even when directly exposed to flames.
Different types of fire blankets
Fire blankets come in different types, primarily based on the materials used, the size of the blanket, and the specific application they are designed for. Here are some of the most common types:
1. Fiberglass Fire Blankets: Made from woven glass fibers, these blankets are the most common type. They are highly resistant to heat and are effective in smothering small fires quickly.
2. Wool Fire Blankets: These are made from fire-retardant-treated wool. They are heavier than fiberglass blankets but can provide more insulation against heat. They are often used in outdoor settings like camping or in vehicles.
3. Aramid Fire Blankets: Made from synthetic aramid fibers (like Kevlar or Nomex), these blankets are extremely heat resistant and durable. They are often used in professional settings such as laboratories or industrial areas.
4. Kitchen Fire Blankets: These are a specific type of fire blanket designed for kitchen use. They are typically smaller in size and suitable for smothering small grease or cooking fires.
5. Large Industrial Fire Blankets: These are larger blankets designed for industrial settings where larger fires may occur. They are often made with heavy-duty materials to withstand intense heat.
6. Welding Fire Blankets: Specifically designed for use in welding operations, these blankets can protect surrounding areas from sparks, spatter, and slag that could potentially start a fire.
7. Emergency Survival Fire Blankets: These are designed not only to smother fires but also to serve as a heat shield for individuals evacuating a fire, or as a heat-retention tool in survival situations.
How to use a fire blanket?
Using a fire blanket properly can help smother small fires before they get out of control. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use one:
1. Release the Fire Blanket: Fire blankets are typically stored in a quick-release pouch. Pull the two tabs at the bottom to release the blanket.
2. Hold the Blanket Correctly: Hold the fire blanket using the tabs or corners, ensuring that your hands are protected behind the blanket. The blanket should be held in front of you as a shield between you and the fire.
3. Cover the Fire: Approach the fire cautiously, then cover it completely with the fire blanket. Make sure the entire fire is covered to cut off its oxygen supply effectively. Avoid throwing the blanket from a distance as you might miss the fire.
4. Turn Off the Heat Source: If it’s safe to do so, and if applicable, turn off the heat source. For instance, if a pot on the stove is on fire, switch off the stove.
5. Leave the Blanket in Place: Once the fire is covered, leave the blanket in place for a while to ensure the fire is completely out. Do not attempt to move the blanket or check the fire too soon, as it may reignite.
6. Call the Fire Department: Even if you believe the fire is out, it’s a good idea to call your local fire department to ensure there’s no hidden fire or residual heat that could reignite.
Standards and certifications for fire blankets
Fire blankets must comply with certain standards and certifications to ensure they are safe and effective. These standards vary by country or region. Here are a few examples:
1. EN 1869:1997 (European Union): This is the European standard for fire blankets. It specifies the performance requirements for fire blankets intended for use in smothering small fires or a person’s clothing if it has caught fire.
2. BS-EN 1869:2019 (United Kingdom): This British standard is harmonized with the European standard. It specifies the performance and testing requirements for fire blankets intended for use in fighting fires in their early stages.
3. AS/NZS 3504:2006 (Australia/New Zealand): This is the standard for fire blankets in Australia and New Zealand. It specifies requirements for the design, construction, and performance of fire blankets.
4. ASTM F 1989-05 (United States): This is a standard specification for cooking fire suppression blankets. It covers fire blankets intended for use in suppressing cooking fires on stovetops.
5. UL 2151 (United States): This standard by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) covers fire blankets and fire blanket units intended to be used by the general public in a household or domestic setting.
Fire blankets should bear a mark or label indicating their compliance with the relevant standard in your region. This certification ensures the blanket has been tested and meets all necessary safety and performance requirements.
How to choose a fire blanket?
Choosing a fire blanket involves considering several factors, including its intended use, the type of fire risks you’re likely to encounter, its size, and its compliance with safety standards. Here are some guidelines:
1. Intended Use: Think about where and how you plan to use the fire blanket. If it’s for general household use, a standard fire blanket made of fiberglass might be sufficient. If you’re a camper or outdoors enthusiast, a wool fire blanket could be a good choice. For industrial or professional settings, consider a blanket made from high-performance materials like aramid fibers.
2. Type of Fire Risk: Different fire blankets are better suited to different types of fires. For example, if you’re primarily concerned about kitchen fires, choose a fire blanket specifically designed for that purpose.
3. Size: Fire blankets come in various sizes. For general household use, a smaller size might be adequate, but for larger fires or industrial use, a larger blanket may be necessary. Make sure the blanket is large enough to completely cover the potential fire.
4. Safety Standards: Ensure the fire blanket complies with the relevant safety standards in your region. Look for labels or markings indicating the blanket meets standards such as EN 1869:1997 in the European Union, BS-EN 1869:2019 in the United Kingdom, AS/NZS 3504:2006 in Australia/New Zealand, or ASTM F 1989-05 and UL 2151 in the United States.
5. Quality and Brand Reputation: Choose a fire blanket from a reputable brand or supplier to ensure its quality. Read reviews or ask for recommendations if you’re unsure.
Fire safety is an essential aspect of protecting both our lives and our property. Among the various fire-fighting tools available, fire blankets stand out as a simple, accessible, and effective method to smother small fires and prevent them from escalating. Understanding the science behind fire blankets, their types, uses, and how to utilize them properly can make a substantial difference in a firefighting situation.
FAQs about fire blankets
Q: Are fire blankets reusable?
A: Most fire blankets are designed for one-time use, especially if they’ve been used to extinguish a significant fire. The heat from the fire can weaken the blanket’s materials and compromise its effectiveness, making it unsafe for future use.
However, if a fire blanket has been used on a very small fire and appears undamaged after use (no visible signs of charring, melting, or holes), some people might choose to reuse it.
Q: Is a fire blanket fire proof?
A: Fire blankets are not completely “fireproof” in the sense that they can withstand unlimited exposure to fire without any damage. Rather, they are “fire-resistant,” meaning they can resist burning to a certain degree and slow the spread of fire.
Q: Are fire blankets a legal requirement?
A: The legal requirement for fire blankets varies depending on the jurisdiction and the type of building or facility. In many places, fire blankets are not legally required in homes, but they are highly recommended, especially in the kitchen where a significant number of fires start.
Q: Where to buy fire blankets?
A: Fire blankets can be purchased from a variety of sources. Here are a few places where you can find them:
- Online Retailers: Websites like Amazon, eBay, and Walmart often carry a range of fire safety equipment, including fire blankets.
- Home Improvement Stores: Stores such as Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menards typically carry fire safety equipment in their physical locations and online.
- Specialty Safety Stores: There are stores and online retailers that specialize in safety equipment, including fire safety. Examples include Grainger, ULINE, and Safety Supply America.
- Local Fire Protection Services: Many local fire protection services sell fire safety equipment to the public, or they can direct you to a reputable provider.