Friday, January 21, 2011

Fire Safety

Fire Extinguishers

Lazy Daze installs a fire extinguisher just inside the entry door. Unfortunately, it's a 1A/10BC dry-chemical type filled with mono-ammonium phosphate. RVing fire expert Mac "The Fire Guy" McCoy teaches that these leave toxic/corrosive residue after use on burning surfaces. If you're going to have a dry chemical extinguisher, according to Mac, a plain old sodium bicarbonate type is preferable, but better still are the aqueous foam extinguishers.

You can never have too many extinguishers - here are some suggestions for placement:

- A one-gallon Kidde foam extinguisher behind the driver's seat along with a pair of work gloves.

- A second one-gallon Kidde foam extinguisher in the passenger door (had to do a little cutting, but it sits nicely at the bottom of the door).

- A 14 oz. "Tundra" foam extinguisher inside the propane compartment door, because that's the only compartment door on the rig that is never locked, so if you need an extinguisher fast, you won't have to fumble with a key. That way if you're outside and see a fire starting in your rig or somebody else's, you won't lose precious seconds fumbling with keys before you can get to an extinguisher. A small extinguisher could be mounted on the inside of its door using some wood to strengthen the mounting. You could also mount a bicycle water-bottle rack to hold the extinguisher on the frame of the propane tank near the gauge.

- A 14 oz. foam extinguisher in the passenger foot-well of your towed vehicle.

- In an area as confined as a RV, you might consider having a few small ones in the more remote corners of the rig in case you find yourself there when there is a fire. Consider 14 oz. foam extinguishers in the kitchen, lounge, and overcab bunk, as well as the original Lazy Daze powder extinguisher near the entry door.

Extinguishers with a metal head are preferable to those with plastic heads. It is also felt that a one-time-use model is preferable to a re-chargeable one.

Recommended brands include Ansul Sentry, Amerex, or General.

In case you have an engine fire, here are some tips from Mac McCoy:

1. Carry a foam*--not powder--extinguisher where you can reach it from the driver's seat, and also keep a pair of leather work gloves there.

2. If a fire occurs, pull over, pull the hood release, and get out with the extinguisher and the gloves.

3. Put on the gloves, but DO NOT try to open the hood, because there's a good chance that by admitting fresh air to the fire, you'll cause a flare-up that could burn your face and upper body.

4. Use the gloves to protect your hands from the hot hood as you lift it just enough to slip in the nozzle of the foam extinguisher, and douse the engine compartment, concentrating on the base of the flames if you can see 'em. (But don't lift the hood to look, until the fire is mostly out.)

* Why foam? Because it not only excludes oxygen (as does any extinguisher), but also cools the burning area and prevents re-ignition, which a powder extinguisher doesn't do. For fuel fires especially, foam is much more effective--that's why airports use it for plane crashes.

Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors come in two types: ionization and photoelectric. Ionization detectors respond to small amounts of combustion products--visible or invisible--while photoelectric detectors respond to smoke particles (and it doesn't take many!) that reflect light into a detector.

Both types work well, but they are sensitive to somewhat different types of fires. Ionization detectors are especially sensitive to flaming fires, such as grease fires or wastebasket fires. Photoelectric detectors are more sensitive smoldering fires, such as would be caused by a cigarette dropped onto a couch or bed. Understand that both types of detectors WILL sound for both types of fires; it's just a question of how soon.

Because ionization detectors use very little power, the majority of them are battery-powered. Photoelectric detectors usually must be hardwired into your house's electrical system. Because of this, ionization detectors are much more widely used. Also, a recent CPSC study found that 94% of home fires were of the "flaming" type that ionization detectors are most sensitive to, so they probably have a slight early-warning edge over the photoelectric type.

RV-certified smoke detectors have circuit boards that are potted (dipped in plastic) to prevent them from being influenced by moisture and to lessen the effects of vibration. That's why the cheap ones you buy at Wal-Mart are fine for homes, but don't work so well in RVs. The RV rating, by the way, is not even mentioned on the box; it's hidden inside the case in fine print.

Important: LD recommends changing the battery once a year; better yet is to replace twice a year when the time-shift to/from standard time occurs. Also, the detector itself should be replaced every 8-10 years.

Contributors: Andy Baird, WxToad

Revised 15 Aug 11

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