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Frequently Asked Questions

Fire Protection & Koetter Fire Related Questions

The following questions are often asked regarding Koetter Fire Protection's in particular or fire protection in general. Click the question to view a specific response, or scroll down to review all answers.

What are the four classes of fire?      top

There are four classes of fires. All fire extinguishers are labeled, using standard symbols, for the classes of fires on which they can be used. A red slash through any of the symbols tells you the extinguisher cannot be used on that class of fire. A missing symbol tells you only that the extinguisher has not been tested for a given class of fire, but may be used if an extinguisher labeled for that class of fire is not available.

Types of Fires:

  • CLASS A: Ordinary combustibles such as wood, cloth, and paper.
  • CLASS B: Flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, and oil-based paint.
  • CLASS C: Energized electrical equipment, including wiring, fuse boxes, circuit breakers, machinery and appliances.
  • CLASS D: Combustible metals such as magnesium or sodium.

When should I use a fire extinguisher?      top

Portable extinguishers are not designed to fight large or spreading fires. Even against small fires, they are useful only under certain conditions:

  • The operator must know how to use the extinguisher.
  • The extinguisher must be within easy reach, in working order, and fully charged.
  • The operator must have a clear escape route that will not be blocked by fire.
  • The extinguisher must match the type of fire being fought. (Extinguishers containing water are unsuitable for use on grease or electrical fires.)
  • The extinguisher must be large enough to put out the fire. Many portable extinguishers discharge completely in as few as eight to ten seconds.
  • Always be sure the fire department inspects the fire site, even if you think you've extinguished the fire.

When should I fight a fire?      top
  • If the fire is small and contained.
    The time to use a fire extinguisher is in the early, or incipient, stage of a fire. Once the fire starts to grow or spread, it is best to evacuate the building, closing doors or windows behind you.
  • If you are safe from toxic smoke.
    If the fire is producing large amounts of thick, black smoke or chemical smoke, it may be best not to try to extinguish the fire. Neither, should you attempt to extinguish the fire in a confined space. Outdoors, approach the fire with the wind at your back. Remember that all fires will produce carbon monoxide and many fires will produce toxic gases that can be fatal, even in small amounts.
  • If you have a means of escape.
    You should always fight a fire with an exit or other means of escape at your back. If the fire is not quickly extinguished, you need to be able to get out quickly and avoid becoming trapped.
  • If your instincts tell you it's OK.
    If you do not feel comfortable attempting to extinguish the fire, don’t try - get out and let the fire department do their job.

What is special hazards fire protection?      top

Special hazards are defined by the critical nature of an operation or how easily the protected items or functions can be replaced. To determine if you need a special hazards fire suppression system, start by asking these questions:

  • Can the items be replaced?
  • Can you afford down time caused by fire damage or clean-up?
  • Are there redundant systems? Can you still operate if this system goes down?

If you answer no to these questions, then you need to look at fire protection not only for the structure of the building, but for the assets it contains. That is special hazards fire protection.

The special hazards family consists of five types of suppression systems. They include:

  • clean agent
  • foam
  • dry chemical
  • carbon dioxide
  • water mist systems

What are Performance-Based Codes and Performance-Based Design?      top

Performance-Based Codes are an alternative to the current "prescriptive-based" code requirements. The Prescriptive Code is a code or standard that prescribes fire safety for a generic use or application.

Fire safety is achieved by specifying certain construction characteristics, protection systems or limiting dimension without referring to how these requirements achieve the desired fire safety goal. A Performance-Based Code is a code or standard that specifically states its fire safety goals and references acceptable methods that can be used to demonstrate compliance with its requirements. It uses an engineering approach to fire protection design based on (1) established fire safety goals and objectives; (2) deterministic and probabilistic analysis of fire scenarios; (3) quantitative assessment of design alternatives against the fire safety goals and objectives using accepted engineering tools, methodologies, and performance criteria.

A performance based approach allows for greater design flexibility, accommodates greater innovation in construction techniques and materials, provides for equal or better fire safety and maximizes the ratio of benefit-to-cost during the design/construction process.

What are clean agents?     top

Clean agents are gaseous fire suppressing agents. Because they suppress fire as gases, there is no damage to protected areas from the discharge and no residue to clean up. Thus, the term "clean" agents.

Are some "clean agents" banned or are about to be banned?      top

No. Starting in the 1960s, Halon 1301 was the principal agent used in clean agent extinguishing systems. However, Halon was found to have a high ozone depletion potential, so manufacture of Halon was banned in 1994. There is no ban on the use of Halon, however, and many Halon systems are still in service.

There are also no plans to ban Halon use at any time in the future. However, the EPA strongly recommends using one of the recently developed Halon alternatives. There are three commercially available Halon alternatives that are very effective at suppressing fire.

How do I know these new clean agents are safe?     top

The EPA phased out Halon production as part of the Clean Air Act of 1990. Another part of that Act was the Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP). Under SNAP, the EPA evaluated substitute chemicals and alternative technologies to ensure that they wouldn't cause greater damage to human health or the environment that the potential ozone depleters that were being replaced. Each of today's clean agents is SNAP approved.

Can people be exposed to clean agents?     top

Yes, part of the SNAP approval process includes testing for adverse effects in humans at recommended design concentrations. Each of today's clean agents is safe for humans and safe for the environment as well.

Halon 1301 is also safe for occupied areas at recommended design concentrations. However, some people consider carbon dioxide a clean agent as well because it shares the non-corrosive, no clean-up features. While carbon dioxide is a very effective fire suppressing agent, it is not safe for use in occupied areas.

What are the new clean agents?      top

At this time, the four commercially-available clean agents for total flooding applications are: INERGEN, NOVEC 1230, FM-200 and FE-13.

How Can I Dispose of Halon?     top

Halon must be disposed of in accordance with EPA regulations. When it's time to dispose of your Halon, you have five options:

  • Make it available to critical users through the Halon Recycling Corporation
  • Donate it to the Department of Defense Ozone Depleting Substances Reserve. You can return it to your distributor for resale.
  • Send it to a Halon recycler.
  • If you have a very small amount of Halon 1301, or if you have Halon 1211 or 2402, Friends of the Earth can help you locate a regional organization that will take your Halon as a service.

What is Olson Fire's Internet Privacy Policy?      top

All the information provided to Olson Fire Protection Inc as a result of your on-line purchase, form or email communication is treated as confidential, and will not be disclosed to any other parties.

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