Fire Protection: Are you ready for an Emergency?

Where is the next fire extinguisher? Where is the nearest emergency exit? Do you know how to behave or react during a fire? Hand on your heart! How many times have you had this explained to you? Well, it seems to be time to refresh your knowledge on fire protection. This article will (re)introduce to you the most important rules and some further hints on how to behave in the case of an emergency.

Fire Protection in Buildings

Since buildings are being more and more wired for data and electricity, the chance of a fire also rises. Therefore, during the constructing of a house, the statutory fire protection rules must be obeyed. These state rules only predetermine some minimum requirements. As an example, buildings must have a certain safety distance between one another so that fires cannot easily jump to another building, special fire walls must be installed, escape routes must be planned, built, and clearly marked. Further rooms must be equipped with fire-alarms, sprinklers, extinguishers, and smoke detectors.

Whether other precautions are needed or not, depends on the use of the building. As an example, when easily inflammable material is to be used, then the ceilings, walls must be fireproof and special exhaust air systems must be installed. Especially at work, the employer is obligated to instruct new employees on fire prevention installations and escape plans. When the working site itself requires special security measures, an exact instruction in the precautions must be given.

Before Things get Hot

Next to fire precautions through design during construction, you ought to obey some further safety rules. It actually goes without saying that fire-fighting paths fire-fighter access ways are to be kept clear and not to park in front of hydrants. Consider that the staircase and hallways also count as access ways! Therefore, make sure they are always ready for the rescue teams. Never store inflammable or bulky things, like bikes, boxes, or furniture there. The escape doors are always to be kept shut. Warning! Never lock these doors as they need to be ready for an escape.

Regularly check the cellar and attics and when necessary clear them out. Smoking and open fire are absolutely taboo there. Always monitor candles and other open fires. Throw away ashes only after they have completely cooled down. Always keep cellar windows accessible because fire fighters like to use them as a smoke exhaust.

To ward off firebugs, keep attics and cellar doors closed and, if possible, also keep the garbage cans locked away. The sight of freely accessible garbage cans or bags easily ignites the idea of setting fire. Outdoors lights often keep them away.

Hint for cooks:

Fat fires may not be extinguished with water. So when your frying pan ignites, better suffocate the blaze with a blanket or a lid. That is why restaurants are obliged to have special extinguishing blankets at hand in the kitchen.

Using Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers belong in an easily accessible place and should be clearly marked. Bigger buildings with access to the public, like schools, restaurants, shopping malls, office buildings must have signs at the extinguisher. The white silhouette of a fire extinguisher on a red background shows where the extinguisher is. A white arrow on red background shows where the next one is.

Different kinds of extinguishers exist for different kinds of fire (powder, water, foam, etc.). The different fire classes for which the extinguisher is rated are shown on the bottle. Here are also explicit instructions of use. When using one be sure that you do so with the wind and blow from underneath into the flames or embers, use it in intervals while keeping a safe distance from the source of fire.


In order to be prepared for an emergency it is a good idea to practice using an extinguisher and so become acquainted in using it.

Gaining Time with Fire Alarms

An extinguisher alone in a case of emergency is not always sufficient. Another efficient protection against fires is installing fire alarms. In comparison to fire extinguishers, they have the unbeatable advantage: The alarm sounds when smoke accumulates. Since smoke often precedes the fire, you win time and can save lives.
Landlords have to equip their buildings with such alarms, and - even add them later - when the building authority so demands. In such cases, the tenants must accept the installation and must allow craftsmen into their apartment. And when tenants stubbornly refuse, the court will force them. Usually such case will be won as easily as a hot knife cuts thru butter. Consider that obeying fire protection regulations is a legal duty of the landlord. So, what if you are a handyman and want to do it yourself? Well, you have no right to insist that you may do it yourself. The AG Hamburg-Wandsbeck decided on June 13, 2008 (re 716C C 89/08) that a landlord does not have to accept the craftsmanship of a tenant.

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