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Fire Dangers Explained: Reduced Visibility

smoke causes reduced visibility
Reduced visibility is a very common side effect of smoke from fires.

Smoke produced from fire can often be seen before the other effects of fire such as heat and flames. As the smoke fills a room it gradually obscures light sources, whether natural or man-made, and limits occupants’ ability to see clearly.

While reduced visibility may not actively harm a person it can be a major contributing factor to how quickly a person is able to evacuate a building and can also dangerously limit their ability to navigate obstacles.

Disorientation and confusion due the deprivation of sight may lead to life-threatening accidents and the delay in evacuation could also cause other personal fire dangers such as smoke inhalation and burns to occur.

Reduced Walking Speed

When only able to see a short distance, if at all, people generally slow their walking speed considerably to avoid injury from obstacles. This effect of reduced visibility can even be observed when the environment in question is very familiar to the people in the room.

It is advised that people drop to the floor and start to move quickly in a crawling action. Smoke naturally rises so there is less chance of reduced visibility the closer you are to the ground and there is also less chance of accidental injury.

Inability to Use Equipment

If fire occurs during the performance of a task, for example while in control of a vehicle or machinery, an extremely dangerous situation can be presented. Many premises have an automatic shut-down procedure if the fire alarm is activated, giving the person in control a chance to evacuate as soon as possible. Where this type of safeguard is not in use it is often the person controlling the machine’s responsibility to safely bring production or movement to a halt. Machinery that is still powered can be extremely dangerous if still operational when the fire takes hold or it is being tackled by fire-fighters.

Smoke can reduce the visibility of the instruments on the vehicle or machine making it difficult to safely perform this task. While oxygen masks and goggles are often provided for such an emergency they can also hinder the ability to use equipment. Fortunately, many pieces of large machinery have emergency stop buttons, these are large red buttons that often incorporate LEDs to help them be visible in an emergency.

Reduced Visibility Rules…

If you find yourself in a situation where visibility is drastically reduced follow these steps:

  1. STOP what you are doing, safely.
  2. DROP to the floor where the air is clearest.
  3. MOVE quickly towards the nearest exit. Do not use elevators or escalators.

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