Thursday, December 2, 2010

When fires break out...

This is to enlighten you about a valuable service carried out by a dedicated and courageous group of men in our country, which we normally take for granted, the service done by the Fire brigade. Let's check out what exactly happens from the moment a call goes through to them, informing of a fire taking place somewhere....

Once the emergency call is made...

Whenever someone dials 110, the call is received by the personnel at the control room of the fire brigade.
The caller's name, telephone number and the place on fire is then recorded. However, if the call is made from a telephone booth, the caller is requested to immediately inform the nearest police station about it. Then the control room personnel will call the police station to clarify if it is true.
This needs to be done because there are some who make such calls for fun. Don't ever do so and waste the valuable time of the fire brigade personnel. You may be blocking the line for a genuine caller.
Now, getting back to what happens next. Once the call is verified as a genuine call, the fire alarms are immediately set off.
There are different ring tones to indicate the type of emergency and the need.
For instance, if the alarm rings continuously, it signals a fire. If it rings twice with a pause in between, it means the call is for a rescue operation and if it goes in a sequence of three rings with a pause, the need is for an ambulance.
By this time, all the firemen are on alert and ready to go into action. Those in their rest rooms upstairs will promptly come down to ground level where the equipment and vehicles are kept, using a pole that
 connects the two floors.
Time is precious, so no staircases are used. Everyone could be seen rushing around, getting into their special suits and organising the gear.

How equipment and vehicles are selected

There are different types of emergencies and it's important to have the right equipment to deal with the situation.
Now, how would the firemen know if the fire reported is a small one or a large-scale one? From the details the callers give and of course the number of calls coming through. If the control room is inundated with calls, it's a sure sign that the fire is a major one.
Then more personnel and vehicles would be needed to combat the fire and action will be taken accordingly. If the fire is taking place in a high-storeyed building, then the vehicle with ladders will be sent.
Once the initial crew, which may number four to five personnel per vehicle, go out carrying the necessary equipment and water, additional crew will be sent out on the request of the officer-in-charge.
As the water content in the vehicles may not be enough, the water bowser too follows the main crew.
In the event an electrical fire occurs, the control room operators first inform the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), especially if a transformer is involved.
Until such time the CEB personnel arrive, the firemen go into action to control the fire. The fire is usually controlled by disconnecting the electrical line and spraying of CO2.

What happens on arrival

Once the fire brigade reaches the place which is on fire, they go into action immediately, fixing and unwinding the hose pipes, extending the ladders to reach higher elevations and rescuing people trapped inside.
The OIC will request for more personnel and bowsers if the fire cannot be controlled with the initial crew.
If necessary, the 54 metre sky lift too will be called for along with assistance from the forces depending on the strength of the fire they are combating. Going into burning buildings could be dangerous but the firemen have to take the risk and go in as far as they could to douse the fire. It is their job.
They wear necessary gear such as masks and goggles and carry oxygen tanks, and various other equipment when they go into buildings to fight the flames.

Types of fires and how they are controlled

There are many types of fires involving different types of materials. While some fires could be doused by water, others need more than just water to be put off.
Ordinary fires
These are very common types of fires and the material involved is wood, cloth or paper. These fires can be put off by spraying water.
Liquid and gas fires
Fires caused by LP gas leaks is very common.
These types of fires cannot be controlled with only water. The firebrigade personnel take CO2 (carbon dioxide) gas and dry chemicals also to control such fires.
Electrical fires
For this type of fires too, water or CO2 gas is used to bring it under control. Short circuiting is the major cause of these fires.
Metal and chemical fires
Usually foam, dry powder and water are used. But the decision is taken according to the situation.
Oil fires
These oil fires cannot be controlled with only water so foam is used to douse them.
Equipment and gear
Fire extinguishers come in three colours for easy identification.
The red fire extinguishers contain water
The cream extinguishers contain foam
The blue extinguishers contain dry powder
The black extinguishers contain CO2
According to the European standards, all the fire extinguishers come in red with what it contains indicated by a stripe in the relevant colour. About 50 per cent of the extinguishers used in our country are these.
* There are four kinds of fire suits. They are chemical suits, asbestos suits, fire suits and hash pack suits.
* The rescue vehicle is equipped with all the tools needed to open doors and get through various obstacles to rescue people.
* The water curtain is used to protect the people and vehicles from the flames and the heat. This is mostly used when there is a difficulty to get through the flames.
* Dry powder extinguishers help to control fires quickly, but they leave behind a deposit. This is suitable for open spaces.
* CO2 will not leave any deposits so they are the best to be used in places such as kitchens and computer rooms.
* Asbestos blankets are used to stop the fires from spreading.
* The hose-pipes used to spray the water, foam and chemicals are about 15 m long and 2.5 inches wide.
The fire brigade conducts fire drills in offices as well as in public places to educate the people about the correct action that should be taken during the fire.
They also conduct training programmes and schools and could call them to arrange such a training session in their schools.
Don't you think the fire brigade is doing a great service, not just dousing fires and saving buildings, but also putting their own lives at risk trying to rescue others?

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