Keeping safe from fire while on holiday

July 2011 Fire & Safety, Residential Estate (Industry)

“Most of us just never think about it but a fire in a caravan or recreational vehicle (RV) is typically fatal”. This is the grim view of Stefan Oberholtzer, managing director of Chubb Fire and Security. Chubb Fire and Security is a business unit of UTC Fire & Security, a unit of United Technologies Corp.

Oberholtzer, in conjunction with Bridget Aves, regional managing director for Chubb Fire and Security, KwaZulu-Natal, look at what can go wrong and provide life-saving advice so you can sleep easy and make sure your next holiday is a safe one.

Cooking with gas

The most common cause of fires in campsites is cooking equipment. It is very important that hoses and connections are kept clean on things like portable barbeques. Hoses wear out eventually or start to warp and joints get leaky. When gas escapes and finds a naked flame, things get dangerous.

If you get a flame from fittings or the hose, turn off the gas immediately and put out any flames using a powder type extinguisher. If the flame is coming from the cylinder itself, put the flames out with a powder type extinguisher and then turn off the gas. The cylinder will be hot – use a cloth or rag to turn off the gas knob. If you do not have an extinguisher, cool the cylinder with a garden hose. ALWAYS make sure that the fire brigade is called. DO NOT toss the flaming cylinder away. Fire causes panic but it is important to keep calm.

Caravan and RV fires

A brick home can be gutted by fire within 10 minutes, but a caravan can be destroyed even faster and this does not leave much time for escape, especially if you are asleep at the time. Temperatures in a fire can reach a massive 600°C or more in a matter of minutes. You need a smoke alarm, a fire blanket and a powder-based fire extinguisher, but above all, you need an escape plan. Always involve your children in your fire plan and make sure they are confident and know what to do if there is a fire.

Car fires

A common mistake when people see smoke coming from the engine is to open the bonnet. This feeds the fire with oxygen and can be disastrous. Leave the bonnet closed. Here you will need a powder-based fire extinguisher. Point the extinguisher through the radiator grid above the number plate. If your car does not have one, then shoot the flames from under the front of the car, below the number plate. If you are towing a caravan, uncouple the caravan for extra safety. If it is a very serious fire in an advanced state, stay well clear of the car and call the fire brigade.

Be prepared

A basic fire kit has the following:

* A smoke alarm.

* A fire extinguisher.

* A 1kg powder extinguisher.

* A fire blanket used to contain a fire.

* A first aid kit.

Both Oberholtzer and Aves recommend equipping yourself with dependable gear and discussing safety with companions to make sure you have a plan to deal with emergencies.

“Chances are you may never need these essential items. But if you do find yourself in trouble with fire or an injury, it will be too late to say, ‘I wish I had been prepared’,” said Oberholtzer.

For more information contact Chubb Fire & Security South Africa, +27 (0)11 761 7000.

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