Fire Hazards – Examples and Prevention Tips

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A fire hazard is a type of workplace condition that deals with the presence of a flame. This increases the possibility that an uncontrolled fire will occur or further increase the severity of a fire in case one does happen. When it comes to enumerating the number of fire hazards around us, the list is pretty much endless. Fire hazards are an extensive category – It can include pretty much everything that impedes the function of fire protection equipment or material. The same can be applied to all things that inhibit fire safety behavior.

An excellent example of this would be a type of obstruction which prevents people from safely evacuating a burning home or building. Malfunctioning sprinkler systems or smoke alarms are also considered fire hazards. These are considered as such because the level of risks found inside a facility do factor in the high chance that a fire will occur and the severity of the damage done caused by fire if it does happen. 

The general public’s main understanding of fire hazards has changed over time. Unfortunately, societies across the globe have gradually become less and less tolerant when implementing fire safety rules in their homes or places of work. And as such, more and more conditions are now declared unsafe. When you take this into account, the term ‘fire hazard’ can be understood as basically anything that further increases the possibility of a fire occurring, or can intensify its spread, or the harm that a fire could cause if it occurs. 

Some simple, ordinary items can also count as fire hazards but are utterly safe in one context. For instance, in an occupational environment that requires using flame or heat, wearing non-fire-resistant clothes can be dangerous. A minor amount of flammable materials is generally accepted in everyday environments, but this can be very hazardous and unacceptable if you place it inside an environment that contains an ignition source. 

Due to the number of hazards and risks centered around a particular item and the environment where it’s placed, a fire hazard is usually analyzed from a “whole-building” and “whole workplace” perspective. These assessments are typically required by authorities and are known as Fire Risk Assessments (FRA) or Fire Hazard Analyses (FHA).

Which Fire Safety Equipment Should I Keep in My Home?

Regarding home safety, you must always be prepared and have the proper fire safety equipment ready. One of the biggest parts of readying yourself for a fire emergency is installing the appropriate safety equipment at home or work. Doing this gives you and your family a sense of peace. Learn more about these types of equipment, and find out why they are essential in keeping your home safe and secured. After you have at least two of these devices installed and purchased the proper protection equipment, you can look up or create your checklist so you can practice both fire and carbon monoxide safety with your family. 

  • Carbon monoxide alarms – Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. This gas is produced each time you burn fuel by lighting up a fireplace, switching on a gas range, using a furnace, and lighting a grill, among others. It’s dangerous when you have too much carbon monoxide at home, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Inhaling too much carbon monoxide is dangerous and potentially fatal, so it’s always essential to include many carbon monoxide alarms. These alarms will start beeping when your home already has elevated levels of carbon monoxide. The alarms must be installed on all floors of your home, notably outside each sleeping area and inside the bedroom. This ensures complete protection.
  • Fire extinguishers – These are usually found in buildings, schools, and offices but if you can, buy one for your home as well. Fire extinguishers play an essential role in fire safety protection. If a fire breaks out in your home and you catch it during its initial stages, you can use a fire extinguisher to put it out. A fire extinguisher must only be used on small fires. And if you own a fire extinguisher, you have to be knowledgeable in learning how to operate one, as well. There are also proper types of fire extinguishers, and each of them specializes in a different kind of fire. Keep a fire extinguisher in every level of your home, as well as in the garage or kitchen. 
  • Smoke detectors – A smoke alarm is essential in spotting small fires so that it can give you and your loved ones an early warning. Placing the proper amount of smoke detectors at home will significantly affect your and your family’s safety. Always check your smoke alarms by testing them every month. Just like carbon monoxide alarms, make sure you have a smoke alarm installed on every level of your home, outside sleeping areas, and in all bedrooms. Change the batteries every six months to ensure that it is always working correctly. 
  • Fire escape ladders – A fire escape ladder is necessary, as this helps you evacuate your home in case there’s a fire, and the main escape route has been blocked. This is especially perfect for evacuating safely from a building with two stories or higher. Fire ladders should also be collapsible, so they’re easy to store. Keep escape ladders in every bedroom on the upper level of your house so that you can access them easily in case of a fire.

What Are Some of the Most Common Fire Hazards?

Some of the most common fire hazards at work or school are in plenty of areas and the stuff in those places. But these aren’t usually associated with a special kind of occupancy. This includes electrical appliances, trash, smoking, heating, and storage.

But a smoke-free workplace can have good returns. That’s because it makes smoking less of a possible problem, therefore significantly reducing fire risk. Certain fire hazards are connected to a specific activity or process in a particular occupancy. This includes welding, combustible dust, chemicals, spray painting, and flammable liquids. 

Electrical failures are one of the biggest causes of fires. Pretty much every house or building has its electrical service. When you look at a standard toaster, you can easily see that this simple appliance uses plenty of energy – Enough to cause a fire. But if your toaster has been correctly installed, designed, and maintained, and your home or office’s electrical systems are safe and convenient, then they can be responsible for both the fire and the injuries that come with it. Whenever an electrical circuit carrying current has been interrupted, it starts to produce heat, whether intentional or not. Several fire protection standards are meant to stop heating and arcing, along with accidental contact, which causes an electric shock. 

An electrical fire can be divided into three categories. The first one comprises fires that come from “tired” or worn-out electrical equipment. This is, in fact, the most significant cause of electric fires. A good example is dirty electrical motors or deteriorated insulation. 

The next one would be the incorrect or improper usage of approved electrical equipment. Some of the most commonly misused electrical equipment are overloaded extension cords, electric motors, and incorrect heating appliances. 

The final cause of electrical fires is an operator error or an accidental occurrence. Examples would be clothes being left in contact with flammable lamps and heating equipment left running, a defective installation, or an item dropped into electrical equipment.

How Long Does It Take for An Electrical Fire to Start?

Electrical fires themselves can be very scary. For one, they start igniting pretty quickly (Like most common fires do), and there are so many culprits around the office space that can potentially be the catalyst for one. Sometimes you can’t help but wonder how these electrical fires even start in the first place. Here are a couple of things to know about electrical fires.

An electrical fire is pretty much a blanket term that applies to any fire caused by an electrical problem. Just like how grease fires start with oil, an electrical fire begins with a faulty cable, circuitry, appliance, or wiring. There are usually two reasons why an electrical fire starts: Overheating or a spark. The latter happens whenever electricity lacks a clear path to travel from its source to the final destination. In the case of appliances, this goes from an outlet to an appliance or an electrical device. Sparks work similarly to a lighter. You strike the wheel in a lighter, a spark appears, and the gas lights are on fire. Electricity causes sparks to happen. The source that can ignite could go from paper to wood, to even a tiny piece of dust, your building’s floors or walls – The possibilities are endless. Anything flammable is fair game for sparks. 

In the case of overheating, this happens when an electrical device or wiring gets too hot. And when things become too hot, the wires inside can begin to melt and get exposed. If they continue to get hot enough, a fire can ignite on contact, like red-hot metal touching an innocent sheet of paper. This is the reason why overheating is such a huge issue. One of the biggest causes of electrical fires is faulty or bad wiring. Bad wiring, in turn, comes from undersized wires, loose wiring, frayed cords, and poor insulation. No matter what the case may be, a wire can become way too hot, begin sparking, create an arc, and ignite any flammable material close by. Wires exist to safely bring in electricity from your office walls to an electrical device like a lightbulb or a toaster. The problem usually begins when the wires, outlet, or appliance become defective. Any issue in these three puzzle pieces can result in a fire. Let’s take a look at lightbulbs – In the case of lightbulbs, you’ll encounter a potential fire-starter known as “overlamping.” 

Overlamping refers to a term in which a lightbulb overheats. The average lightbulb contains sockets that contain a particular amount of power that they hold. Meanwhile, the lightbulb only has a certain amount of power that it can take. 

If a lightbulb attempts to take in more electricity than the socket can give it, then the lightbulb will start heating up. This is an excellent example of taking in too much electricity that comes through a small wire, thus resulting in it too much heat. This is known as overlamping, and it can cause an electrical fire. Now that you know some of the reasons why an electrical fire starts, we will now look at how these fires occur.

Your building contains several fire-starters. It’s essential that you take a good look around your workplace and check to see if you can spot some of these potential hazards before it’s too late. 

  • Kitchen: Blenders, toasters, fridge, and other appliances. Lights, lamps, and lighting beneath cabinets.
  • Office space: Air-conditioning units, space heaters, lamps, lights, faulty switches, wires, and outlets. If you have too many items plugged in an extension cord, this can be dangerous. 
  • Attic: Fans, lights, and old wiring. 
  • Basement: Old wiring, light fixtures, lamps, washing machines, old fridges, dehumidifiers. Once again, having too many items plugged in an extension cord can cause a fire.
  • Faulty wirings in walls or outlets.
  • Circuit breakers and electrical panels. Faulty, old wires and electrical panels or circuit breakers also count.

And how exactly do you prevent electrical fires in the first place? There are many areas in your home or workspace that can potentially cause an electrical fire – Where do you even start? Contrary to forest fires, electrical fires aren’t just your sole responsibility alone to prevent. The best way to do this is to contact a trained electrician. These professionals can replace faulty wires, perform electrical inspections, and correct your light fixtures, so you and your family can be completely safe at home. Here are also a couple of fire safety tips for you to follow:

  • Never run wiring beneath the carpets – This will cause the wires to start overheating. 
  • Extension cord usage is just a temporary solution. Please do not use them for long-term applications. 
  • If you happen to own a cord, a switch, a lightbulb, an outlet, or any appliance that feels strangely hot – Don’t hesitate to contact an electrician and ask them for emergency service. Call them up on the phone, and ask how you can switch off the breaker to that area so no fire breaks out while waiting for them to arrive. 
  • Keep your old appliances updated by replacing them. 
  • Always use a heavy-duty extension cord so they won’t be undersized. 
  • Dispose or replace any frayed wires immediately. 
  • Make sure all of the plugs in your appliances are completely plugged in. This means that the metal prongs shouldn’t show up when something is plugged into an outlet. 
  • When purchasing a new lightbulb, check the wattage rating first and compare them to the posted max wattage right next to your lightbulb socket. 

As mentioned, it’s always a good idea to have a working smoke detector or fire alarm inside your building. They can send you an alert and warn you when a fire breaks out in your building.

How to Become a Fire Investigator in Canada?

Becoming a certified fire and explosion investigator takes plenty of special training. As a person, you need to have a strong analytical thirst to investigate and solve issues while combining that with a background in firefighting and engineering. Fire investigators often start their careers from behind a fire engine, then gradually move straight into fire detective work.

The average fire investigator usually begins by paying a visit to one or several piles of ash or smoking rubble. Can taking a closer look at the rubble help you determine where, how, or what caused the fire? What about the design of the building and its interiors? How exactly did those contribute to the growing blaze? Was there foul play? Was it arson? And your day usually ends by testifying at a hearing. This is a part of the city’s charges against a company that ignored safety tips prevention codes and later paid the price. 

However, not all fire investigators follow the same pathway when they venture into the fire investigation field. And with that, not all employers looking for fire investigators are searching for people with the same skill sets. An investigator also holds federal jobs, forming partnerships with agencies. They could also work for state fire and safety departments or a fire department belonging to a specific county or region. Plenty of fire investigators are usually employed by the local government. 

The first step to becoming a fire investigator is to join a fire department. It’s not exactly a secret that plenty of these fire investigators start their careers as a volunteer or paid firefighters or work for a rural or urban fire district. There isn’t any shortcut when it comes to on-the-job experience. Students who apply for a fire investigator training program will discover that those who want to hire fire investigators are looking for experience in fire science training and actual firefighting. And what’s more, plenty of firefighting organizations or fire departments will provide these students with opportunities for career advancement, depending on how much time they have served. 

Some fire departments might even include a fire academy as part of a fire investigator’s training. This will send you to a state or regional school as a way to finish your initial training in fire science. In here, you’ll learn more about alarm systems, what causes a fire, the mechanics of sprinkler and hydraulic water systems, hazardous or flammable materials, the different firefighting tools, along with fire suppression and evacuation from homes or workplaces.

The second step would be to complete a fire investigator training program. This will all depend on your prospective employer. Most of the time, you will be required to finish a two-year investigator training program so that you can qualify for employment or certification at a fire department. These federal agencies will require new investigators to complete a four-year science degree before becoming certified fire investigators. 

There are plenty of qualified private and public fire investigator training schools that provide plenty of programs, all leading to a degree in fire science technology. Some of Canada’s fire investigator training schools include the International Association of Arson Investigators, New Brunswick Fire Investigator Training, Seneca College, and Fanshawe College, all advanced operating schools in fire investigation. 

The formal coursework held in most of these colleges combines fieldwork and classroom work and several research opportunities. The courses will let you study fire physics, do some research on data-keeping software and research tools, build your investigation techniques, study arson behaviour, and learn about evidence gathering and labelling. You’ll also be studying psychology, hazardous materials and what makes them flammable, fire protection techniques, public service ethics, and courtroom protocol. Some colleges offer more comprehensive programs such as forensic documentation methodology, fire service vehicular operations, and emergency medical technician training. 

If you want to become a fire investigator, it’s essential to have a background in law enforcement, civil or mechanical engineering, or forensic investigation. They’re not exactly required, but studying at least one of them can put you at an advantage in rounding out your skill sets. These training programs will allow students to take an internship at a fire department or maintain a present firefighter job, further cementing their education. 

Step three is to build your own set of professional certifications. Don’t feel too intimidated if your first job as a fire investigator comes with a probationary period. This is completely normal and common, especially if you work in a public agency. And as you continue to grow and build experience in your career, you might want to start earning more credentials. Continuously training yourself to become a good fire investigator is a traditional component if you’re going to be designated to a professional environment or earn suitable certifications from fire departments. To become a certified fire and explosion investigator, you need to undergo recertification training every five years to maintain your standing. You must also take an exam in fire and explosion investigation for the same purpose. Certification isn’t exactly limited to a single organization – Feel free to apply to different Canadian fire departments or colleges. 

The last part of becoming a fire investigator is to specialize. A fire investigator usually undergoes specific fire science training to become a bonafide arson investigator. You could decide to work inside a private sector or become a consultant to support building trades with tools and methods in fire prevention, fire suppression, and planning. You may also work in risk analysis in the insurance field.

What to Look for As a Fire Investigator?

While you check on buildings, always be conscious regarding old pieces of electrical equipment and their cords. Any old wires connected to equipment should be replaced, especially when it looks frayed, cracked, or worn. And be sure to check just how each piece of equipment has been wired. 

Always ask whether a piece of equipment has been hard-wired or connected to an electrical source without the aid of a plug. Was it directly plugged into an outlet? Did it contain its special outlet or plug? Does the equipment utilize a special adapter to connect it, such as a multiple plug adapter? Can you use an extension cord to switch on the equipment? Remember that an extension cord is only meant to be used temporarily. And temporary wiring is technically allowed during a construction project, including remodelling a house.

Tips for Preventing Electrical Fires

An electrical fire is widespread in Canadian homes. It is estimated that 20 percent of all fires in Canada are electrical fires. One fire is already too much, but you can prevent it from happening to your home if you follow these tips. 

Plenty of electrical fires, notably the ones at home, begin due to incorrectly installed wiring (And most of the time, this is DIY wiring) or overloaded circuits. There is also the misuse of extension cords. 

Even though assigning a professional electrical contractor seems much safer and more efficient, there are plenty of things you can do at home to stop an electrical fire from happening. 

The first tip is always to have a brand new appliance setup. If you are attempting to set up a new appliance by yourself, without the guidance or help of a professional electrician, be sure to check your connections thoroughly. Read the instruction manual carefully. Several appliances require a particular voltage regulator and shouldn’t be plugged into just any socket. Be sure that you know these specific requirements before testing the appliance out. 

An extension cord is a massive cause of electrical problems. Not only is it the most common source of an electrical fire, but it can easily be prevented as well. To avoid any electric fire coming from extension cords, check to see if the capacity of the cord matches the ones that your appliances are using. The total amount of wattage found in all connected devices must never exceed the capacity of the extension cord. 

While you use an extension cord, be sure to check that it isn’t broken or cracked. If an extension cord is old, it’ll start coming apart, exposing its wires. Too many exposed wires can lead to an electrical fire. If you notice that an electrical cord already begins showing signs of fraying or wearing, it’s time to dispose of it. 

Not every light bulb is compatible with all fixtures. Certain fixtures could require incandescent bulbs, while others use fluorescent bulbs. If you’re still not sure which type of bulb goes into your lighting, then talk to an expert or the manufacturer about it. And to stop an electrical fire from happening, always check to see that the light bulbs you use match their labelled wattage, together with their electrical sockets. 

Power strip cords or surge protectors could be another source of electrical fires. A power strip cord is an extension cord that contains at least six or more outlets inside the device, with a singular main cord that you plug into a wall outlet. Power strip cords can be pretty handy when you require using multiple electronic devices in a common area, such as a living room, a kitchen, or a home office. 

But it’s always important to use caution at all times when it comes to these outlets – Specifically, do not “piggy-back” a power strip into another. This can cause a fire, affect your circuit breakers, or cause electric shock. Safely plug your electric cords inside a spaced-out power strip to stop any possible hazards.