What are Fire Blankets and How Do They Work?

Commercial kitchen with a fire blanket on the wall

In the event of a fire emergency, fire blankets, like many other fire safety devices, can be the difference between life and death.

Fire blankets are pieces of fire resistant cloth or fabric that work on certain types of fires by smothering them at close range without causing harm to users or spreading the flames further. They help protect your assets and building occupants by controlling small-scale fires quickly and efficiently.

For residents and staff of residential and office buildings, fire safety knowledge is crucial, as is the regular maintenance and inspection of fire safety equipment. Consider this guide to learn the basics of fire blankets, their sizes, applications, and relevant Australian standards regarding fire blanket testing, installation & maintenance.

Fire Blanket Materials and Sizes

Fire blankets are designed with safety and effectiveness in mind, using materials that provide maximum fire protection.

The main component of a fire blanket is its outer layer, usually made from fine fibreglass woven fabric, which offers high heat resistance. An inner layer of flame-resistant chemicals further enhances the blanket's ability to smother fires.

Australia has specific requirements for fire blanket sizes according to the Australian Standards. The standard sizes include the following:

  • 1m x 1m (minimum size)
  • 1.2m x 1.2m
  • 1.2m x 1.8m
  • 1.8m x 1.8m

The blankets are typically housed in either a plastic material or nylon case for easy access during emergencies.

Besides standard fire blankets, water jel fire blankets are an alternative option for extinguishing fires caused by flammable liquids and grease. These unique blankets have water gel coatings that help cool down hot surfaces while preventing re-ignition after flames have been put out.

Water jel fire blankets come in the following sizes in Australia:

  • 760mm x 910mm [Small]
  • 1520mm x 1830mm [Medium]
  • 1830mm x 2440mm [Large]

Choosing the right fire blankets for your building can be done by considering material, size, and other variables. Building managers must ensure they install appropriate fire blankets suitable for their building type - whether it be residential or industrial use - to reduce their fire risk.

When to use a Fire Blanket?

Fire blankets are versatile and effective tools for tackling small fires, particularly those in class A, B, and F categories. Knowing when and how to use a fire blanket can prevent the fire from spreading and save valuable lives.

The most common application of fire blankets is in extinguishing class F fires, which involve cooking oils or cooking fats. These types of fires typically occur in commercial kitchens but can also happen at home.

Below are the ideal locations for fire blankets:

  • Kitchens (both residential and commercial)
  • Cafeterias
  • Schools with culinary programs
  • Hospitality venues like hotels or restaurants

In addition to class F fires, fire blankets are also effective against small-scale class A fires involving regular combustible materials such as wood, paper, or cloth in case of clothing fires.

However, not all types of fires should be tackled using a fire blanket, and you should avoid using them on:

  • Class C: Flammable Gas fires (e.g. propane, butane or natural gas).
  • Class D: Metal-based fires (e.g. magnesium or sodium).
  • Class E: Electrical fires (e.g. short circuits or overloaded electrical outlets). Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are better suited to this type of fire.

In cases where the fire has grown out of control or began spreading beyond the size a fire blanket can manage, you should immediately switch to other firefighting equipment such as fire extinguishers [dry chemical powder, wet chemical, water or foam], fire hose reels & fire hydrants, or reach out to firefighting emergency services.

How do Fire Blankets Work?

A fire needs three essential elements to burn: oxygen, fuel, and heat.

Covering a fire with a fire blanket deprives the flames of oxygen, making it difficult for it to continue burning. Also, fire blankets are made of fine fibreglass woven fabric with high heat resistance properties, allowing them to withstand extreme temperatures without catching on fire themselves or melting onto surfaces they protect.

To ensure maximum effectiveness when using a fire blanket, make sure its size is large enough to completely cover the fire, and remember to use portable fire extinguishers for fires larger than a blanket can handle.

Using a Fire Blanket

Fire blankets are effective in small scale fires and can be used to extinguish small fires or be wrapped around a person who has been exposed to the fire. Keep in mind that they should be used by those trained to do so in order to be effective in putting out a fire from a place or a person.

Below are the simplified steps for using a fire blanket on small fires:

  1. Turn off the power source: If possible, turn off any power sources related to the fire, such as cooking stoves or other appliances.
  2. Remove the fire blanket from its case: Pull down the straps at the base of the case to access the blanket.
  3. Create a shield with your hands: Hold onto the blanket and create a shield between you and the flames by keeping your hands behind the blanket.
  4. Cover flame completely: Gently place the blanket over the flames, ensuring it is fully covered so the oxygen supply is cut off effectively.
  5. Maintain coverage until extinguished: Leave the fire blanket in place for a while to ensure the area is fully extinguished.

Using a fire blanket on a person may look different:

  1. Wrap the person with the fire blanket
  2. Roll the blanket until the flame is covered
  3. Request the person to stay calm and ‘stop, drop and roll’, which is to drop to the floor and roll back and forth to put out the fire
  4. Get immediate help from fire fighting emergency services

Fire Blanket Australian Standards

Fire blankets must comply with specific Australian Standards to ensure their effectiveness and safety in a fire emergency. The main standards for fire blankets are AS 2444, AS 1851, and AS/NZS 3504:2006. These standards provide guidelines for installing, and maintaining fire blankets.

Below are the installation requirements for fire blankets:

  • The blanket should be no less than 1m x 1m in size.
  • The blanket should be installed in an easy-to-reach place free from obstructions.
  • A location sign must be added near the installed fire blanket in commercial buildings to alert occupants. The signage should be clearly written so building occupants can easily find it if there’s a fire.
  • The mounting height should be at least 2 metres above floor level for easy access and visibility.

The Australian requirements for maintenance & testing include:

  • Fire blankets are only for one time use and are to be replaced after use
  • They should have a service tag or sticker for updates on their inspection, testing and maintenance
  • Commercially installed fire blankets should be changed every 5 years
  • Fire blankets should have 6 monthly servicing recorded with date on the maintenance tag

Staying Prepared

A fire blanket can be used to tackle most small fires ignited from cooking fats and oils, and they’re highly effective at smothering flames from a short range. Fire blankets come in various sizes, and should be installed as per the requirements of the premises.

Regular fire safety inspection, as well as testing, and maintenance of fire blankets are a must for the protection of people and places. For the best outcomes in unforeseen fire emergencies, make sure to stay prepared with maintained and timely tested fire blankets and ensure all fire safety equipment complies with Australian Standards by getting regular fire safety services.