Effects of fire in buildings and construction

Fire outbreaks are very devastating. But most fire-related deaths aren’t actually caused by actual flames. According to the Stanford Children’s Health, these deaths are caused by smoke inhalation of toxic gases produced by fires. Only about 30 percent of fire-related deaths are caused by actual flames and burns.

 

The leading causes of building fires and related injuries is home-cooking equipment. However, most residential fires are caused by smoking materials such as cigarettes.

 

The smoke and fumes created by fires are very dangerous. As a result, when a building fire occurs, you must leave that building immediately. It is not the time for you to start looking for vital items to save or scurrying around to find the nearest phone to dial the fire department. At this point, staying alive is more important than any other thing and evacuating the burning building is the only way to do so.

Fire outbreaks, sometimes, are inevitable. You can’t tell when they will happen. As a result, it is very important for building owners and construction engineers to create an evacuation plan in case of a fire incident or outbreak. This plan should be practiced with families and workers to ensure that everyone knows how to evacuate a burning building safely.

 

Furthermore, because fires are unpredictable, the evacuation plan should include multiple exits as you never know which exit might be blocked by the fire. That said, once everyone has been evacuated safely from the burning building or construction site, you can call the fire department. In the event that you or someone else can’t get out, take shelter in an enclosed stairwell, or put as many doors as you can between you and the fire. If there are cracks at the bottom, block them to keep smokes and fumes out. If there are windows around, close them to limit the spread of the fire. Then put up a signal like a flashlight for firefighters to know you’re in the building. When you’re finally safe, call your local emergency line, explaining to them your situation. Don’t hang up after telling them about your situation. Stay on the phone and answer all the operator’s questions. Hang up only when you’re told to do so.

Building and construction site fires have damaging consequences. Below are the most dangerous effects of building fires.

 

Structural damage

Many building fires do not destroy the entire structure. But they often cause smoke and lead to water damage throughout the building. For example, a cooking fire, which often occurs in the kitchen may be limited to that area and perhaps nearby rooms. Still, it doesn’t mean that unaffected areas in the building are safe.

Remember that fire produces lots of smoke and this can move quickly to other areas of the building including leaving thick deposits on walls and furniture. Smoke can also damage your building’s structure, including its foundation. How? Smoke contains acidic compounds that eat away at metals and penetrate wall cavities. Smoke can also penetrate the building’s heating and ventilation system, including electrical sockets easily.

As for water damage, it is a common and unavoidable effect. Firefighters fight fires with water and other substances like foam.

When a building is on fire, their major concern is to kill the fire and stop it from spreading. At this point, they aren’t even thinking of what could get wet inside the building. Unfortunately, during this process, water and other chemicals used to extinguish the fire is often absorbed by the building’s materials. This further weakens the building’s structure and increases its risks of collapsing. As a result, it is completely unsafe to re-enter a burning building that’s been rescued by firefighters. Doing so can put you or anyone else at risk of dying.

Therefore, before entering a fire-damaged building or construction site, make sure it has been thoroughly inspected by a fire damage restoration team. This team is responsible for examining the structure of the building and to confirm whether it is safe to enter it again. They will also assess the extent of smoke and water damage in the structure after verifying that the site or building has not sustained structural damage.

Toxic fumes

Building and site fires produce toxic gases which is the major cause of deaths in many fire-related deaths. Actual flames only account for about 30 percent of fire-related deaths, says the Stanford Children’s Health. Smoke contains harmful gases likeĀ  carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide and phosgene. When inhaled, these gases attack your lungs and cut off oxygen supply, leading to confusion. As a result, it becomes more difficult for you to navigate through the fire and out of the burning building.

 

When smoke rises in a burning building, they consume and replace the oxygen in the air which makes it very dangerous. It is for this reason you should stay as low to the ground as possible when trapped and trying to escape from a burning building filled with smoke. Below are the contents of smoke and why they are deadly and shouldn’t be inhaled.

  • Particles: Smoke may contain small, harmful particles from burned or partially burned substances such as plastic and rubber. When inhaled, these particles can build up in your lungs and block oxygen supply. They may also irritate your eyes and cause difficulty in seeing.
  • Vapours: Vapours from fire are often toxic. These droplets can cause serious health implications and can also be absorbed through the skin.
  • Toxic gases: Smoke contains carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide. Carbon monoxide can lead to death when inhaled because it replaces all the oxygen in your bloodstream. Hydrogen cyanide, on the other hand, is present in smoke when plastics are burned. This gas can disrupt your breathing and cause confusion. Synthetic materials like nylon, polyester and ceramics, when burned release phosgene which can irritate your eyes and throat and cause pulmonary edema. Pulmonary edema is caused by excess fluid in the lungs due to congestions which cause breathing difficulties.

 

GOLDEN RULES WHEN FIGHTING FIRE

Fires are extremely dangerous and as a result, you must be careful when dealing with one. Always remember that when fighting fires, your life and those of others are very important. Therefore, your safety comes first. Here are three golden rules to remember when you discover fire in a building or construction site.

 

  1. Activate the alarm: If you discover or suspect fire at any point in a building, activate the building’s fire alarm. If there are no firm alarms available, warn the building’s occup me atants by knocking on doors and shouting as you leave.
  2. Assist people in the building: Assist any person in immediate danger, or those incapable of helping themselves out of the burning building. However, make sure to do this when it’s safe, otherwise leave the building as quickly as you can. If the fire is still small, you can extinguish the fire. But if it’s uncontrollable, stay away from the building and stay out of firefighters way.
  3. Call the fire department and give as much information as possible about the fire and the location. Don’t return to the building until the fire department says it’s safe to do so!

 

WHAT SHOULD YOU NEVER DO IN THE EVENT OF A FIRE AT WORK

  1. Never fight a fire if you don’t know what is burning. If you don’t have an idea what’s burning, you won’t know the type of extinguisher to use. (Yes, different fires require different fire extinguishers.) Some fires may contain substances that have toxic substances. These substances may lead to an explosion when they react with the wrong extinguishing agents. So if you have no idea about what’s burning or what extinguisher to use, call the fire department immediately and let them handle it.
  2. Don’t try to extinguish a fire that is spreading rapidly. You could easily harm yourself. The time to use a fire extinguisher is at the earliest stage of the fire, that is when the fire is still small or just starting.
  3. If you’re uncomfortable around fires, don’t try to be a hero and jump into helping. If fires scare you, it’s best to sit this one out and allow the fire department and people who are more strong-willed to do the saving.

 

SOURCES / REFERENCES

https://www.sc.edu/ehs/training/Fire/07_rules.htm

https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=fire-safety-and-burns–injury-statistics-and-incidence-rates-90-P02978

https://restorationmasterfinder.com/restoration/dangerous-house-fire-consequences/