Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Residential Dryer Fires Happen More Often Than You Might Think

I’ve written several articles about home safety. Usually topics that are the obvious culprits in home fires such as kitchen fires, garage fires, and backyard fire pits. There are many other fire hazards to consider throughout your home. One fire hazard that is often overlooked is dryer fires. In Canada we rely on these helpful appliances to get us through a long winter that usually doesn’t allow for hanging clothes outside never mind the busy lifestyle that prohibits the time required to hang and bring in clothes.

A quick bit of research left me with some startling statistics. There are about 12,700 clothes-dryer fires in residential buildings annually in the United States, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. These preventable fires caused 15 deaths, 300 injuries and about $88 million US in property damage. There are no comparable statistics available for Canada. “Dryer Fires Can Be Deadly” shows what to watch for and how you can prevent dryer fires.

I have also compiled a list of what to watch for, and preventative maintenance.

  • Keep your clothes dryer free of lint. Clean out your lint filter before and after every load of clothes. Use a vacuum or a lint brush to thoroughly clean underneath and behind your dryer about once a month. Vacuum your dryer's motor area several times a year.
  • Inspect your outside dryer vent twice a year. Clean out any accumulated lint and dust. Turn on your dryer to make sure that the exhaust air is escaping normally. If the air isn't escaping through the vent, disconnect the exhaust duct from your dryer and clean out any blockage. Replace the exhaust duct before you use your dryer again. This not only will reduce the risk of a fire, but your clothes will dry faster and your dryer will use less energy
  • Use the right type of ducting material. Flexible foil or plastic ducting materials easily become kinked or crushed, which leads to lint building up and possibly igniting. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests replacing any foil or plastic ducts with rigid or semi-rigid metal ducting material. In addition, if a fire does start, a metal duct is more likely to contain it.
  • Take special care drying clothes stained with volatile chemicals such as gasoline, cooking oils, cleaning agents, or finishing oils and stains. Wash the clothing more than once to minimize the amount of these chemicals on the clothing, and line dry instead of using a dryer.
  • Buy dryers that use moisture sensors rather than ordinary thermostats to end the auto-dry cycle. Thermostats can allow the dryer to run longer than necessary.
  • Occasionally wipe the sensor with a soft cloth or cotton ball and rubbing alcohol to keep it functioning accurately. Sensors are usually located on the inside of the dryer, just below the door opening, and can be hard to find. They are usually two curved metallic strips, shaped somewhat like the letter "C".
  • Keep the areas surrounding your dryer clutter-free. The heat from your dryer might cause a spark and ignite clothing, boxes or other flammable items placed in close proximity to your clothes dryer.

One Last thing to consider is that most laundry areas are in the mechanical area of your home that includes the furnace, and hot water tank. It is a very good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in this area to protect all of these appliances.

Posted by Rob Read at 10:16 AM 0 Comments

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Product Recalls And Service Bulletins

Product recalls are fairly rare in our industry due to the stringent testing required for life safety equipment before it can be released to the market. There are associations that work together to get the information out to their members such as NAFED that has just published a recall for emergency exit signs manufactured by Best Lighting Products and distributed by Lithonia Lighting.

There are several issues for both recalls and service bulletins here. The first being getting these recall notices to the distributors, and the second is having the distributors react to what is posted, and lastly getting the information to non-distributors who are servicing the products.

The first issue is easy enough to deal with manufacturers know who their distributors are and can email, fax, direct mail etc. to the lists.

The second issue gets a little harder to deal with because distributors now have to look into warranty claims labour etc. to make these repairs, and it may be a loss financially for them to do so. If that’s the case some might wait for an “opportunity” to upsell a new product. Add to the fact that with ISO and other corporate paper trails this can become a large expense and liability may not win over operational expense.

The last issue is the hardest to deal with and the greatest opportunity for equipment failure. Non-Manufacturer certified service companies never receive the bulletins, or recalls, and while they are happy to undercut a price to get a job they do not receive the education or support and can unknowingly leave equipment in jeopardy. In the event of a fire this will be a disaster.

The best way to protect yourself is to always try to deal with distributors of the specific equipment you now own. They have the factory training, insurance, and warranties as well as they will receive the bulletins, and recalls to ensure you get the best protection available.

Posted by Rob Read at 11:27 AM 0 Comments

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bison At Red River Co-op Speedway

Bison has sponsored the Red River Coop Speedway for many years as well as Steve Glass of Glass Racing. We dropped in to see him perform for us last night and were treated to a great show. Steve unfortunately had some issues when other drivers started using him as a target in the first two races. He lost two tires & rims and a steering box, but came back in the third feature race and held his position throughout the entire contest.

Darren Pallen of Darren Pallen Productions is the track announcer and he was kind enough to give us a couple plugs throughout the evening. If you get a chance to head out to take "The Fastest Sport on the Prairies" you will not be disappointed.

Steve Glass and a Fan

The Action is Fast at Red River Coop Speedway

Posted by Rob Read at 12:12 PM 0 Comments

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kelly Adams Joins The Herd

We are happy to welcome Kelly Adams to the herd! Kelly has worked in the fire protection industry for 15 years working in a variety of positions from extinguisher recharging to becoming the Fire Extinguisher Division Manager at Edwards. Kelly has also graduated from Red River College with his Occupational Health and Safety Certificate.

He brings his many years of experience to us with the goals of meeting our existing customers, as well as meeting the many new customers and businesses that are waiting to join the herd.


Kelly Adams Joins Bison Fire Protection

Posted by Rob Read at 3:42 PM 0 Comments

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Residential Sprinklers Save Lives

I have talked about residential sprinklers in the past. These silent saviours of your lives and property are usually installed during construction of a new home but in many cases are either overlooked by the owner, possibly not presented as an option, or the people feel the cost is too high and would rather put the money towards a spa.

Many jurisdictions across Canada still do not require these sprinklers to be installed in residential homes. However they are slowly gaining popularity and articles showing them working and having success are few and far between, but really start to demonstrate the value of this type of fire protection.

Posted by Rob Read at 3:41 PM 0 Comments

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Recyclable Fire Extinguishers

The Fire Protection Industry has tried in many areas to become more environmentally clean. This started with Halon both 1301, and 1211. These were pound for pound the best firefighting agents on the market, but boy they kicked holes in the ozone. One molecule of Halon could destroy about 100,000 molecules of ozone, and fire systems contains in some cases hundreds of pounds of Halon. It was replaced by FM200 a much cleaner gas and that has been followed by Sinorix 1230 that breaks down in the atmosphere in three days without damaging ozone.

CO2 suppression systems have become less desirable because while they don’t damage the ozone they do increase greenhouse gases, and they can be deadly if discharged while people are in the vicinity. Fire code has changed to limit its use and application, but it still has a place in the firefighting market.

Fire extinguishers have improved as well. Over the last few years extinguisher testing has become more stringent. Ratings have gone up so the extinguisher can put out more fire with the same volume of powder. The newest innovation though is something I wouldn’t have expected a completely recyclable fire extinguisher. Britannia Fire has built and listed in Europe a completely recyclable fire extinguisher made from Kevlar, and other products. While I think it could be years before something like this is available in Canada we could be surprised and see it sooner if there is a demand.

Posted by Rob Read at 2:58 PM 0 Comments

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Class D Fires

Most people have never heard of Class D fires, or even realized that certain metals can burn. In our industry there are many technicians who don’t even approach their customers that have Class D hazards due to a lack of education.

Class D fires usually involve Aluminum or Magnesium there are many manufacturing facilities out there that cut, and weld aluminum on a daily basis that have never been told they need a specific extinguisher for that hazard. The second problem can be the cost because these extinguishers aren’t cheap. The fire protection companies hesitate to sell them because of a fear of losing an account if they are high bid, and purchasers look at the additional expense in an already tight safety budget so they have a hard time approaching the boss.

Once these fires start nothing will put them out except the Class D extinguisher, water won’t touch it neither will conventional dry chemical. Water doesn’t work because the fire doesn’t need oxygen to burn as it creates its own as a by-product of the fire. Standard dry chemicals such as ABC, BC, or PK (Purple-K) don’t work because the temperatures created by metal fires break down the agents before they can work effectively.

The article “Aluminum fueled fire sparked in shop” gives you a good idea just how hard these fires can be to deal with. I would like to think that if the shop had bought a Class D extinguisher they might have caught the fire before they needed the “35 fire trucks and units, and more than 75 firefighters” to put this fire out. After that fire the cost of the Class D would seem very small.

Posted by Rob Read at 11:46 AM 0 Comments

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Urban VS Rural

I just got back from a week of holidays and while I should have been putting work out of my mind I just can’t help myself. Whenever I walk into a business my eyes immediately start the fire protection scan. Once all the mental notes are taken I get on with the actual reason for being there.

What I noticed in the various places I visited was the fact that fire protection equipment was obsolete, past the inspection dates, or non-existent. There are a number of reasons for this such as;

  • Budget cuts to provincial fire inspectors means fewer inspections being done with less enforcement of the fire codes.
  • Dealing with relatives or neighbours from the local fire departments, or insurance brokers might relate into hard feelings after work if they try to push the issue of getting the equipment serviced.
  • Switching companies to save a couple bucks might seem like a good idea, but when “Budget Fire Service” gets home and realizes what it really cost to drive around rural Manitoba he usually doesn’t come back, and your left waiting.

There definitely differences in dealing in a rural setting as opposed to urban, however in the rural settings fires are just as devastating. The other issue is the response time for volunteer fire departments. While these men and women train hard to provide the best service they can for their communities you can’t beat the clock. The only thing that can help is having your fire equipment current, serviced, and ready because when you really need protection it had better work.

 This system should have been replaced in 1995Another post 1995 replacement

Both of the pictured systems are still in use today. They should have been replaced years ago. Dry Chemical has been proven ineffective in todays cooking enviroments. In the event of a fire they most likely would allow a reflash with damage to the business escalating every second.

Posted by Rob Read at 4:00 PM 0 Comments