Fire Safety - Hose Reels
Many large buildings have in-built fire hose reels which can be used to tackle fires. These hoses can deliver a much greater volume of water per second than single fire extinguishers, which means there is a much better chance of putting a fire out in a reduced amount of time, thereby limiting the potential damage to property and health of those in the premises or nearby. Hose reels will usually be connected to the mains water supply which means they will provide water for as long as necessary when tackling a blaze, unlike a hand-held extinguisher which only has a finite amount of water in it and therefore a limited use.
Whilst they provide a practically unlimited supply of water and a much more powerful jet of water, there are also a number of disadvantages of fire hose reels. For a start, this powerful jet of water can in some circumstances cause embers to be disturbed and spread the fire. Also, the fact that it is water that comes out of the hose means that it will not be suitable to be used on certain types of fires such as electrical fires.
Fire hose reels are typically quite heavy, cumbersome affairs which means a significant amount of effort may be required in order to get the hose from where it is stored to the site of the fire. It may be difficult for some people to manoeuvre and use the hose, although if this is the case it may also be difficult for them to lift and carry a fire extinguisher also.
The large volume of water that comes out will mean that it needs a fairly thick hose to carry it. Not only does this make it heavy as mentioned in the paragraph above, but it can also present a trip hazard as it lies on the floor. In the event of a fire, particularly a large one, people are likely to be hurrying about as they evacuate or perform their particular fire roles, which means they may not be paying full attention to what is on the floor. It is also possible that smoke from the fire has reduced visibility. In either case there is a real risk of them tripping over the hose. Not only can this lead to serious injury, but can also be potentially deadly if for example the person trips, hits their head and becomes unconscious with nobody else around (e.g. if the person using the hose has decided to evacuate the building and left the hose on the floor), as they may then be consumed by the flames or overcome by smoke inhalation and asphyxiation.
Aside from being a trip hazard, the hose itself also has other factors which need to be considered. As it is connected to the mains the hose will only have a certain length to which it can be unfurled. This means that if the fire is further away than the hose can stretch then it will not be of any use unless the jet of water can reach the fire. It may also need to be taken through fire doors, which will then not be able to close fully. This will leave gaps for the fire to exploit and allow it to spread more easily than if the fire doors were properly shut.
- SMSTS - The Site Management Safety Training Scheme certificate contains a section on fire safety on a construction site.