Mar 02, 2022
March is the National Fire Prevention Month in the Philippines. Incidentally, the month marks the start of summertime and the number of fire-related incidents usually rises during this season. Fire prevention and getting ready for a fire-related emergency should be definitely the priority of a homeowner.
In light of the Fire Prevention Month, here is a homeowner’s guide to fire prevention and being prepared.
Every year for decades now, March has been observed as the Fire Prevention Month in the Philippines to raise awareness about the causes, hazards, and dangers of fire.
Back in 1966, then-President Ferdinand Marcos signed Proclamation 115-A, which assigned different aspects of safety and accident prevention to each month of the year.
So, from January to December, we observe the following (in chronological order): general orientation, air transportation, fire prevention, vacation hazards, land transportation, sea transportation, schools, farms, health and sanitation, industry and commerce, homes, and holiday hazards. This law promotes safety consciousness among the Filipino people as a preventive approach to a common problem.
Fire Prevention Month was assigned to the month of March, incidentally, because of the high record of fire incidents that happen at this time of the year.
One reason why this is so stems from the fact that March happens to be one of the hottest months in the Philippines and has the most fire incidents throughout the year. The month marks the start of the hot and dry season that usually ends at around the month of May.
Additionally, March was also declared the Burn Prevention Month, as per Proclamation 360 signed by former President Corazon Aquino.
As a fun and positive way to usher in Fire Prevention Month, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), along with local government and nong-overnment organizations, would participate in motorcades going around the different municipalities. These also involve thousands of cars and trucks including emergency vehicles such as ambulances and fire engines.
BFP representatives would also go to schools, and sometimes offices, to educate students and civilians on how to prepare for a fire emergency.
Ever heard of the expression “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” A good number of homes are lost every year because of simple human errors that could have been easily avoided. Ditch these common habits and follow our fire prevention tips to keep your family and propertyt safe from fire.
Overloading extension cords
At times, people tend to overestimate the capacity of extension cords. Sometimes users would plug in additional extension cords or adaptors that would cause an overload. Also, some extension cords are not equipped to power high-usage appliances such as refrigerators, computers, washing machines, televisions, and such.
Tip: Use wall outlets for high-usage appliances and use extension cords for electronics that have lower power ratings.
Leaving a candle burning unattended
Unattended lit candles are a common cause of house fires when there is a power outage. It is also tempting to leave scented candles burning to improve the room’s ambiance. Both can be a recipe for disaster because they can easily topple down and light something that easily burns.
Tip: Never leave a lit candle unattended. Avoid placing candles close to dry and flammable objects.
Using damaged power cords
Damaged power cords not only pose a serious risk of fire but also electrical shock. Watch out for these telltale signs: missing ground prongs, damage to the insulation, and heat damage (when sections of the cord or plug appear discolored, warped, or melted). Cords are designed with protective casing and rubber coating for the sole reason of preventing electrical shocks and fire.
Tip: Throw out worn-out and damaged power cords (dispose of these properly) even if they are still working.
Crowding appliances together
You may also want to consider how your appliances are placed so close together. If you have many appliances running in one area, this may overload the electrical capacity of the outlets there which can result in a fire. Moreover, the cumulative heat from the appliances can also ignite easily combustible materials.
Tip: Avoid putting several appliances in one place or using one outlet at the same time. If crowding cannot be avoided, make sure you unplug appliances that are not in use.
Careless cooking in the kitchen
It’s quite common to leave some food cooking on your stove while you do other chores or tasks. This could be a recipe for disaster, as leaving an active stove burner unattended may result in a fire.
Tip: Always ensure that you finish all your cooking and that the stove’s knobs are switched off before leaving the kitchen. Also, check the gas lines regularly for leaks.
Leaving appliances plugged in while you’re out for a long time
Even if the appliances or electronics are switched off, make it a habit to make sure these are unplugged when you leave home. Electricity in houses or buildings tends to fluctuate and cause grounds, damaging your electronics that can start a fire.
Tip: If you will be away from home for a couple of days or more, it would be ideal to turn off the main circuit breaker.
As if smoking isn’t bad enough for your health, it is also a leading cause of fires. Irresponsible disposal of lit cigarette butts are the cause of thousands of fires including house fires, forest fires, and other fire-related incidents.
Tip: Dispose of cigarette butts and matches responsibly. Better yet, quit the habit!
Ignoring lint buildup in the dryer
Statistics from the United States say that more than 15,000 house fires are started per year because of clothes dryers. While this cause isn’t as common in the Philippines where you can hang your clothes out to dry, it may still be a concern, especially among condo dwellers who use clothes dryers regularly.
Tip: Avoid this by simply cleaning off the lint from the filter or tray of your dryer.
Not dusting enough
Although it seems like an exaggeration, dust buildup is still considered a fire hazard. Dust, if left to accumulate, can create a home for heat around electronics and sockets.
Tip: Make sure to clean up and vacuum even in hard-to-reach areas like the undersides of appliances.
Another step to fire prevention and safety is preparing your home. Here are some questions you may want to think about: Is your home built and structured in a way that is resistant to fire? Are there enough escape routes? Is it equipped with the correct fire suppression systems?
You can also use this as a guide if you are planning to buy a house in the Philippines.
Section 2.02.02 of the Fire Code of the Philippines classifies building materials according to their fire-resistive ratings, which are determined by international standards and methods. Consider these when you are overseeing the construction of your new home or when you are choosing a future home. The tables below illustrate different materials used and their respective durability and resistance.
|One-Hour Fire-Resistive Time Period Rating|
|Walls and partitions|
|Solid masonry||10cm thick|
|Hollow unit masonry||15cm thick|
|Solid concrete||10cm thick|
|Wood joists (2 layers of flooring above)||1.9cm thick||2 layers shall be separated by sheet metal or asbestos building paper (6.3cm thick)|
|Tongue and grooved wood floors||6.3cm thick||shall be covered with 1.9cm thick wood flooring laid at right angles thereto|
|Supporting beams||Must not be less than 15cm in dimension|
|Protection for metal structural members|
|Metal Lath plaster||2.5cm thick|
|Wood columns||20cm or more in least dimensions|
|Wood beams||15cm or more in least dimensions|
|Two-Hour Fire-Resistive Time Period Rating|
|Walls, partitions, and floors|
|Solid masonry||15cm thick|
|Hollow unit masonry||20cm thick|
|Solid concrete||12.7cm thick|
|Protection for metal structural members|
|Two layers of metal lath and plaster||Total thickness of 6.3cm, 1.9cm air space in between|
|Three-Hour Fire-Resistive Time Period Rating|
|Walls, partitions, and floors|
|Solid masonry||17.8 thick|
|Hollow unit masonry||25.4 thick|
|Solid concrete||15cm thick|
|Protection for metal structural members|
|Four-Hour Fire-Resistive Time Period Rating|
|Walls, partitions, and floors|
|Solid masonry||20cm thick|
|Hollow unit masonry||30cm thick|
|Solid concrete||17.8cm thick|
|Steel Joists Floors should have 1 to 4 hour fire-resistive rating based on international standards|
|Flame-Proof Materials required to be treated with a flame-retardant that has a flame-spread rating of 50 and less, determined by the “Tunnel Test”|
Electrical fires are accountable for a good percentage of residential fires. Hiring a competent electrical contractor or electrician does not only save your appliances and electronics from damage but also greatly reduces the chances of a house fire. Have the electrical planning of your house and building checked, and ensure that all wiring and other electrical equipment are up to standard.
According to the Fire Code of the Philippines, the following should be considered for the building’s structure to make it ideal in an event of a fire emergency:
Homes should be equipped with the tools needed to detect and suppress a fire. These include smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and a sprinkler system.
Smoke detectors are devices that sense smoke—the typical indicator of a fire. There are two main types of smoke detectors for home use: photoelectric and ionization. Both will detect either a smoldering fire or a flaming fire.
Which one should be used at home? It all depends on the location of the smoke alarm, if it’s by the kitchen, living room, laundry, or anywhere else. Different rooms can have different kinds of fire. Both types of smoke detectors can be used in one room, especially in the kitchen, where home fires usually start.
These are portable fire suppression equipment used for small fires. These work through chemical reactions that deprive the flame of oxygen. Here are the classifications of fire extinguishers and on what material on fire they are most effective:
Fire Sprinkler System
Fire sprinkler systems help significantly in damage control and increase your chances of surviving the fire. Homes with a fire sprinkler system incur nine times less damage when a fire breaks out. Also, having a sprinkler system increases your chances of survival for up to 97% from a low of 50%.
Help keep your family safe by preparing emergency plans for a fire. As a homeowner with a family, you are responsible for preparing anyone for whatever comes your way. Fire and other disasters occur when you are home or away from your other family members. Follow these tips to keep your family safe in any scenario.
No matter how much you have made fire prevention and safety a priority in your home, there is always a probability of a fire breaking out. Without knowing how to act in the event of a fire, there is a great chance that you will end up panicking, causing you to make poor decisions and mistakes and wasting precious time. Keep calm and follow this step-by-step guide in case your home is on fire.
Knowing how to use a fire extinguisher is quite easy, just remember: “Pull, Aim, and Squeeze!” These are usually printed on the sticker on your fire extinguisher.
If a fire breaks out and you need to call for assistance and alert the authorities, here are numbers to call.
Just like many countries around the world, the number of the national hotline for emergencies for the Philippines is as simple as 911. The operator will send response teams appropriate for any emergency situation.
Aside from 911, the next number you should be calling for any fire-related emergency should be that of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).
Philippine Red Cross
For medical assistance, contact the Philippine Red Cross. The organization has teams and members that are highly trained and most capable of providing paramedical responses around the Philippines.
Red Cross Hotline Numbers:
As its name implies, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has regional teams that are trained in doing search-and-rescue operations as well as providing emergency medical assistance for disasters and accidents.
NDRRMC Luzon Hotline Numbers:
NDRRMC Visayas Hotline Numbers:
NDRRMC Mindanao Hotline Numbers:
Once you have escaped the fire, there are other precautions you still need to take for your health. You would have to check if you and the others are unscathed from burns, smoke intoxication, and other fire-related injuries.
Here are the most common kinds of injuries and how to treat them while waiting for the medical professionals to arrive:
Burns come from heat and the severity is categorized depending on the amount of tissue damage.
First-Degree Burns – These are easily spotted in the form of swelling, redness, and small blisters. You can also see the appearance of white skin around the affected areas. Pain scales from being uncomfortable to being slightly painful.
First aid for first-degree burns:
Second-Degree Burns – These are more severe than first-degree burns, as the damage reaches the dermis. You will notice swelling, redness, and larger blisters that ooze liquid. The skin could also scar and tighten and dehydration will occur. The pain from this can scale from moderate to severe.
First aid for second-degree burns:
Third-Degree Burns – The damage goes through all layers of the skin and there will be no blisters at all. The injured will also feel no pain as the nerve endings may have been damaged.
First-aid for third-degree burns:
As mentioned earlier, a good percentage of deaths from a fire happens when the person inhales too much smoke and toxic gases.
A person has been affected by smoke inhalation when the following symptoms show:
Before you can move into your home or building or start a business, you will need to secure a Fire Safety Inspection Certificate. Upon application, the BFP will send an inspector to your building to ensure that it is up to standards for safety.
The Bureau of Fire Protection has many different checklists tailored to different uses for buildings. Here are some of the more basic things that the inspectors look for in homes or in small businesses:
For specific business or building types, you can check out this database complete with all the checklists suited for each kind of buildings and types of businesses and their individual requirements.
Dry climates and intense heat are right around the corner, and so is the probability for accidents. Be sure to follow this guide to prepare yourself, your family, and your home for any fire-related incidents, especially in the summertime.
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