Split-second decisions can save lives amidst a raging fire. But, taking the wrong steps will exacerbate the situation and make it increasingly life-threatening for you and your loved ones. Fire blankets are an essential part of fire-safety protocols. They are commonly used for campfires and small, indoor fires. Today, let’s discover the places where fire blankets work best. We’ll also go over how much heat they can withstand and the appropriate sizes to use.
What Does a Fire Blanket Do?
The most common fire blanket function is to extinguish small fires in an inside space, such as your kitchen, garage, caravan, or even in vehicles. These are highly flame-resistant and can also be used to wrap around a person who has caught fire.
The basic mechanism of how fire blankets work is by ‘suffocating’ the fire. They are designed to cut off the fire’s oxygen supply, without which it cannot keep burning. When you use a fire blanket on an incipient (newly started) fire, the special material smothers it completely, ensuring no further contact is made with the surrounding air.
If you notice somebody’s clothes or hair on fire, wrapping them in a fire blanket accompanied by the stop, drop and roll technique could prevent severe burns, and even save their life.
Moreover, fire blankets are exceptionally useful for people who are physically impaired, perhaps due to old age, disabilities, or medical conditions. Since they cannot get away from the fire quickly, an alternative is to use a fire blanket until help arrives.
How Are Fire Blankets Made?
For a fire blanket to function well, it needs to be made of a material that is either completely fire-resistant or at least a retardant. There are a few different materials used for fire blankets; each manufactured differently for maximum effectiveness.
Most fire blankets are made of finely woven fibers of glass – as the name suggests. These are suitable for most household fires that start in the kitchen or latch on to your clothing.
Some advanced forms of fire blankets, like the Titan21, are 100% cotton. These fire blankets work as they are treated with a biodegradable and nontoxic fire inhibitor. Companies are now opting for cotton instead of traditional flame retardants as scientific research deems them potential health hazards.
Woolen fire blankets are used in manufacturing industries and labs where there is a higher risk of chemical or electric fires. These blankets are treated with a flame retardant material to control the fire and ensure it does not cause extensive damage.
Asbestos is a naturally fire-resistant material; therefore it works great against small fires. This mineral fiber also prevents excessive heat from reaching your body and causing indirect burns. However, asbestos can be a danger to health when it starts to break down. Long-term exposure to the asbestos dust released can increase the risk of developing lung cancer. Several tragic incidents of death have also been reported by families.
Therefore, extreme care needs to be taken when disposing of an asbestos fire blanket. If you’re currently using one, we would suggest replacing it with a safer material.
Are Fire Blankets Fireproof?
Fire blankets are considered non-flammable, but they aren’t completely fireproof. These blankets help in protecting against fires that are up to 900*C. However, in case the temperature exceeds this limit, your fire blanket’s function will be reduced significantly.
Instead, you would need a fire extinguisher and help from the local fire department to end the fire quickly.
How Much Heat Can a Fire Blanket Withstand?
The general heat range that most fire blankets can withstand lies around 55 to 1500 degrees celsius. The specific heat temperatures vary depending on the material of the fire blanket.
For example, fiberglass blankets can easily withstand continuous heat at around 550*C. They can also take welding sparks up to 1100*C, after which the material starts to melt.
On the other hand, high silica fabrics can take continuous heat up to 1000*C. This makes them ideal for use in industries and manufacturing plants.
What Size Fire Blanket Do You Need?
Fire blankets are usually available in a wide variety of sizes. They start from 1m x 1m and go up to 1.8m x 1.8 m.
The best possible blanket size for you depends solely on your use. Smaller blankets are suitable for stovetop fires or baking fires. They can even manage spilled candle wax flames or an art attempt gone wrong.
However, small fires can grow in a matter of seconds. If you think the surrounding area of a possible fire-hazard can catch fire quickly, it’s better to invest in a larger-sized fire blanket. These can be used to cover the entire area that is lit up in the fire, and can also be wrapped around a person whose clothes have caught fire.
Are Fire Blankets Effective?
Yes, they are.
Fire blankets are effective in extinguishing small, house fires. They are a quick and easy way to control fires that occur during cooking using pots and pans, or even on a campsite or in trash cans. However, it is important to note that they only work when the fire is in its inception phase i.e., just starting.
The reason behind it is simple. Fire blankets work by covering the entire surface that’s on fire and cutting off its oxygen supply. If the fire has grown and can no longer be completely covered by the blanket, it will continue to receive oxygen and spread further.
In such circumstances, having a fire extinguisher around can be godsend. It will stop the spread of the fire and keep loved ones and valuable assets safe.
Storing Fire Blankets
While knowing how a fire blanket works is important, placing it at the right spots is more critical for protection against fires.
Make sure your fire blankets are present wherever there is a risk of fire. Also, check if they are hung at a reachable height. People often make the mistake of storing their fire blankets inside a first aid box. This makes them difficult to reach in time and does more damage than good.
Keep your fire blankets in close reach and train people on how to use them for maximum protection against fires.
Having a fire blanket in your home, office or industrial plant can have you save precious lives. They are effective tools for suppressing fires as well as preventing being burned during one. The right fire blanket can even mean the difference between life and death in certain high stakes situations.
Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree in Economics from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use.