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Fire Safety – Part 1

What type of fire equipment do I need within my properties?

If you are a landlord, freeholder, Right to Manage or rent property you need to consider what type of fire equipment that you need to have in your property. It is always difficult to know but you should really have a fire risk assessment which should lay out to you exactly what is required.

We will list out below some items that might help you:-

Carbon monoxide (commonly known as Co), carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless poisonous gas produced by incomplete burning of carbon based fuels including gas, oil, wood and coal. Carbon based fuels are usually safe to use however when the fuel does not burn properly excess co2 is produced which can be poisonous and it is a killer. When co2 enters the body it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to the cells, tissues and organs.

Unfortunately, you cannot see it, taste it or smell it but co2 can quickly kill without little warning. There are least 50 people a year that die from co2 poisoning. This is caused by gas or solid fuel appliances and flues that have not been installed properly, properly maintained or they are poorly ventilated. Lower co2 levels do not cause immediately and can cause serious harm to health if breathed in over a long period of time. In extreme cases paralysis and brain damage can be caused as a result of prolonged exposure to co2.

 

Do I need to take preventative measures?

It is important that you do take some form of preventative measures such as the following:-

Ensure that any work carried out in relation to gas appliances in your domestic premises is undertaken by a gas safe registered engineer and that the work is competent.

The Health and Safety Executive advises that gas appliances and/or flues are installed and serviced regularly by a gas safety registered engineer. The law is that these need to be carried out with a gas safety certificate and produced every year. Served on the tenants within 30 days and acknowledged by them (see our previous article on this). It is a landlord’s legal duty to carry out an annual gas safety and have the gas appliances maintained.

If you have a wood or coal burning stove fitted make sure that it is fitted HETAS approved installer. Make sure that the chimneys are swept at least twice a year. Always make sure that there is enough fresh air in the room containing your gas oiled solid fuel appliances for your chimney or flue.

Make sure that none of your properties have paraffin heaters and cabinet heaters in your house.

 

Is it worth considering putting a co2 carbon monoxide alarm?

The Health and safety executive recommends and it is a legal requirement for landlords to put in an audible carbon monoxide alarm. They are an important precaution for tenants in the event there is an escape of co2. You should ensure that any co2 alarm complies with British Standards EN50291 and carries a British Approval mark such as a kite mark. They should be installed, checked and serviced in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Please note that tenants can be at risk from co2 poisoning when they are asleep because they may not be aware of the early co2 sensors and it is absolutely vital that these are installed.

 

What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?

There can be various early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. They can often mimic common ailments and can easily be confused with food poisoning, viral inspections, flue or simple tiredness such as:-

  • Headaches
  • Breathlessness
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Collapse
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Tiredness
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Pains in the chest
  • Stomach pains
  • Erratic behaviour
  • Visual problems

 

How would I know if my tenant is at risk from carbon monoxide?

Although carbon monoxide is colourless, odourless and tasteless. There can be signs that indicate incomplete combustion that can be recurring such as yellow or orange flames rather than blue, soot or yellow brown staining around appliances, pilot lights that are frequently blown out and increased condensation inside windows.

 

How do I purchase a co2 alarm?

Most alarms can be purchased from reputable contractors and currently last between 7 and 10 years. Some co2 alarms do not warn when they reach the end of their life. Which means that they might not function or give the impression of protection and it is important that you make a note of these. We would suggest that Kiddle or Fire/Angel co2 alarms have a sensor life for 10 years and a 10 year guarantee. The kiddle sensor alarm also gives a warning when they are at their useful life so it may be worth looking at this.

 

Fire extinguishers

Not all fire extinguishers are the same. They are all different and have different effectiveness depending on the fire. So before buying a fire extinguisher it is important that you look carefully at what type of fire it could be used on.

There are five main types of extinguisher used:-

  1. Water
  2. Foam
  3. Dry powder (ABC rated)
  4. Carbon dioxide (co2) and dry water mist

There also are some smaller wet chemical fire extinguishers but these aren’t normally used for household but for deep fat fryers etc.

 

What are the differences and the strengths and weaknesses of each individual fire extinguisher?

Water fire extinguishers

These are good for tackling fires including burning paper, wood and soft furnishing as the water soaks into the materials and cools them whilst extinguishing the fire. It does not contain any form of harmful chemicals but has very low firefighting rating. They are normally quite large and heavy to overcome so they do have a lack of firefighting power. It is also important to remember that water is an electrolyte and conducts electricity so it is important that you are careful when using these or accidental use on exposed power cables. They are free of harm or substances and water fire extinguishers are especially suitable for households where children’s have access to an extinguisher and it reduces the accidental discharge.

Foam fire extinguishers

These type of extinguishers have a smothering film of foam over the fire which starves it of oxygen and puts it out. The foam penetrates porous materials and cools the fire through evaporation of the water content of the foam. It creates a type of foam carpet on burning liquids like petrol and is suitable for liquids and areas where the main fibres of soft furnishings and carpets might be liquefied under the intense heat. They are often used for electrical equipment as well.

Co2 (carbon dioxide) fire extinguishers

These are pressurised co2 gas and thus leave no residue. The type of extinguisher is suitable for fires including burning liquids but it also a good solution for dealing with computer equipment and other electrical appliances. They do not cause damage to electrical items. It is important to remember when using these that there is a possibility once smothering the gas has floated away the fire might re-ignite at source. This depends on whether the materials are extremely hot or not. These are not fitted with swivel horns and therefore can cause your fingers to freeze to the horn during the deployment of an extinguisher. It is extremely important on how you use them to use the guidelines on the equipment itself. They are not suitable for deep fat fryers.

Powder fire extinguishers

Powder fire extinguishers are suitable for firefighting any form of class A, B and C fires. A, B and C fires are such as A – suitable for paper, wood and textiles, B – suitable for thermal liquids, C – suitable for flammable glasses. The powder does not smoke into materials and does not have a good effect on cooling of the fire. This can always result in re-igniting. Care must be taken when using such extinguishers to ensure that you do not inhale the powder. They are small and should not be used in confined spaces where there is a risk of inhaling them. They are not allowed in offices and if you do have them in accommodation they should now be removed.

Water mist extinguishers

Dry water mist extinguishers discharge a jet of mist which wets and cools the surface of the burning item. They are fine mist and partly evaporate when close to a burning surface and it massively expands as a result of steam expelling oxygen from the area thus starving the fire of oxygen. As the water droplets are very light they do not sink below the surface of the hot burning liquids thus avoiding the explosion reaction of ordinary water extinguishers used on burning oil or fat. The water mist can be used on fat fryers.

Wet chemical fire extinguishers

These are specifically designed for kitchen fires involving burning oil and deep fat fryers. The extinguishers come with special long application arms which allows you to safely lay out a cooling layer of foam on top of the burning oil.

 

What points should be taken into account when tackling a fire?

  • Don’t attempt to use a fire extinguisher on a fire unless you feel it is safe to do so
  • Position yourself where you can to get it quickly like the hall
  • Buy extinguishers that you can carry easily
  • Don’t position the extinguisher over the heat to a fire but do fix them to a wallMake sure that you have a fire risk assessment carried out in relation to the property so that you are aware of what requirements you have for these.

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