Know Your ABCs of Fire Prevention
Are you properly prepared for fires when your response time could save lives? By Gemma Smith, State firefighter & Fire Marshals Association of Texas-Incident safety officer certification, Texas Commission on Fire Protection- Instructor I certification
Being compliant is always a great way to run a practice, but does compliance ensure your team is knowledgeable and correct measures are in place? Due to OSHA, most practices can confidently say they have a fire safety plan that includes exit routes and fire extinguisher locations. Consider fire extinguishers in your practice; do you have the correct extinguishers? Do you have them in the appropriate places? How prepared and how knowledgeable is your practice?
Fires can happen anywhere, anytime. It is how we prepare for these moments that keep us and others safe. A basic and most commonly found extinguisher in the home, as well as in public buildings, is the ABC extinguisher. They vary in size and are suitable for small fires with minimal risks. This extinguisher contains a dry base chemical called monoammonium phosphate, which is a multi-purpose powder with the ability to quickly put out many different fires by smothering the flames and surface.
There are many classes of fires, the most common class of fire in veterinary practices are Class A or a fire that involves free burning materials such as paper, wood, fabrics, and that may also include plastics. Another possible class of fire to impact a veterinary practice is Class C, and this class is specific to electrical equipment, breakers, break area appliances, and computers. Not to mention more substantial power-consuming equipment such as autoclaves, x-ray generators, laboratory machines, and other equipment that is located throughout the practice.
Additional extinguishers can be location-specific. For example, the reception area may include a shared workstation for patient data entry. Ideally, this area would have an accessible Class C extinguisher due to the presence of energized electrical sources as we tend to need power for many day to day items. Electrical components in the area may include phone chargers, personal fans, outlet strips, surge protectors. Pulling electricity at all times or remaining energized 24/7 can produce a spark or heat, and based on improper ventilation, open or in closed storage can lead to electrical fires.
Class C fires (CO2) extinguishers smother the fire by eliminating oxygen, reducing heat by the discharge, and the fire dies when it is no longer fueled. Safety checks of high-risk areas will help reduce accidental fires. Pay attention to warm to touch outlets, frequent breaker interruption, exposed wires, overloaded sockets. Fires can still happen even in the best maintained areas, but your knowledge and skillset to handle these emergencies are key.