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Firefighting Equipment


ian dunning
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Hi All,

I have been asked if I could put together a note, by a member of the moderating team, on Fire extinguishers for use in caravans. I'm sorry that it's a bit long winded but I hope it is sensible advice.

 

Fire Extinguishing Equipment For use In a Caravan Environment.

 

This is by no means a comprehensive study on fire fighting equipment as I was retired two years ago though I hope that some people find it useful.

 

The Equipment.

 

I would hope that every caravan is fitted with a working smoke alarm at the very minimum. Don’t forget that just because there is a smoke alarm is fitted that it means it’s working, so I check ours before every journey. Don’t forget to press the ‘hush' button, which turns off the alarm while cooking is taking place then automatically resets the alarm after a predetermined time. I can hear the question being asked as I type, ‘What a Fire-fighter is recommending the turning off the smoke alarm while cooking?’, well yes due to the confined nature of the caravan the smoke alarm would constantly actuate with the result that campers may remove the battery and forget to put it back. It’s for this reason that I always advocate correct placing of smoke alarms in a house, directly outside a kitchen door is not good.

 

So we all have working smoke alarms, which give an early warning of fire so I would now address what we would use to extinguish the fire? Well the first thing is a great deal of common sense and the desire not to be a dead hero.

I am not a fan of untrained people tackling fires in caravans, even fire fighters, without full fire fighting equipment, would think twice and then only tackle a slowly developing, or a small, fire in a caravan. Due to the lack of fire separation, and the flammable nature of their construction materials can mean the caravan can be rapidly engulfed in fire.

 

So what to use, if we really need to tackle a fire, well seeing as cooking is a major cause of caravan fires I would recommend a fire blanket which works by smothering the flames and starving the fire of Oxygen. Even a fire in an electrical item could be held at bay by its use.

 

Secondly a general-purpose extinguisher, such as a dry powder version is recommended though this doesn’t come without its own problems, as it is really messy. The powder if inhaled can cause breathing difficulties as well as severely reducing visibility for the operator. Can you see now why I’m not a fan of fire fighting, with limited equipment, in caravans?

 

Testing/checking the Equipment.

 

I would recommend a visual check every year on both the blanket and extinguisher, checking the blanket for holes and tears and refolding it so it doesn’t crease, in the same place in storage, and suffer from points of weakness.

The extinguisher is slightly more complicated, though some do have maintenance measures printed on the cylinder. If there are none I would recommend that the hose, if fitted needs checking for abrasions/cuts/wear, the cylinder body needs to be checked for excess corrosion, the pressure gauge needs to be checked to be sure that there is enough pressure to operate it and then it needs to be agitated as dry powder can settle and cause it to malfunction.

How long does the extinguisher last? I would check the expiry date, if indicated but I would take into account that the Fire Service discharge thoroughly check and recharge stored pressure extinguishers after 5 years, apart from Co2 ones which are every 10 years. Personally I would always take the safe option as when you need an extinguisher is not the time to find that it has malfunctioned.

 

I hope that I have covered everything, if not our resident Fire Safety Officer from Wales (Sharon) is welcome to correct anything/add any points.

 

So what do we do in the case of a caravan fire? Get everybody out, close the door behind you and call the Fire Service, then full attention can be given to alerting those either side, in the first instance so that they can move their 'vans and cars if safe to do so. If you fight the fire it's advisable to do so with the fire in front of you and the door behind you so that you can make your escape if the worst did happen. if you, or your family are cut off from the door there are the windows to get out of (what with my back :D ) which is a major advantage of the caravan as it has plenty of windows,

 

As I said if anybody has any further ideas please feel free to contribute,

I hope this long winded piece helps,

Regards,

Ian.

Edited by ian dunning

Bailey Unicorn Vigo and a 2017 Ford S Max and a Mercedes SLK AMG Sport 9 speed, my mid life crisis solver.

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Thanks for that Ian.

 

Having discovered that my dry powder extinguisher hasn't been agitated every year - no maintenance instructions on it - and is beyond it's expiry date, it's been replaced this afternoon - your piece above is most welcome.

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Ian

 

First class - well done !

 

Whenever I buy a caravan I always put in a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket. Some time ago I put on a thread to suggest that these 2 items should be fitted as standard by all the caravan manufacturers instead of some of the additional items we get. I was shot down in flames (excuse the pun !) because the general consensus of people replying to the thread was that under no circumstances should you attempt to fight the fire but call the fire brigade. I would like to think that I possess the common sense to decide when a fire is able to be put out by myself.

 

Bill

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Ian

 

First class - well done !

 

Whenever I buy a caravan I always put in a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket. Some time ago I put on a thread to suggest that these 2 items should be fitted as standard by all the caravan manufacturers instead of some of the additional items we get. I was shot down in flames (excuse the pun !) because the general consensus of people replying to the thread was that under no circumstances should you attempt to fight the fire but call the fire brigade. I would like to think that I possess the common sense to decide when a fire is able to be put out by myself.

 

Bill

 

Hi Bill,

Thank You.

I was probably one of those people though I hope that I wasn't one of those who shot you down in flames :D . If the person fighting the fire does have bit of common sense then no harm should come of them but unfortunately some brave people really don't know when to give up for their own good and, if it's a matter of saving property, then there's no point risking their life. If people are involved then fair enough as emotion takes over. I have the utmost respect for people who risk their own lives for the sake of others,

Regards,

Ian.

Bailey Unicorn Vigo and a 2017 Ford S Max and a Mercedes SLK AMG Sport 9 speed, my mid life crisis solver.

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Spot on Ian & Bill,

 

The old adage works well if in doubt get out its not worth taking a chance.

 

Thats with my elfin safety hat on.

 

Brianinhull

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Blue '07 X Trail Aventura 2. 2dci, S7 Pageant Provence + Truma MK2 Original Mover, Blue Kampa Rally 390 Awning.

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Hi Ian Just read your article on firefighting equipment Like you I,ve just retired from the service 6mths ago after reading it you just about covered every thing . Like you said we could deal with anything and through being in the job know when to call it a day and leave to the lads with the proper gear . But other caravaners might not realise this and end up in some serious trouble. So to every one just be very careful as fires dont take any prisoners Cheers Wayne

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I've always struggled with where to position the fire extinguisher so if it is needed it is to hand - by the door doesn't seem to make much sense, as if a fire develops in my van it is likely to be the kitchen area, and could prevent exit by people in the lounge area. So would an area to the front of the kitchen area make more sense?

"Scars are souvenirs you never loose"

2010 Swift Charisma Freestyle 550 + 2007 Nissan Pathfinder Aventura.

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A good thing for most people to do would be to have a shot of an old extinguisher that needs recharged as I know I certainly got a shock the first time I used one as to how quickly they empty.

 

I also note Ian that you make no mention about buckets of water for tackling a blaze. I mention this as I have been tut tutted on a CCC site before for not having one.

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Hi,

I really don't know as I've not bought an extinguisher for four years, guess who's buying next year :D . If that particular make has a suitable EN/British Standard Number then, personally, I would buy one. Dry powder extinguishers are nothing more than a pressure cylinder full of a powder very similar to talcum powder in appearance. If the extinguisher is correctly rated, with a pressure gauge, then yes I would be OK with it,

Regards,

Ian.

Bailey Unicorn Vigo and a 2017 Ford S Max and a Mercedes SLK AMG Sport 9 speed, my mid life crisis solver.

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For some one who services up to 3 caravans a day over a 6 day period, i could say that 80 % of smoke alarm batterys are disconected, asking why, usally ends up with the same reply, , . .......... it always goes off when we make toast, i all ways tell people to conect the battery or at least to fit a new one . ...... but alas . ... you can lead a horse to water but you cant make it drink it . ....... your choice, your life, SORT IT

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I've always struggled with where to position the fire extinguisher so if it is needed it is to hand - by the door doesn't seem to make much sense, as if a fire develops in my van it is likely to be the kitchen area, and could prevent exit by people in the lounge area. So would an area to the front of the kitchen area make more sense?

 

Hi Jonathan,

Personally I wouldn't worry too much about which side of the kitchen to place the extinguisher as caravan is so small but near the door is good practise so that you can firefight from a place of safety from which you can easily escape. I would never rely on a small 1kg dry powder extinguisher to protect my family because, as I said earlier, the powder can cause breathing and visbility problems.

I would much prefer to have my family trained with an escape plan, which is easy in a 'van. .......climb out of the window :D .

I really don't want people to think that their caravan is going to go up in flames as it is a relatively rare occurence, if we all take care and have a battery in the smoke alarm :D .

Sorry Jonathan I hope that you don't mind but the last two sentences were aimed at everybody,

Regards,

Ian.

Bailey Unicorn Vigo and a 2017 Ford S Max and a Mercedes SLK AMG Sport 9 speed, my mid life crisis solver.

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For some one who services up to 3 caravans a day over a 6 day period, i could say that 80 % of smoke alarm batterys are disconected, asking why, usally ends up with the same reply, , . .......... it always goes off when we make toast, i all ways tell people to conect the battery or at least to fit a new one . ...... but alas . ... you can lead a horse to water but you cant make it drink it . ....... your choice, your life, SORT IT

I'm horrified that anyone finds statistics like that - nearly 1,000 caravans a year from one technician - it's not difficult to avoid the alarm going off, just open a vent or use the hush button.

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A good thing for most people to do would be to have a shot of an old extinguisher that needs recharged as I know I certainly got a shock the first time I used one as to how quickly they empty.

 

I also note Ian that you make no mention about buckets of water for tackling a blaze. I mention this as I have been tut tutted on a CCC site before for not having one.

 

Hi,

I was trying to keep the piece short so that members would read the whole thing so I didn't mention the obvious. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it :D .

Regards,

Ian.

Bailey Unicorn Vigo and a 2017 Ford S Max and a Mercedes SLK AMG Sport 9 speed, my mid life crisis solver.

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I'm horrified that anyone finds statistics like that - nearly 1,000 caravans a year from one technician - it's not difficult to avoid the alarm going off, just open a vent or use the hush button.

Roger to be honest mate, till some one dies people wont sit up, they'll adopt the attitude, it wont happen to me, just to add the amount of people that take them out completly is unreal too

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Hi Jonathan,

Personally I wouldn't worry too much about which side of the kitchen to place the extinguisher as caravan is so small but near the door is good practise so that you can firefight from a place of safety from which you can easily escape. I would never rely on a small 1kg dry powder extinguisher to protect my family because, as I said earlier, the powder can cause breathing and visbility problems.

I would much prefer to have my family trained with an escape plan, which is easy in a 'van. .......climb out of the window :D .

I really don't want people to think that their caravan is going to go up in flames as it is a relatively rare occurence, if we all take care and have a battery in the smoke alarm :D .

Sorry Jonathan I hope that you don't mind but the last two sentences were aimed at everybody,

Regards,

Ian.

 

Thanks Ian.

"Scars are souvenirs you never loose"

2010 Swift Charisma Freestyle 550 + 2007 Nissan Pathfinder Aventura.

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First of all well done Ian.

We have a extinguisher in our van but if a fire did break out :o I would never think of tackling it not until my family are safely out . :D

after all I pay a hefty premium for my insurance and they will replace the van but not my family.

Take care everyone and have a good Easter

Alec :D:D

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Roger to be honest mate, till some one dies people wont sit up, they'll adopt the attitude, it wont happen to me, just to add the amount of people that take them out completly is unreal too

It'll be too late for them to change their attitude after the event !

 

When smoke alarms were first promoted, I fitted one in every room in the house (except kitchen, cloakroom and bathroom) and one in our original caravan as it was too old to get one as standard.

 

Like most caravanners, the alarm went off the first time we did toast - simply opening a vent over the cooker during cooking takes the fumes straight out and avoids the "inconvenience" without compromising safety at any other time.

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Over the years we have bought fire extinguishers

-- red lumps that screw to the wall

-- WHY?? because we think that the just might give us some confidence if we ever did have a fire>>>>

 

We in 40 years have never set one off in anger --

-- there also seems to be a great problem with these things

 

-- WILL THEY WORK?

and

-- WHAT IS THEIR SELL BY DATE?

 

There seems to be no indication on the red lumps of when do they expire

-- or even of what to do to "test" them. .

 

so the answer is -- periodically change them -- just in case. . get a new one --- with the same inherent problems.

 

Or is that the real answer. ..??

 

I don't honestly know

-- all things being equal we could have a dozen or more old red lumps in the van from the ones we have discarded over the years

-- unused

-- but still not knowing if they would have worked. .

 

So that we might have more confidence in these things the industry should make the sell by/ expiry date more transparent. .

 

I still have one in my garage purchased in 1987

-- it still weighs the same

-- got the weight stamped on it

-- but would it work --

 

I don't know !!!

 

I think on this point the industry is lacking. .

but they will still take ££££ from us -- because we care sufficiently to want to protect our vans. .

 

Maurice

Volvo S60 D5 (now sold 😥) new Vauxall soon
Happy to meet, Sorry to part, Happy to meet again
48 Year Member of The Caravan Club

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Yes extinguisher do have a shelf life and should be tested by competent person, in the work place they need annual inspection. Dry powder if set off and then stopped may not work again as it can blocked.

I dont carry an extinguisher, for me its get out and raise the alarm, I do check where fire points are on site but that mainly to assist other who may be in diffuculty. as stated insurance will replace van etc; but not people, so let it burn.

 

Seen and investigated serious accidents in the work place, people forget quickly and fall in to the bad habits again. Im glad Ian raised the subject, it helps forgetfulness.

 

That it Im retired fro this elfin safety game. :rolleyes:;)

 

Brianinhull

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Blue '07 X Trail Aventura 2. 2dci, S7 Pageant Provence + Truma MK2 Original Mover, Blue Kampa Rally 390 Awning.

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We always had a fire drill in the caravan at the start of each season, when the girls were young, especially as the caravan layout we like has the girls sleeping at the far end of the caravan from us with the kitchen between us. An added complication was the bunk bed position cut the escape window in half, this meant the girl under the bunk had to undo the bottom window catches and the girl on the bunk had to undo the top catches, so we'd make it fun and they'd want to do it a few times, until of course they reached "THAT age when it was not "cool" but they knew what to do by then :D

 

I often wonder what other caravanners on the site thought of when they saw children repeatedly climbing out of the windows in Pj's

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Yes extinguisher do have a shelf life and should be tested by competent person, in the work place they need annual inspection. Dry powder if set off and then stopped may not work again as it can blocked.

I dont carry an extinguisher, for me its get out and raise the alarm, I do check where fire points are on site but that mainly to assist other who may be in diffuculty. as stated insurance will replace van etc; but not people, so let it burn.

 

Seen and investigated serious accidents in the work place, people forget quickly and fall in to the bad habits again. Im glad Ian raised the subject, it helps forgetfulness.

 

That it Im retired fro this elfin safety game. :rolleyes:;)

 

Brianinhull

 

Hi Brianinhull

 

I'm with you on the way to deal with a fire in a van is just to get the hell out and warn others, only then maybe try to

stop the fire spreading with a site hose, which will hopefully last more than the 10-20 seconds that an extinguisher can

manage.

 

I imagine that time expired extinguishers (no dates on them mind) are like self inflating liferafts - when they fail to work

no-one survives to complain, lots of yacht clubs have charity days when liferafts are set-off just before expiry and the

number that fail to work is(n't) a joke.

 

neil

Bailey S5 Pageant Auvergne & Vauxhall Signum CDTI

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I'm horrified that anyone finds statistics like that - nearly 1,000 caravans a year from one technician - it's not difficult to avoid the alarm going off, just open a vent or use the hush button.

 

Roger

 

I'm not surprised at all because I think that it is common practice to disconnect the battery !

 

One interesting thing, and please don't do it, but at a main dealer the other day I checked many of the smoke alarms in the caravans for sale. All the new ones had the battery still wrapped and by far the majority of the second hand ones had the battery disconnected. Obviously the dealers insurers didn't have an issue with it and I assume they had other fire detection methods employed.

 

I assume dealers connect and check fire alarms as part of the PDI ?

 

Bill

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