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 Frequently Asked Questions


How does fire fire start?
How to prevent fires?
When not to fight a fire?
How to identify the proper fire extinguisher?
How to use a portable fire extinguisher?
How to extinguish small fires?
How to inspect your fire extinguishers?
How to create an emergency action plan?
How to evacuate a burning building?
What to do if trapped in a burning building?
What to do if someone catches on fire?

 How does fire start

Fire is a chemical reaction involving rapid oxidation or burning of a fuel. It needs three elements to occur:

FUEL - Fuel can be any combustible material - solid, liquid or gas. Most solids and liquids become a vapor or gas before they will burn.

OXYGEN - The air we breathe is about 21 percent oxygen. fire only needs an atmosphere with at least 16 percent oxygen.

HEAT - Heat is the energy necessary to increase the temperature of the fuel to a point where sufficient vapors are given off for ignition to occur.

Chemical Reaction - A chain reaction can occur when the three elements of fire are present in the proper conditions and proportions. Fire occurs when this rapid oxidation, or burning takes place. Take any one of these factors away, and the fire cannot occur or will be extinguished if it was already burning.

 How to prevent Fires

Class A: Ordinary combustibles:

Keep storage and working areas free of trash Place oily rags in covered containers.

Class B: Flammable liquids or gases:

Don't refuel gasoline-powered equipment in a confined space, especially in the presence of an open flame such as a furnace or water heater.

Don't refuel gasoline-powered equipment while it's hot.

Keep flammable liquids stored in tightly closed, self-closing, spill-proof containers. Pour from storage drums only what you'll need.

Store flammable liquids away from spark-producing sources.

Use flammable liquids only in well-ventilated areas.

Class C: Electrical equipment:

Look for old wiring, worn insulation and broken electrical fittings. Report any hazardous condition to your supervisor.

Prevent motors from overheating by keeping them clean and in good working order. A spark from a rough-running motor can ignite the oil and dust in it.

Utility lights should always have some type of wire guard over them. Heat from an uncovered light bulb can easily ignite ordinary combustibles.

Don't misuse fuses. Never install a fuse rated higher than specified for the circuit.

Investigate any appliance or electrical equipment that smells strange. Unusual odors can be the first sign of fire.

Don't overload wall outlets. Two outlets should have no more than two plugs.

Class D: Flammable metals:

Flammable metals such as magnesium and titanium generally take a very hot heat source to ignite; however, once ignited are difficult to extinguish as the buring reaction produces sufficient oxygen to support combusion, even under water.

In some cases, covering the burning metal with sand can help contain the heat and sparks from the reaction. Class D exinguishing agents are available (generally as a dry powder in a bucket or box) which can be quite effective, but these agents are rare on the campus.

If you are planning a research project using a large amount of flammable metals you should consider purchasing a five or ten pound container of Class-D extinguishing agent as a precaution.

Pure metals such as potassium and sodium react violently (even explosively) with water and some other chemicals, and must be handled with care. Generally these metals are stored in sealed containers in a non-reactive liquid to prevent decay (surface oxidation) from contact with moisture in the air.

White phosphorus is air-reactive and will burn/explode on contact with room air. It must be kept in a sealed container with a non-reactive solution to prevent contact with air.

All of these metals are not uncommon in labs on the OU campus, but are generally only found in small quantities and accidental fires/reactions can be controlled or avoided completely through knowledge of the properties of the metals and using good judgement and common sense.

 When not to fight a Fire, Never fight a fire

If the fire is spreading beyond the spot where it started

If you can't fight the fire with your back to an escape exit

If the fire can block your only escape

If you don't have adequate fire-fighting equipment

In any of these situations,


 How to extinguish small Fires

Class A - Extinguish ordinary combustibles by cooling the material below its ignition temperature and soaking the fibers to prevent re-ignition. Use pressurized water, foam or multi-purpose (ABC-rated) dry chemical extinguishers. DO NOT USE carbon dioxide or ordinary (BC-rated) dry chemical extinguishers on Class A fires.

Class B - Extinguish flammable liquids, greases or gases by removing the oxygen, preventing the vapors from reaching the ignition source or inhibiting the chemical chain reaction. Foam, carbon dioxide, ordinary (BC-rated) dry chemical, multi-purpose dry chemical, and halon extinguishers may be used to fight Class B fires.

Class C - Extinguish energized electrical equipment by using an extinguishing agent that is not capable of conducting electrical currents. Carbon dioxide, ordinary (BC-rated) dry chemical, multi-purpose dry chemical and halon* fire extinguishers may be used to fight Class C fires. DO NOT USE water extinguishers on energized electrical equipment. * Even though halon is widely used, phasing it out of use in favor of agents less harmful to the environment is advisable.

Class D - Extinguish combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium, potassium and sodium with dry powder extinguishing agents specially designated for the material involved. In most cases, they absorb the heat from the material, cooling it below its ignition temperature.

NOTE: Multipurpose (ABC-rated) chemical extinguishers leave a residue that can harm sensitive equipment, such as computers and other electronic equipment. Because of this, carbon dioxide or halon extinguishers are preferred in these instances because they leave very little residue. ABC dry powder residue is mildly corrosive to many metals. For example, residue left over from the use of an ABC dry powder extinguisher in the same room with a piano can seriously corrode piano wires. Carbon dioxide or halon extinguishers are provided for most labs and computer areas on campus.

 How to identify the proper Fire Extinguisher

All ratings are shows on the extinguisher faceplate. Some extinguishers are marked with multiple ratings such as AB, BC and ABC. These extinguishers are capable of putting out more than one class of fire.

Class A and B extinguishers carry a numerical rating that indicates how large a fire an experienced person can safely put out with that extinguisher.

Class C extinguishers have only a letter rating to indicate that the extinguishing agent will not conduct electrical current. Class C extinguishers must also carry a Class A or B rating.

Class D extinguishers carry only a letter rating indicating their effectiveness on certain amounts of specific metals.

 How to use a portable Fire Extinguisher

P- Pull the Pin.

A- Aim the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the flames.

S- Squeeze trigger while holding the extinguisher upright.

S- Sweep the extinguisher from side to side, covering the area of the fire with the extinguishing agent.


- Should your path of escape be threatened

- Should the extinguisher run out of agent

- Should the extinguisher prove to be ineffective

- Should you no longer be able to safely fight the fire ...


 How to inspect your Fire Extinguishers

Know the locations of the fire extinguishers in your work area.

Make sure the class of the extinguisher is safe to use on fires likely to occur in the immediate area.

Check the plastic seal holding the pin in the extinguisher handle. Has the extinguisher been tampered with or used before? Report any broken/missing seals/pins to the Fire Unit of Marshal.

Look at the gauge and feel the weight. Is the extinguisher full? Does it need to be recharged?

A written, up-to-date Emergency Action Plan for your dorm/workplace is essential in case of emergency. Make sure you read and understand your department's/dorm's Emergency Action Plan.

Contact us for such inspection or call Marshal- Fire Cell customer support at 25493312 or 25493313

 How to use an Emergency Action Plan

A written, up-to-date Emergency Action Plan for your workplace is essential in case of emergency. Make sure you read and understand your department's/dorm's Emergency Action Plan. The plan should contain information about evacuation from the facility, including who is in charge of the evacuation. Primary and secondary escape routes should be outlined for every area of the building. Since stairways are the primary escape route in multiple story buildings (elevators should NEVER be used in fire emergencies), they should not be used for any kind of storage. Emergency Action Leaders should be assigned specific duties, such as verifying that all students/faculty/staff have evacuated. Pre-fire planning must clearly show the locations of the workstations of the disabled workers. Disabled workers and those with known medical problems such as heart disease or epilepsy, should EACH be assigned an Emergency Action Leader to guide them to safety. All workers who might need assistance during a fire should be identified during planning. Fire drills should be scheduled to test the Emergency Action Plan. Let the drill be used to find problems before a fire happens, then make the necessary changes. All university housing has prepared Emergency Action Plans. These are generally posted on the inside of individual dorm/guest room doors. If your department does not have an Emergency Action Plan, contact your department head and get one! If your department needs assistance in creating an Emergency Action Plan, contact the Fire Unit of Marshal at 25493312 or 25493313 for assistance.

 How to evacuate a bruning building

The last one out of the room should not lock the door, just close it. Locking the door hinders the fire department's search and rescue efforts.

Proceed to the exit as outlined in the Emergency Action Plan.

NEVER, NEVER use elevators/lift under any circumstances.

Stay low to avoid smoke and toxic gases. The best air is close to the floor, so crawl if necessary.

If possible, cover your mouth and nose with a damp cloth to help you breathe.

If you work in a building with multiple stories, a stairway will be your primary escape route. Most enclosed stairwells in buildings over two stories are "rated" enclosures and will provide you a safe means of exit; don't panic descend stairs slowly and carefully.

Once in the stairwell, proceed down to the first floor. Never go up.

Once outside the building, report to a predetermined area so that a head count can be taken.

 What to do if trapped in a building

If you're trying to escape a fire, never open a closed door without feeling it first. Use the back of your hand to prevent burning your palm. If the door is hot, try another exit. If none exists, seal the cracks around the doors and vents with anything available.

If in a dorm room, use wet towels to seal the space under the door and prevent the entry of smoke. Cracks around the door can be sealed with masking tape if necessary.

If trapped, look for a nearby phone and call the fire department, giving them your exact location.

If breathing is difficult, try to ventilate the room, but don't wait for an emergency to discover that window can't be opened.

If on an upper floor and your window is of a type that CANNOT be opened, DON'T break it out- you'll be raining glass down on rescuers and people exiting the building. If you can't contact the fire department by phone, wave for attention at the window. Don't panic.

 What to do if someone catches on Fire

If you should catch on fire:

STOP - where you are

DROP - to the floor

ROLL - around on the floor

This will smother the flames, possibly saving your life.

Just remember to STOP, DROP and ROLL.

If a co-worker catches on fire, smother flames by grabbing a blanket or rug and wrapping them up in it. That could save them from serious burns or even death.



These are your keys to preventing and surviving fires wherever they occur. For more information contact: Help Desk. Brought to you by Bibin Mathews-General Manager (Marshal Security Services), in the interest of the public. Any comments or suggestions may please be forwarded to Webmaster.

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