Editor’s note: Are your fire extinguishers in working order, fully charged, ready to do their job in an emergency? Does each responsible family member know where they are and how to use one? (Or which type to choose?) Wait, don’t have any at home or in the barn or your vehicle? Well, after one close brush with an outside grill blazing up skyward in seconds, as it fed on grease drippings, I’m a firm believer in operational fire extinguishers at home, in a vehicle, at the office. While serving in the U.S. Air Force on the flightline, it was a requirement for everyone, including office personnel, to regularly do hands-on training with several types of extinguishers. I thought the practical process of “hear, see, and then do it” an important life lesson then and ever since. Today, extinguishers are located within a grabbing distance of the stove. While doing this story, I re-checked these units and found one with a needle pointing to empty though it had never been used. (Point taken, perform regular inspections.) Take the time now, because being prepared can save a life, your family and home or a business.
The time to think about fire protection for your home, barn, business or vehicle is before the need ever arises.
“Most people think a fire issue is not going to happen to them, but it does. It’s happened to me,” said Jerry Bauer, president of Roybal & Sons Fire Equipment Company of Middlefield, Conn. A recent stove fire in his home and seeing car fires where he grabbed a fire extinguisher from his own truck to put out the blaze brings the point of his company home. “If I didn’t have a fire extinguisher in the vehicle, it would have been a total loss.”
As with life, some people quickly react and can remain clear-headed in an emergency. Others panic. Sometimes the difference is knowing what to do by practicing what to do. Regular training as to how to use equipment and repetition can heavily tip the balance for calm action under pressure. Remember fire drills in school? Quick response can become second nature.
“Training is so important,” explains Bauer. “Common sense is key. Even with a simple fire extinguisher, 99% of the people that we train don’t even know to pull the pin, let alone use the extinguisher. We always say overkill is always better because an inexperienced person usually sprays out much of the chemical before any actually hits the fire.”
Most people would agree, a fire extinguisher in their home, kitchen or the basement is a good idea. Fires start small and can quickly get out of control.
“The most important thing is to know how and where to use an extinguisher, and when to just let the fire go. If you have a fire hose, a sprinkler system or a fire alarm, these are all great for getting people out. If you can put out a small fire, then put it out, and if it gets beyond that, run out.”
“Extinguishers are meant to put a small fire out or if your path out of a situation is blocked by the fire, then knowing how to use it can be a path to safety.”
Those who have extinguishers in place should know – there’s always more to learn. A typical fire extinguisher discharges in less than 60 seconds. You have to have the correct extinguisher for the situation. A kitchen hood fire is different than a brush fire.
A water extinguisher used on an electrical panel is the wrong choice. A CO2 extinguisher in a woodworking shop that is not rated for ordinary combustibles is not going to do the job.
He notes that insurance coverage has to cover any damages even if the insured are negligent in maintaining their extinguisher to code.
“For private homes, at the present time, there is no requirement for a fire extinguisher, sprinkler or fire alarm. Compliance is usually geared towards places of business. Occupancy and assembly are governed by NFPA 101 , Connecticut Life Safety Code, which describes the type of facility and the type of protection required. In construction there is a mechanical code which governs new construction, when and where you need extinguishers, sprinklers and fire alarms. Insurance carriers are also considered the local authority having jurisdiction. If you want this type of insurance you must have this.”
Insurance companies mandating protection because they’re the ones that have to pay the price for those who don’t have the right equipment or don’t maintain proper standards.
Roybal Fire Equipment’s main purpose is to provide fire protection in an area where they are experts. “We specialize in portable fire extinguishers, sales and service and in fire extinguisher training, fire suppression systems, restaurant systems, industrial systems and computer room or server room systems. That includes Halon, FM 200, and Inergen systems, using “clean agent” gases for protection.
“OSHA and state code requires a monthly check of energy lights and extinguishers. We also do new room integrity testing, or fan testing.” That calls for a fan placed in the door of the room to be tested.
“A computerized system is used as we pump the air in and measure the rooms ability to hold air. Then we reverse the fan and pump the air out, plug in the resulting data and that tells us how it will hold. The retention time is what we look for, because if the fire goes out but the clean agent gas seeps out in 5 seconds the fire is going to restart . A retention rate of 10 minutes is good. That means it will hold the clean agent gas for the fire to stay out to give local authorities time to respond after an alarm.”
Lou and Ann Roybal founded the company in 1957.
Shirley Bauer explains, “When my father, Lou Roybal worked for New Departure in Meriden, Connecticut, he really got involved in the fire equipment business servicing extinguishers. He worked out of his home for all the years he owned Roybal Fire Equipment. In 1986, he wanted to retire and my husband and I and our three sons bought the business. The new building and office is located on West Street in Middlefield. We started with providing fire equipment to keep restaurants, hospitals, stores, and other businesses in compliance with their needs, then added inspection and installation of state-of-the-art fire suppression systems.”