At my college we have trained ALL science students for the p ast 30 years (all of whom necessarily have to take the first general chemistry course) in how to use fire extinguishers, the four classes of fires, and th e fire triangle/tetrahedron.=A0=A0 Everyone gets hands-on training with a CO2 extinguisher, (and on those days we can see the atmospheric CO2 spike in th e IR in the neighboring lab!) =A0=A0The local fire department conducts this trai ning, which also gives them time to talk with students about fire safety from the ir perspective, =A0including the annoyance of false alarms in residence halls, etc.=A0 Good PR for them.=A0 We push about 120 students through this program every fall; I suspect that it would be much harder, logistically, at a large university .=A0
David C. Finster
Professor of Chemistry
University Chemical Hygiene Officer
Department of Chemistry
Once upon a time, at a previous company, I had an o ffer from a na=EFve fire sprinkler company to conduct hands-on
fire extinguisher training free of charge.=A0 I exp lained that I had 1500 employees and that I would put all of them through the training.
"No problem", said the sprinkler company representative, "We consider it a public service".=A0
So I countered with, ..."and I have another 50 00 employees at a sister plant 15 miles away - would you train them as well?"=A0
"Sure he said."=A0=A0 So I went to see my boss about taking advantage of this incredible offer.=A0
I knew my boss would follow the company line and sa y something like, "...we don't train our employees to use extinguishers
because we don't want them to put themselves at ris k to save company assets...people come first, property second..."
=A0So, I was prepared with an appropriate reply.=A0
Sure enough, he said ex actly what I described, whereupon I said,
"How about we train people to fight their way out of a fire using an extinguisher,
and reinforce the idea that they should never put prop erty ahead of their own safety?"
=A0My bos s, being no dummy, took a microsecond to decide, and said, “train them all, an d put me in the first class!”
…and that’s how I managed to get 6500 employees trained to use a fire extinguisher.
NOTE: The fire s prinkler company quickly learned that they needed to charge $1 per extinguisher to re-charge the used ones.
With that small change in the agreement, we continued to have the sprinkler company come on-site to train new employees
once a year, at a cost of about 35 cents per employee. Soon we opened up the training to family members as well.
The sprinkler company n ever won the contract to provide fire sprinkler services to the company, but said th at word-of-mouth
from all the people they’ve trained has kept them in business for many years.< /p>
FURTHER NOTE: Th is happened about 20 years ago. Costs have gone up, and there are air pollutio n prohibitions against smoky fires
that prevent the kind o f training we did back then. However, the argument still works !
LAST WORD: I rea lize that the events I described happened in industry, and “things are different in industry”.
Years earlier when I ta ught techniques of laboratory experimentation in a large university, I always included a quick discussion
about fire safety in th e lab, as part of the curriculum!=A0 This included the chemistry of fire and ignition, the fire triangle,
types of extinguishers, the basics about using a fire extinguisher, and ended with a live demonstration .
While not the same as h ands-on training facing real flames, it’s not a bad second choice,
and might circumvent th e ridiculous policy issues we’ve been reading about.
CSP, CIH, CHMM, CHO, REA, CPEA, CSHM
Senior Program Manager, Safety & I.H.
Corporate Environment, Health, & Safety Group
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