THE FIRE HAZARDS.
The two requirements for an individual or organization to be considered prepared for fire are:
- Knowledge of how to respond to a fire outbreak, and
- Keeping our homes, offices and business premises hazard free.
For us to keep our homes, offices and business premises hazards free, it is very important to know the hazards that causes fires and how to reduce them and minimize their effects.
A hazard is a source or a situation with the potential to cause harm. They are the features of a risk which may facilitate start and spread of the fire peril and can be classified as physical and moral hazards.
These are tangible aspects of a risk which will affect the safety of the property. The physical hazards can be recognized, assessed and improved on. They usually include:
- Inception and propagation hazards,
- Occupation hazard;
- Location and exposure hazards,
- Size of the premises.
Moral hazard is the intangible aspect of the risk, and brings into focus the human factors namely carelessness, disobedience and attitude into risk assessment. Moral hazards occur when the property owner behaves in a way that may make the property vulnerable to a fire occurrence.
Moral hazards will impact the occurrence of the physical hazards.
Inception and Propagation Hazards
The factors that cause fires are known as inception hazards, while those that facilitates the spread of the fires are known as propagation hazards.
Inception risks are chances of a fire peril starting. The risk varies from occupation to occupation. Examples of inception hazards may includethe trade itself, the processes used, the presence of flammable vapors and combustible materials.
For example, in a metal working environment where metal is cut, drilled, welded, and spray painted, there is the ever-present use of electricity applied against metals through cutting, grinding and welding all of which may lead to generation of sparks capable of starting a fire.
Spraying generates volatile vapor that can easily catch fire. In addition, there is the possible risk of overheating of machinery which also raises the chances of a fire starting. This scenario is conducive to a fire starting and the inception risk is therefore very high.
Propagation risk is the risk of a fire developing and spreading. Here, the question of what will burn is important. In the metal working example, the only items that will burn are the paints, any oil and any combustible part of the structure. In the above example, the inception risks are high, but propagation risk is low.
Propagation hazards are numerous and may include:
- Use or occupation to which the premises is being put.
- Location of the premises
- The size of the premises
- The number of employees
- The number of Machines
Use or Occupation of the premises:
A building is designed per the activity the owner intends to utilize it for. The building structure including construction materials should therefore correspond to the nature of the intended occupation. It is essential therefore that a building is designed and constructed in a manner relating to the type of risks it may face.
Uses of premises may include, households, warehouse, hospitals, offices; factories, hotels amongst others. Different uses to the premises offer varying degrees of hazards. For example, in a warehouse, the inception risk may be small, with little use of electricity apart from lighting. However, the fire that accidentally starts may spread rapidly due to the availability of combustible materials such as packaging materials including cardboard, plastics, timber and paper. The narrow passage between the high stacks create a flue effect, drawing heat upwards to spread the fire vertically. Small number of personnel present at any one time also mean that the fire may go undetected for some time.
On the other hand, a householder may bring into the house items which can present fire and explosion hazards such as gas lighters, gas cylinders, refrigerators, cooking appliances, and petrol.A dwelling house is however considered a relatively non-hazardous fire risk because the householder has apersonal interest ensuring that his property is not misused, damaged or destroyed.
Location of the Premises
The location of a property has a material effect upon both inception and propagation of a fire. Location can be looked at from the facets of:
- Location in a congested area,
- Location in a remote area,
- Location in the Country side i.e. country side properties.
Location in a congested area implies that the buildings are near each other and fire starting from one property can easily spread to the adjoining properties. The firefighting ability on the other hand will be impaired as access to the seat of fire will be limited and the fire fighters may only be able to attack the fire from one side.
Location in a remote area implies that the property is isolated and may not be inaccessible. Such property is subject to the following negative factors in the event of a fire:
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