What Are Fire Blankets and How Do They Work?

When attempting to fight a fire, most people think of the different types of extinguishers. While some use water or foam, others will contain wet chemicals, dry powder, or CO2. However, fire blankets receive less attention. The problem with this is that not many people know what they are and how they work. Considering their effectiveness at extinguishing small fires, and protecting people from flames, it’s time that this changes.

 

What Are Fire Blankets?

As the name suggests, these are flame- and heat-resistant blankets designed to either wrap around somebody in a burning building or extinguish small-scale fires. As we all know, fires need three things to continue burning:

  • Oxygen
  • Heat
  • Fuel

To put out a fire, we need to remove one of these three things and the easiest is normally oxygen. As a result, a fire blanket will cover a small fire, remove the source of oxygen, and extinguish it. For maximum efficacy, these blankets normally have two layers. While the first is a fire-retardant film on the inside, the second is a woven glass fiber fabric on the outside.

 

How Do You Use a Fire Blanket?

In this example, let’s assume that you want to use a fire blanket to extinguish a fire. If you’re leaving a burning building and you see a fire blanket on the wall, there’s no reason why you can’t wrap it around yourself for added protection. Since blankets are designed for small fires, it cannot be used in full-building fires. Instead, use the blanket for its second purpose which is an added layer between you and the fire (this is especially important if flames are enclosing the exit!).

During an emergency at work or in the home, knowing how to correctly use a fire blanket could be the difference between extinguishing a small fire and allowing it to grow into a potentially fatal scene. Also, consider a fire blanket testing service annually to confirm that your blanket still meets safety standards. Most blankets should last years before needing to be replaced, but it’s worth testing for the safety of your property.

Step 1: Deactivate the Gas/Electricity Supply Although your first reaction is to tend to the fire, you should always shut the gas or electricity off first because this will prevent further damage. Normally, small fires in the home occur while cooking so shut off the fuel source and eliminate the risk of a larger fire.

Step 2: Remove the Blanket and Wrap Your Hands – At this stage, you’re ready to pull the fabric straps and remove the blanket. However, this is where many people go wrong because they fail to wrap their hands (and therefore experience serious burns to either or both). Use the top edges to protect your hands and roll up your sleeves – the last thing you want while fighting a fire is for your sweater or shirt to catch fire.

Step 3: Cover the Flames – It sounds almost paradoxical when you’re in a state of panic but try to place the fire blanket over the flames calmly. The more you panic, the less likely you are to cover the flames accurately. If you cover the whole fire, you’ll remove the oxygen source and the flames won’t survive.

Warning – Know the size of the fire blanket in your office/home, and don’t attempt to put out a fire when the flames are too large. Instead, leave the building and call the emergency services. Once the fire has been extinguished, wait an hour before touching the fire blanket because it will hold onto heat.

With this, you now know how to correctly use a fire blanket in an emergency. Of course, some fires are beyond the abilities of a fire blanket so always know when to contact the fire service!

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