Understanding the Use of Fire Hose Reels
In case of a fire emergency, this high-risk situation can take various turns. Uncontained, the fire can wipe a closed residential or office building from existence and endanger human life. But fire hose reels, among various fire fighting equipment, can change that. As hand-held first attack pieces, high quality hose reels can extinguish fires in their early stages and in no time.
If you are unsure how fire hose reels contribute to fire fighting measures, keep reading to learn more about fire hose reel use, types, operation, and their essential fire safety & maintenance in line with Australian Standards of fire safety regulations.
Types of Fire Hose Reels
Let’s look at the different hose reel types available in Australia.
- Hose length can be 36m or 50m.
- Their diameters are either 19mm or 25mm.
- Fire hose reels are made of non-kinking tubing.
- Stainless steel is also commonly used for severe environmental conditions (like marinas).
- Hose reels can be wall-mounted
- They can also be stored in cabinets similar to fire extinguisher cabinets
One of the various hose reel types is the swing arm reel, which is similar to a wall mount reel, except the hose reel is mounted to a hinge and can be extended at different angles. Flexible piping offers great handling and prevents tangling, and its main perk is its quick and easy installation process.
Note that all fire hose reel spare parts must comply with Australian regulations, specifically Australian Standards AS 1221. As a building manager, it’s your responsibility to use the most effective and suitable fire hose reel system for your building type, whether it’s residential or industrial.
When Are Fire Hose Reels Used?
Fire hose reels are best used when you face Class A fires. These small fires involve paper, wood, rubber, textile, many plastics, or carbon solid materials. Referred to as ‘ordinary fires’, class A fires can be common across various industries. They can easily be ignited from recycling bins, or carpet & upholstery in contact with embers.
The main advantage of fire hose reels is that they give a great initial response to flames with their unlimited water sources. However, they’re only a first line defence and can’t contain bigger fires. The use of water as a basic medium makes fire hose reels unsuitable for electrical fires because water conducts electricity and can cause electrocution.
Similarly, hose reels can NOT put out certain fires because the fire’s high temperature might make the water evaporate, or water might spread the fire further. These type of fires include:
- combustible liquids (petrol, solvents, and oil paint)
- combustible gases (natural gas, LPG, and acetylene)
- combustible metals (e.g. magnesium and aluminium shaving)
- cooking oils and fats
How Do Fire Hose Reels Work?
Fire hose reels, as a first aid to the fire, pump pressurised water or foam on Class A fires from a safe distance of 4m and are used only by trained professionals (compared to 2m for fire extinguishers). They’re permanently connected to the mains water source, offering an unlimited supply of water. According to AS 1221, 36mm x 19mm fire hoses must provide at least 0.45 litres of water per second (at 220kPa).
A fire hose system is composed of the following features:
- Hose: The non-kinking tubing transfers pressurised water to the fire location.
- Hose Reel Nozzle: The control nozzle is attached to the end of the hose, allowing users to control the flow and direction of the water.
- Fire Hose Reel Cabinets: The storage cabinet protects the fire hose from damage and contamination.
- Wall Mount Bracket: These wall bracket bases are fixed to a wall or ceiling to facilitate mounting hose reels.
- Hose Reel Cover: This fabric cover protects your hose reel from damaging elements [e.g. dust], extending its life.
- Hose Reel Signage: This fire equipment location sign is displayed in areas to mark the locations of fire hose reels.
Where Should Fire Hose Reels Be Placed?
AS 2441 states the location, installation, and distribution regulations for fire hose reels. It uses the term “system coverage”, meaning that fire hoses need to be located in a design that allows occupants to reach fires in any part of the building.
- For timely action, hose reels must be located at exit paths and within 4m from any exit.
- They should be next to an internal fire hydrant. These tools are designed for big enterprises, whereas hose reels are designed for short-range fires in buildings.
- Hose reels must be 1.5m to 2.4m above floor level.
- You need a fire hose for each level in a multi-storey building.
- There should be a red sign 2m from the floor or higher indicating the equipment.
- Fire hose reels should be kept away from high-risk areas and building occupants and firefighters should be able to access hose reels without any obstructions from furniture etc.
How to Use a Fire Hose Reel
Only trained professionals should use fire hose reels during fire emergencies and may learn below steps in their formal training:
- Break the anti-tamper seal if it’s fitted.
- Open the main stop valve.
- Pull out the hose so that it’s 4m from the fire.
- Turn the nozzle into the open position to discharge water.
- If needed, keep turning the nozzle valve to adjust the water flow.
- Direct the hose at the base of the fire.
- Turn off the nozzle.
- Mount the hose to the reel in even layers.
- Close the stop valve.
Maintenance of Fire Hose Reels
Australian Standards work hand in hand with building codes to determine installation, maintenance, and testing requirements for fire hose reels.
According to AS 1851, fire hose reels should be inspected every six months. Each fire hose reel should have a maintenance record tag with the details of the last inspection.
There is also an yearly inspection and testing checklist and an annual report. Your fire hose reels should generally operate to their full capacity, which is why you should have them inspected and tested for the following:
- Fire hose leakages, which can’t exceed a specific amount
- Difficulty pulling the hose off the reel
- Corrosion signs
- Water flow rate issues
- Nozzle water blockages
Ultimately, fire hose reels are effective preliminary fire suppression devices and can be 10 times more effective at putting out certain fires than some types of fire extinguishers. They’re designed to combat fires in their early stages, minimising damage. Their almost unlimited water supply makes them effective for ordinary fires but also dangerous to use on electrical fires.
When it comes to all fire safety equipment, abiding by Australian Standards is essential. You have AS 2441, which illustrates installation and other fire hose reel requirements, and AS 1851 and building codes, which detail how you should test and maintain hose reels regularly.