The first thing you do should be to activate an alarm and call 911. If you have colleagues present at the site, radio them and let them know about the fire. If there are other people present, get them out of the area – remember to use stairs and not elevators and instruct evacuees to do the same. Get a fire extinguisher and try to put out the fire, if it’s limited in scope.
Your first responsibility is to secure the life and safety of people; after getting all non-emergency personnel out of the area, you need to explore ways to minimize damage to property. There are several ways to extinguish a fire – take away its fuel supply, smother it or stamp it out with a physical object such as a blanket, use water or a fire extinguisher to dampen the fuel and cut off oxygen supply to the fire.
Fire extinguishers come in 5 different classes, depending on the materials they are designed to extinguish. A Class A extinguisher is meant to fight ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper, trash, cloth, consumer-grade plastics and so on. These materials are relatively easy to extinguish by simply removing heat or oxygen.
A Class B extinguisher is for liquid fuel or gas fires. An important thing to note is that water should never be used to extinguish a liquid fuel fire, since it can cause the flammable material to scatter and potentially spread the fire over a larger area than before. In the case of a gas line rupture, water would be altogether ineffective. The best way to fight such fires is to cut off oxygen supply to the fire using foam or gases.
Class C fires involve electrical equipment such as short-circuiting wires or malfunctioning appliances. Fighting such fires that may contain live electrical wires cannot be done using conductive materials, which is why water is absolutely not recommended; certain types of foam are also conductive, so Class C extinguishers use powders or carbon dioxide to put out fires. If you have access to the electrical source and can turn off power to the location of the fire, the fire can be fought using non-Class C extinguishers.
Class D fires involve combustible metals such as magnesium, titanium and sodium. Such fires can create extraordinarily high temperatures; however, due to their high heat conductivity, they also carry heat away from the burning location and make it difficult to sustain the reaction. Metal fires are a particular hazard in places where metal shavings or filings are present. Due to the chemical properties of metals, metal fires absolutely shouldn’t be extinguished with water, since this may cause an explosive reaction or increase in the fire’s intensity. Class D extinguishers use dry powders.
Finally, a Class K extinguisher is used to fight cooking oil and grease fires. These substances have a high flash point and high burning temperature; along with their tendency to float on water and easily permeate cloth and other woven substances, this can create a special hazard for a fire fighter trying to douse them with liquids or smother them with cloth. Class K extinguishers typically use carbon dioxide or dry powders.
Depending on the facility you’re guarding, you may run an increased hazard of one particular type of fire, or more than one. Make sure that you know where extinguishers are kept and which one is used for which type of fire – if you’re not careful, you could make the situation worse than it was.
As part of your CT guard card training, you must understand fire response procedure and know what to do in order to safeguard human lives and property in case of a conflagration.