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‘PASS’ this on!!!!!

Five days ago I came across a piece of news. The news which detailed a fire accident that burnt down two houses to the ground happened in Arunachal Pradesh. The two houses were completely destroyed and most of the household assets worth lakhs were damaged. This happened in two different fire accidents.

The news described one of the ladies of the household wailing while describing the accident. As a person who gets attached to the house, she lives in, and as a person who was compelled to shift from her cozy little home to another due to circumstances, the image of the crying mother did not leave me. Her grief and loss were too much to ignore. Even though one can be relieved that everyone came out safe from both the accidents, the loss they will have to bear is disheartening. Everything that they procured with their hard work is burnt down. Their dreams, their lives, everything lay as ashes in front of them.

The thought never left me. I searched online for more such accidents and their causes. As per the latest statistics of the National Fire Protection Association, 85% of fire deaths occurred in houses. Meaning that we have to give top priority to control fire accidents that occur at home. The Great Chicago fire is probably the most famous fire that occurred within the past hundred years. This fire occurred on the evening of October 8, 1871, killed 300 people and destroyed more than 17,000 structures. This fire lasted for 27 hours. The origin of this fire is from a house!!!!!!

Fire needs fuel, oxygen, and heat in order to burn.  Oxygen is always available in abundance. As for the heat sources cooking equipment, heating equipment, electrical distribution equipment, and smoking play a huge part. Knowing the causes, next was to search for preventive measures too. One search and Google came up with many suggestions. Only a few were found feasible for most of the Indian households.

Closing the gas main valve after each usage, Keeping a fire extinguisher handy, Identifying and knowing the usage of fire Extinguisher, installing smoke alarms and detectors on each floor of your home, and checking them regularly for proper functioning are a few of the precautionary measures one can take. One should never smoke while in bed nor when you are sleepy. The ashes could easily start a fire. If using a space heater, it should be kept at least 3 feet away from anything that could burn (including the wall).  Use good quality electrical fittings. This list goes long. But how many things can we actually take care of?

This thought led me to the conclusion that learning to manage the fire is as important as knowing the causes and knowing the precautionary measures,

If at all fire happens, one should know how to control & extinguish the fire. Having fire extinguishers at home is the most convenient way to handle fire. Fire extinguishers are filled with water or a smothering material, such as CO2 which gets released in high amounts of pressure by pulling out the safety pin and depressing the lever at the top of the cylinder (the body of the extinguisher), this material is released. By this, it kills the fire by applying an agent that either cools the burning fuel or removes or displaces the surrounding oxygen.

Handling a fire extinguisher, one should know how to use it. And the easiest way to remember the procedure even in urgency to remember the word, PASS.

Pull the Pin at the top of the extinguisher; The pin releases a locking mechanism and will allow you to discharge the extinguisher.

Aim at the base of the fire, not the flames. This is important – in order to put out the fire, you must extinguish the fuel.

Squeeze the lever slowly. This will release the extinguishing agent in the extinguisher. If the handle is released, the discharge will stop.

Sweep from side to side. Using a sweeping motion, move the fire extinguisher back and forth until the fire is completely out.

I am sure what most of you might be thinking right now. Most of the households do not store a fire extinguisher and so there is no question of the underprivileged of our society holding one. Well, this has to change. People who can afford should get one for themselves and the authorities should take necessary steps to provide fire extinguishers on a subsidy basis or free under defined criteria. It is not an easy step. But it is surely a necessary step. Until then, let’s hope for the best and PASS on the little we know.




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