Firefighting is the most important life saving skill. Everybody must develop this skill to save life and property.
1 Fire and Civilization. Fire and its application are closely linked with the civilization. In the prehistoric time or during Stone Age, people used to make fire with the friction of stones. Those Fires were used for sharpening the weaponry made of stones and making wild animals’ meat burnt to eat. With the growth of civilization newer dimensions have been added to the production and use of Fire. Without Fire it is unthinkable to carryout domestic works e.g. cooking and industrial manufacturing. Producing Fire and its use in modern age is versatile and extensive than the system of producing Fire and its limited use in the ancient era. Flame produced by a simple matchstick, kitchen burner, gas lighter and electric spark is the controlled fires used in cooking or industrial production. Fire that goes beyond control creates havoc, takes heavy toll on life and property and brings disaster. Volcanic Eruption, Wild/ Jungle Fire, Gas Field Fire (Occidental- Tengra Tila Fire Incident is a case in focus), Gas Station/ Tank Lorry Explosion and Ammunition Depot Fire are the glaring examples of this type of fire.
2. Fighting a Fire. Generally, people tend to fight fire just with water. In modern time, there are gas and electricity in the residential homes, office buildings, market place and factories. Even there are gas and electricity in many parts of rural Bangladesh. Firefighting with water in the places having gas and electricity, Fire will not be extinguished rather there are possibilities of causing casualties to the firefighters. Water is a very good conductor and if water is used in combating the electric fire there is a risk of death to the firefighters being electrocuted. Similarly, if water is used against gas or steam fire those fires will not be extinguished. Because steam or gas is a gaseous substance and it will continue to burn. Likewise, if water is applied on liquids or oil fire the oil will come over the water and it will continue to burn. At times we see fire on the sea surface. It is nothing but leaked oils from the ships that burns not the water. Only solid materials e.g. dry grasses, furniture, clothing and those solid materials with which there is no electric, gas and oil connection can be extinguished effectively by applying water at the very outset.
Level of Firefighting
3. Firefighting at home, in office and at factories takes the following forms:
3.1. 1st Line Firefighting. An individual or group of people fight fires instantly at the onset using primary firefighting equipment, e.g. Fire Beater, Sands, Blankets, Linen or Bedspreads, ABCE Dry Powder Extinguishers, CO2 etc. This level of firefighting should be very effective and be able to extinguish the fire virtually with no loss of life and property.
3.2. 2nd Line Firefighting. Group of people fight fires which has spread significantly using permanent firefighting system installed in the building, e.g. hydrants, water sprinkles, etc. At this level the primary firefighting efforts support 2nd line firefighting. 2nd line fire fighting are the organizational efforts and capability to fight fire in the high-rise dwelling house commercial buildings or factory buildings.
3.3 3rd Line Firefighting. Ti is a massive firefighting efforts involving Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) both local fire station and central support of the FSCD Authority. At this level both 1st line and 2nd line firefighting efforts support the 3rd line firefighting. To be successful in efficient firefighting at this level the organizations must arrange periodic coordinated firefighting demonstrations and exercises in the institutions’ premises participated by the FSCD local and central fire units.
4. Types of Fire. Since primitive age fires created by human being, accidental fires and evaluating the equipment being used in firefighting, fire can be classified into 4 types. These are:
4.1. Solid Material or Dry Substance Fire.
4.2. Liquid or Oil Fire.
4.3. Gas, Vapor or Gaseous Substance Fire.
4.4. Electric or Electrical Equipment Fire.
5. Fire Mix. Uncontrolled or accidental fire at any place can be any one type or combination of the two or more types as described above. Accidental fire in the dwelling houses, office, commercial places and industries is primarily any one type. But if this is not extinguished or controlled at the onset they can be transformed into multi-dimensional fire. For this reason, gas or electric connections must be cut or switched off at individual, organizational or Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) level before attempting to fight a fire. Unless it is done there are possibilities of death to the firefighters and occupants including severe collateral damage.
6. Traditional Fire Extinguishers. To fight four types of fire traditionally there were four types of extinguishers used at individuals’ level in primary firefighting. Those were:
6.1. Simple Water or Soda Water Extinguisher: For fighting solid material fire or dry substance fire.
6.2. Foam Extinguisher: For fighting liquid or oil fire.
6.3. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) or Carbon Tetra Chloride (CTC): For fighting gas, steam or vapor fire.
6.4. CO2 or CTC: For fighting electric and electrical equipment fire. CO2 or CTC are not burning agents by themselves. They do not burn themselves and they do not help other gases to burn. As such, they can be used to extinguish any type of gaseous fire. But they are particularly suitable for electric or electric equipment fire.
7. Use of Firefighting Equipment. Availability, stock and use of these extinguishers are limited mainly to govt. and private offices and industries. Presently, most offices, commercial buildings and industries use ABC/ ABE/ ABCE Dry Powder instead of old, traditional and ineffective extinguishers stated at serial 5. ABC/ ABE/ ABCE Dry Powder extinguishers can be used against any type of fire. Uncontrolled and accidental fire is a deadly event. It’s not possible for the laymen to fight fire deciding on what type of extinguisher applicable against what type of fire. It is done better by institutionally trained fire crews of the Fire Service and Civil Defence (FSCD) Authority. Therefore, superseding all previously used extinguishers presently an extinguisher ‘all in one’ type namely ABCE Dry Powder has been introduced replacing age old ones. This is very effective, user friendly and easy to carry. The meaning of the generic name ABCE is as follows:
7.1. A- means common solid materials.
7.2. B- means flammable liquids.
7.3. C- means flammable gas and vapors
7.4. D- means electrical equipment.
8. Modern Firefighting Equipment. The ABCE Dry Powder Extinguisher is somewhat looks like previously used Soda Water Extinguisher. Some people attempt to use the present one with the operating style of the superseded ones, which is potentially dangerous. The procedure for use of the present one is completely different from the procedure of previous one. However, the new extinguisher has basic information on its body including instructions for use. Beside this extinguisher, CO2 or CTC Extinguishers are being used against electric or gas fire as before.
9. Vital Use of Fire Extinguishers. Currently there are extensive use of gas and electricity in various activities in the cities, towns, and suburb and remote areas. Consequently, firefighting in the areas connected with gas and electricity is not possible with traditional soda water extinguishers. Natural water sources like ponds, tank, rivers, canals, etc in village, towns and suburb have reduced greatly due to rapid urbanization, industrialization, and extension of real estate industry. Under the circumstances, a crisis of water is felt seriously in the firefighting of solid materials in areas not having gas and electricity. Thus, use of ABCE Dry Powder has become inevitable to fight fire in rural houses, shops, markets, etc due to scarcity of natural water in these areas.
10. Response to a Fire Incident. Who is responsible for fighting a fire that is not desired or a fire broke out accidentally? Answer to this question is: any person capable, who has seen the fire first, must fight it with whatever means available near to him/ her and he or she shouts simultaneously with high voice ‘Fire’ ‘Fire’ ‘Fire’ so that people nearby can come for support and rescue. Given this argument, everybody must acquire required knowledge on firefighting so that it can be utilized efficiently in case of need arises. Undesired or accidental fire in house, office, laboratory, shops and industries, if not fought and extinguished instantly or kept under control, a small fire can be transformed into a big fire very quickly. In residential houses, fire from kitchen burner or fire from electrical equipments in other rooms, if not extinguished in moments can engulf other rooms quickly and ablaze the whole house in minutes. Time taken for fighting a fire with the support of FSCD Authority or any outside source is enough to burn everything into ashes in a house, office or shops. This phenomenon supports adequately the necessity of acquiring firefighting knowledge by everybody. Hence everybody accept very olds and infants must be trained and efficient at individual firefighting using primary firefighting appliances. Everybody at home including maids and other support staffs, house tutor, drivers, dependents, people and bosses in the offices, trades, factories, schools and colleges, and people from all walks of life must learn firefighting using primary appliances including ABCE Dry Powder Extinguishers.
Firefighting Scenario at Undesired Fire and Accidental Fire
11. Undesired or accidental fire may originate from desired fire at home, office and factories. Domestic cooking or hotel kitchen can cause accidental fire. Flexible pipe connecting gas burner with gas pipeline can be damaged due to high pressure and temperature causing intense fire. Cooking oil and furnace oil with high temperature can set up sudden huge fire at home, hotels and industries. Fire may begin at any time at any place due to lose connections, short circuit and faulty switch/ junction boxes. Fire at these places at initial stage can be fought by anybody having general knowledge applying primary firefighting appliances, e.g. ABCE Dry Powder or CO2 gas, etc. For this purpose it is necessary to have orientation and familiarization training on firefighting appliances, their availability and stocks and experience on using them at individuals’ level. Lack of knowledge on using firefighting equipment causes very small fire to expand quickly killing people and damaging properties regularly here and there. Tajreen Fashion Fire incident killed hundreds, killing of all 5-members of a family in a high rise building at Uttara on 26 February 2016 and many more similar events known or unknown round the year are the saddest fire incidents that pained us most. These incidents suggest making action plan to train everybody of the nation so that anyone can fight any undesirable or accidental fire at the first sight efficiently and successfully. In this regard first thing to do is to create awareness across the nation and imparting training to all besides making firefighting appliances readily available and keep them serviceable at all palaces prone to cause fire. A social movement needs to be launched for the purpose involving the whole nation from grassroots to the top most. The campaign for firefighting efficiency should be: “we all are trained and skilled at firefighting using primary firefighting appliances and will take leading role in saving the life and property at the outbreak of any fire anywhere”.
Availability, Stock, Use and Training on Firefighting Equipment
12. Simple solid materials’ fire can be extinguished at the onset applying water, sand, linen or blanket and fire beater. But if there is no water at home or in the office/ shop and if there is no other firefighting means available or seldom there are some, using those appliances at individual level there are very rare successful firefighting record. Initial firefighting with sands make electrical, mechanical and electronics cease to function and cannot be repaired or retrieve to function. As such, this method of firefighting has become a theory only. Likewise, initial firefighting with linen, blanket and beater have become limited in training at the professional organizations. Under the circumstances, fire extinguishers are used extensively in firefighting. These equipments are stocked and used mainly in the govt. and private offices and industries. These are not available in rural area, many urban dwelling houses, markets and shops. People are not interested in these appliances; they only scream at the loss of life and property caused by fire. Given this statement, all concerned must be activated to ensure that anybody at any place is capable of quick and effective firefighting at the initial stage using primary firefighting appliances to save life and property. It may be told as an example: A market committee should arrange training for every shop owner and arranges occasional firefighting demonstration and exercise taking local fire service onboard so that they effectively fight fire when situation arises. In the rural area or in metropolis the members and commissioners of the Union Parishad and City Corporations can organize firefighting demonstrations and exercises for their cross section people respectively. In this manner it is possible to bring whole population under effective firefighting network with 2-3 years. Similarly, management committees in the school, college, masjid, mondir, community center, club, and neighborhoods should arrange regular and frequent firefighting training, demonstrations and exercises. Job seekers, gas and electric connection applicants, trade license seekers, passport applicants, voter IN/ NID prospects may be asked before issuance of the license that they are trained and efficient in firefighting. Primary schools and equivalent curriculum institutions should have firefighting module as compulsory subject. By doing this sincerely we can prevent repetition of the Tajreen Fashion Fire and Uttara Residential High-rise Fire cases.
Firefighting in Institutional or Organizational Environment
13. Firefighting equipment are stocked permanently in govt. semi govt. and private organizations and in the manufacturing industries. But during crisis these item are found ineffective or out of order. People present during the emergency do not know the use of the appliances. Instead of fighting the fire workers in the industries run off their work stations in a fearful situation hearing the news of outbreak of fire. In this circumstances fire spreads very quickly inflicting heavy toll on lives and properties. Fire incidents and consequent devastation in various markets, industries in the recent past years in our country bear the testimony of this situation. To arrest this situation everybody of the organizations including lowest tier people, e.g. cleaners, security personnel, messengers and up the channel the top bosses must be efficient in firefighting. To this effect main responsibility should be shouldered by the head of the organizations. He/ she remains always committed and very active on the issue, arranges firefighting training, demonstrations and exercises; ensures availability and handy stocks of firefighting equipments, encourages and leads the firefighting demonstrations and exercises. Only then institutional capability can be developed. In govt. and private offices, generally there are fire extinguishers hanged on the outside walls or kept in suitable places outside the office. Similarly, fire extinguishers are kept in the office corridor and important places. In most cases the bosses of these offices, their personnel staffs and all other people hardly know the use of the item or have any curiosity to know the use. Physical inspection revealed that those were never used after the first supply or any training was given to the employees through practice sessions. Most of them are date expired or out dated, ineffective and there is no arrangement for replacement. It appears that only to avert legal complications these are kept to meet compliance requirement.
The Reflection of Individuals’ Skill and Institutional Capability
14. Individuals’ Skill. Very few people are aware of fire prevention, firefighting and familiar with firefighting equipment. Most people have very little knowledge on fire safety and use of firefighting appliances. In some renowned companies, industries, offices and markets the people are given primary firefighting training but they don’t continue the effort through regular practice and exercise in their premises. Repeated outbreak of fire, resultant fatality and damages in the RMG Sector and other industries prove that enough has not been done yet to train the individuals and make them skilled at firefighting. In military the situation is different. There are regular fire practice and exercises conducted in the military establishment participated by all. There are records of success that fires were fought and brought under control without FSCD support and without loss of life and property. Responsive and caring leadership at all level and the effective command channel is pivotal behind the successes.
15 Institutional Capability. Very few organizations and industries have required firefighting equipment stocked adequately in serviceable condition. It seen that the firefighting equipment installed are out of order and inadequate. Most people are ignorant and unable to use the equipment. Fire hydrants were not working, and or no water was in the system. Installed modern firefighting equipment and system in the high-rise buildings and industries, their efficacy have not been checked on commission or regularly through demonstrations and exercises participated by the dwellers and workers. As such, small fire spreads all over very quickly setting whole building ablaze. Amidst lots of deadly fire incidents in the country, no serious effort in enhancing institutional capability and conducting large scale firefighting exercises has been noticed. Unless this situation is reversed in positive direction we might see the repetition of Tajreen Fashion Fire incident. In this regard, arrangement of integrated firefighting exercises and demonstrations in coordination with local Fire Service Station (FSS) should be made institutionalized. Individuals’ skills in firefighting should be considered with due importance while fixing their pay, increment and, promotion and the role of the officers/ senior management should be evaluated in institutional capacity building. Institutional capacity in firefighting is tangible only when officers and men of an organization are able to fight any fire successfully using the firefighting equipment available and installed.
Firefighting in Suburb and Rural Areas
16. Unplanned and rapid urbanization, industrialization, road construction and building miscellaneous installations, the villages are losing its traditional character. Natural water sources are being eliminated completely due to rapid eradication of marshy lands, water bodies, rivers, canals, pond, etc. Virtually, all the villages are now having electricity and many have gas connections. In these areas, uncontrolled or accidental fire might turn into a composite fire immediately after the outbreak. So to fight fire in rural areas there is a necessity of using ABCE Dry Powder, CO2 and CTC like the ones needed in urban firefighting. It may be mentioned that to fight solid materials fire in the villages there is a necessity of having fire extinguishers due to acute shortage of water. Except few rural areas there is no alternative to stocking and using modern firefighting extinguishers in the rural area firefighting.
Firefighting in High Rise Buildings
17. Firefighting system, e.g. fire alarm, smoke detector, fire doors, fire escape, hydrants, sprinkles and water reservoir are installed during the construction of a building. But the effectiveness of the firefighting system is never tested in an integrated manner involving the dwellers and other people involved in various activities in a high- rise building. On-ground verifications reveal that the inhabitants and the employees of the buildings are not familiar to such a system. Security guards employed on 24 hours duty are also ignorant and inexperienced on the subject. Lots of killings and grave damages to properties are taking place in high-rise buildings’ fires in recent days due to system faults, inefficiency and inexperience of the responsible persons. The author experienced a real life firefighting situation in a high rise building in Dhaka and observed the followings:
17.1. Fire Hydrants were installed on every side on the ground floor and on every stair/ floor during building construction but the system’s operations and efficiency were never tested involving the dwellers. As a result, this system was not of any use during firefighting of the building.
17.2. Most inhabitants of the building were not familiar with the firefighting equipment. They were not organized for any firefighting exercise and given any firefighting practice.
17.3. Primary firefighting equipment, e.g. ABCE Dry Powder, CO2 and CTC were supplied and installed on every floor during inaugural. But there was no arrangement for familiarization training, use and testing the efficiency of these equipment through exercise or demonstration. Further, there was no system of replacement of the out dated ones. During the fire most of these were fund out of order.
Fire Incidence and Institutional Initiatives in Firefighting
18 Incidence of fire is always there in the offices, business centers and factories. Impressively, there are organizations conduct awareness programs and arrange regular firefighting exercises in their offices and in factory premises. In these exercises everybody remains present. Earmarked people participate directly in the exercise and all others observe it as per fire instructions of the organizations. At primary level of firefighting some people knows the use of modern firefighting extinguishers ABCE Dry powder, CO2 and CTC. A few people are competent in using permanent firefighting system installed in the building. Unfortunately, there are some organizations still very reluctant and casual in this aspect. Bangladesh Army as a fire safety compliant organization. There were seldom fire indents in the cantonments and in military units. Those fires were fought very promptly and so efficiently that there were no loss of life and hardy any significant damage caused to property. Those fires were fought at the onset using primary firefighting equipment at individuals’ level. It is the outcome of regular exercises close to real life situations. People were alert, they were trained and encouraged to fight fire with adequate knowledge and courage. Recently, Bangladesh Army conducted a nationwide campaign on firefighting in all its outfit including Army administered educational institutions. Renewing awareness, educating people on fire prevention and conducting firefighting exercises in the offices, troop’s accommodation, residential areas and educational institutions were the events of the campaign. Fighting a fire at the outset by the individuals successfully applying primary firefighting equipments was the focus of the campaign. Firefighting equipment supplied in the military units is inspected regularly and there is an arrangement for replacement of the used and unserviceable ones. Public or private organizations may follow the military in the development of the individual and institutional capacity in firefighting.
Impediments to Firefighting in High-rise Building
19. Recently, there was an incidence of fire in an apartment building in Dhaka adjacent to Airport Road at around 1630 hours. While fighting fire in the building following points were observed, which obstructed firefighting and rescue operations:
19.1. In every stair and in every lobby of the floor there were personal belongings jam-packed, e.g. furniture, trunk, flower tub, wooden trunk, which obstructed the use of stair case during firefighting.
19.2. Fire alarm, fire extinguishers and hydrant were installed in every floor but the alarm and hydrant were found completely ineffective.
19.3. In few flats children and maids were left in the apartments keeping them locked.
19.4. Local Fire Service and Civil Defence Station (FSCDS) responded very quickly but the equipment and vehicles brought by the first team of the FSCDS were not capable of firefighting in the high-rise building.
19.5. As local FSCDS did not have required equipment to fight fire in the high-rise building, bringing of appropriate equipment from elsewhere took longer time and by then nightfall began adding more difficulties to firefighting.
19.6. The building had NO firefighting instructions displayed prominently in the floors/ stairs. There were no directives on DOs and DON’Ts during outbreak of fire, earth quake, marking of safe place, etc. NO firefighting exercise was carried out in the building involving the dwellers.
19.7. Lots of people gathered around the scene which obstructed the movement of fire vehicles and equipment and firefighting as a whole and the security was in jeopardy.
19.8. After switching off main electric connection, there was no alternative source of light. First team of the FSCDS also did not have lighting arrangement.
19.9. Prolonged blazing made the walls of the adjacent apartments very hot. But disconnecting electricity and gas and spraying waters on the walls of the adjacent apartments helped keeping the fire under control.
20 Fire Safety Measures in High Rise Building
There are lots of high-rise office and apartment buildings across the country. Most dwellers do not know the DOs and DON’T’s in these building at the outbreak of fire. As such, cases of death and damages to property are on the rise. Realizing the needs of fire prevention, efficient firefighting and quick rescue operations in the high-rise buildings following measure are suggested, which needs to be implemented by all.
20.1. Must have fire safety plan combining fire prevention, firefighting and public safety approved by the FSCD Authority and implemented by the respective owners/ organizations.
20.2. Stairs and lobbies must be kept free from obstructions at all times.
20.3. Gas and electric connections (main switch) should be switched off before undertaking major firefighting efforts.
20.4. None should be kept under lock in the apartment/ room.
20.5. Firefighting system particularly primary firefighting equipment/ extinguishers must be kept serviceable and everybody must know the proper use.
Fire Prevention at Apartment Buildings and Other Installations
21. Responsibilities of the Dwellers. The tenants should always keep the stair case, lobby and common space free so that emergency evacuation and rescue operations can be carried out quickly and smoothly contributing towards saving life and property. The occupants should abide by the safety instructions. Flat Owners’ Association should regularly monitor the compliance of the instructions by the residents and launch motivational campaign to prevent accidental fire and fight fire with proper knowledge and courage, when needed.
22. Firefighting Demonstration and Exercise. Associations should arrange a firefighting demonstration/ exercise immediately on occupation of an apartment building. It must be participated by the dwellers and representative of the developers and suppliers, who has supplied and installed the firefighting system in the building. Orientation with the firefighting system and equipment, its use and maintenance should be taught in this session so that regular firefighting exercises can be conducted by the dwellers independently.
23. Importance of Primary Firefighting in the Office Building, Commercial Complex and Factories. Any power source is a potential fire hazard. Modern structures either an office space or a factory building has lots of power source and numerous fire hazards. Knowledge on fire hazards and firefighting is a must for everybody working in an office or factory. Every electric and gas connection, machines and gadgets run by electricity, gas and other forms of fuel can cause fire at any moment. Should the life and property be saved against any outbreak of fire, the people at home, office or factory must be efficient at first line firefighting using primary firefighting equipment.
Firefighting at Home
24. Family Life Style. An important aspect of day to day family life style in the cities/ urban areas is that men go out home for work, children go to schools and mothers accompany kids in pre-schooling. Quite often, housewives go to markets for buying groceries or shopping. Working ladies are always out of home like their male counterpart during working hours. Finally, the olds, kids and maids are at home all day long. In this condition, if a fire breaks out at home who is going to fight it, the kids? the olds? No, surely none of these groups. It is, perhaps, the maids or other domestic support staffs. But are they trained? Are the family members trained on firefighting? Is there any firefighting equipment at home? If yes, has it been tested?
25. Domestic Fire Incidence. Incidence of fire is generally more at home than offices or factories. But these incidences remain mostly unreported except the severe ones. Kitchen fires, fires from laptops left running on beds, leaving homes keeping the electronics and electrical equipment running and electrical short circuits are the sources of fires at home. Kitchen causes most fires both at urban and in rural areas. Kitchen fire intensifies rapidly associated with lots of combustible stuff in the kitchen and spreads very quickly in the whole house. Kitchen fires or fires at home, if not fought instantly it engulfs the whole house in minutes and burns everything including lives specially the children, olds and bed reddens.
26. Knowledge on Firefighting. From the foregoing it is understood that all family members, domestic support staff, housekeeping service, i.e. everybody must know the primary firefighting. For this purpose all these people must have elementary knowledge on fire, causes of fire, fire prevention and finally firefighting, if it is needed. Do we have a system in our society or national life that the general people are trained on firefighting? Is the national education system has such a provision? Is any NGO doing it for the commoners? Is there any charity on it? The answer to all these question is NO.
27. Firefighting Training is a Must. There are many life saving skills of which few are very important and we must learn them. These are swimming, firefighting, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Of them, firefighting can be singled out as the most important. The rationale of considering firefighting as the most important life saving skill is as follows:
27.1. If a non-swimmer drowns, a swimmer can try to rescue him/ her or people around can attempt to save/ rescue him/ her.
27.2. If anybody encircled/ caught in fire, none can approach him to evacuate/ save without special gear of a fire crew.
27.3. If anybody gets heart attack others can come to him/ her for immediate support/ CPR.
Author’s Initiative in Teaching Firefighting
28. People working in the public and private sector organizations have the scope to learn firefighting in their respective organizations. In turn they can teach their family members. But there is no evidence of teaching the family members the firefighting skills by any one. Given this phenomenon, the author is ready to render his support to any organization, any individual and any family in teaching the primary fire fighting skills aimed at saving life and property.
- By Brigadier General
Mohammad Ayub Ansary, psc, (Retd)
লেখাটি শুরু থেকে শেষ পর্যন্ত মন দিয়ে পড়ার জন্য আপনাকে অনেক ধন্যবাদ। ভালো লাগলে আপনার বন্ধুদের সাথে শেয়ার করুন।