What do you do if there's a fire in your kitchen? If you asked most people, the last thing they'd say is, "Throw a wool blanket on top of it." But if you've got a grease or oil fire, that's exactly what you want to do - smother it with a heavy blanket so it can't get the oxygen it needs to keep burning.
Fire blankets are special blankets made for just that purpose. Woven from either fiberglass, aramid fibers, or heat-retardant-coated wool, these blankets are effectively fireproof - and although they're best for smothering grease fires, they work just as well on any other kind of fire, be it a pile of wood, a puddle of petrol, or a blazing toaster oven. Fire blankets can also be used on people. If a person's clothing or hair is on fire, a fire blanket can be a valuable tool for putting them out - especially if the person has become a human torch, in which case the classic dropping and rolling method won't work.
Also, when rescuing someone from a burning building, a fire blanket is a great way to keep the person safe on the way out. Cheap, easy to store, machine-washable, and reusable, a fire blanket is one of the most practical investments you can make for your fire safety.
How to Use a Fire Blanket
A fire blanket is probably the easiest fire-fighting implement to operate - no nozzles, no mess, no special instructions. You just pull it out, hold it up in front of you (so you're protected from the flames), and dump it on top of the fire. Then, just leave it there for at least 30 minutes to ensure that the fire doesn't re-ignite. If the fire involved a gas stove or an electrical appliance, make sure to shut off the gas or pull out the plug. Also, keep in mind that a fire blanket may not work on an especially deep grease fire. While the blanket itself probably won't burn, the grease may seep through and start burning again above the blanket. As in any fire situation, always alert others to the fire, and make sure you have a safe escape route in case the fire is too big or spreads beyond your control.
Types of Fire Blankets
There are several different types of fire blankets on the market, each tailored to a specific fire situation. They range in price from about $35 to $100, depending on materials, size, and intended usage.
- Regular wool fire blanket. This type of blanket is made of retardant-treated wool and can be used in any fire situation. Price: about $48.
- Infant fire blanket. Made of a special soft and lightweight material, this type of fire blanket not only protects your child in the event of a fire, but also doubles as a regular baby blanket. Price: about $40.
- Kitchen fire blanket. Intended for household use, this blanket comes in a handy storage bag that you can hang in the kitchen. Just pull the flap open, yank out the blanket, and stop the fire in a matter of seconds. Price: about $35.
- Occupational fire blanket. This kind of blanket, slightly larger than the previous ones, is meant for workplace fires. If you work someplace where sparks, chemicals, oil, or extreme heat make fires a significant risk, this is the blanket for you. Price: about $70.
- Professional/EMS fire blanket. This type of blanket is both larger and heavier than the average fire blanket, making it ideal for professional rescue personnel. This blanket can be thrown over a human torch or wrapped around emergency victims to provide warmth and/or protection from flames. Price: about $100.
Decide which type of fire blanket you're most likely to need and how much you want to pay, and choose a blanket that fits your fire safety requirements. Remember, any fire blanket can also be used as a regular blanket - and a comfortable one, too, since fire blankets are designed to keep in warmth. Whichever kind you decide to get, a fire blanket is a great buy.
Fire blankets must undergo testing to ensure that they can stand up in fire situations. The three main tests are Thermal Protective Performance (TPP), which measures how much heat gets transferred through the fabric; Heat and Thermal Shrinkage, which measures how well the fabric stands up to extreme heat; and Flame Resistance, which measures the fabric's resilience when exposed to direct flames. Blankets made of synthetic fibers such as aramid or fiberglass have been known to perform better in these tests than treated woolen blankets; however, both types are reliable for minor fires. Always check that any fire blanket you buy has passed these tests, and make sure it's been approved by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). When the heat is on, you want to be sure your blanket can take it.