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The Removal Of Fire Extinguishers As A Safety Measure?

Apr 18, 2008
Most people would like to think themselves aware of fire safety risks in the home and workplace. However, sufficient training to cope with fire is practically non-existent within the general public. While we all like to think we would know what to do in the event of fire, it is only professionals who have had extensive training to recognise the types of fire and risks associated, that are equipped to battle the inferno.

The issue of insufficient training amongst the general public has come to the fore in the last month with the news that in blocks of flats in Britain, fire extinguishers are actually being removed as a fire safety risk. The two blocks in question lay on the South Coast, and the move by the local council to remove the extinguishers has caused somewhat of a furore. The crux of the issue is that it is only the fire service that has had enough training to tackle fire, whilst a ham-fisted effort can sometimes make the situation worse.

Many people will reach for the distinctive red extinguishers as soon as a blaze breaks out believing that it will give the professionals that helping hand and a few precious minutes before they arrive. What is apparent however is that without the sufficient training to ensure there own safety, residents are in fact putting themselves in danger. Residents should head straight for the exits rather than grabbing the fire extinguisher, without effective training it is their own safety that is jeopardised.

The local fire service has backed the removal of the extinguishers from the communal areas in the residential blocks. Residents were informed by post that the action would be carried out unless all of the residents underwent a safety training programme dealing with fire and the use of extinguishers. For the council there is no legal requirement for them to install extinguishers in these areas, not without a sufficient number of people with training.

This move will become an increasingly common safety procedure as risk assessments (now a legislative requirement) are carried out countrywide. If an assessment finds that there are no safety concerns or added risks with the removal of extinguishers the move can go ahead. Fundamentally it is about discouraging people from running out into the hallway and returning to their flat to tackle a blaze, a far preferable outcome is to get out safely.

Naturally this fire safety move will not be applicable to all residencies, some will have people with effective training and others will not be conducive to the removal of extinguishers. Modern design regulations ensure that all escape routes are fire proof anyway, so guaranteeing the safety of residents is possible without having to fill the hallways with fire extinguishers. Ultimately it is down to the findings and safety recommendations of the assessor.

Residents however have been sceptical of the move. Their main argument is how this move can be deemed as a safety measure? One particular resident stated that if you were stuck in a burning building you will figure out how to operate an extinguisher regardless of whether you have had any training. Officials may be worried that residents will not use the extinguishers correctly or use the right type for the fire, but as a life saving measure they are certainly useful. Many of these blocks of flats are extremely tall making the job difficult for the fire service to utilise their equipment; meaning that fire extinguishers are a useful resource. The risk assessment however should be able to pick up on any of these issues.

Naturally residents are going to be somewhat miffed by the removal of the extinguishers; for many it is a comfort knowing there is an extinguisher outside. But if the plan has the backing of the fire service; the professionals who have had the correct training, it is not for members of the public to criticise the move.
About the Author
Legislative expert Thomas Pretty looks into the removal of extinguishers from residential areas due to the lack of fire safety training amongst residents.
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