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Last week I was in the south of Germany and visited a very famous castle.

As my wife and I went in I noticed the fire precautions.

There was a 'reel' on the wall made of four pieces of wood held together by a wooden spindle. On the 'reel' was a standard size hose (quite a short length) folded in two and held on by a piece of string!

To use it the hose had to be undone, and one end screwed into a connector on the wall. The nozzle end also had to be screwed into the hose, and was hanging ready on a nail.

To add to it, I saw exactly the same arrangement again on our tour. There were no extinguishers or anything else.

And all the way around on the tour there was a big emphasis on the fact that the castle had been partly destroyed and rebuilt after a major fire (OK, in 1893, but the principle remains).

The local fire brigade is a volunteer force, superbly equipped with both the equivalent of large scale pumps and a turntable ladder.

I'm still in shock as in Germany they are normally very keen on these things and I find it difficult to imagine that any fire safety inspection would have let this get past it.

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It may be a case mate of something that's more than meets the eye.

Before this job I used to go round checking fire extinguishers and the company I worked for had the contract for National Trust properties and my 'patch' of the UK included stately homes and very significant estate properties.

I've lost count how many times I would discuss travel times and having extinguishers visible and immediately to hand with the site fire marshall or responsible person. 

Quite rightly no one wants to visit iconic periods of our countries rich history and have a bright red aluminium can complete with photo luminous sign glaring at them in a corner or wherever as it lowers the tone when looking at tapestries!!

Usually there was some curtain or hidden void/passageway that was out of view from the usual public tour that was ideal for extinguishers and other media that staff knew about which made for rather exciting adventures when going through the site asset list hunting for fire extinguishers.

Ultimately this measure was acceptable as the Trust fire manager risk assessed it, had discussions with other fire specialists and deemed it safe. I can't speak for German fire regulations but I bet they have gone down the same assessment route.

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It wasn't so much the lack of visible extinguishers which appalled me, but the 'hose reels'. I have never seen anything so utterly useless. They weren't even at the level of being laughable.

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I honestly think the risks with the use of extinguishers is overstated.

I am not saying they do not exist, just that whilst smoke inhalation is a real possibility,  very few people get into real difficulties when using  extinguishers and quality staff training plus procedures will hold any risk to tolerable levels.

Pretty much every fire you have ever seen - or will see - starts life as small controllable fire. It's unacceptable to evacuate all staff and let a small fire burn out of control if it could have been contained locally.

Training and competence is key, but they cost monet, so employers so often take the easy option and introduce procedures where staff all run away. 

In some critical situations - healthcare, prisons, nuclear, petrochemical and data centres - doing nothing isn't an option

My employers Head Office has almost 2000 fire extinguishers- a huge cost in maintenance and training. But the building isn't fitted with sprinklers (when it should have been under local London legislation at the time) and the company has a zero acceptance of any business interruption 

I investigate every fire and staff have used extinguishers to great effect a number of times across our estate, some have avoided significant incidents.

The management of risk does not necessarily mean eliminating it, but reducing it to tolerable levels and extinguishers are a good example of where over enthusiastic risk assessments leading to their removal is rarely a good idea 

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I hear what you are saying when it comes to trained staff who know the risks associated with the building and its uses, know the layout and escape routes, the safety systems and processes in place and how to use the extinguishers effectively.  

My concern is more for members of the public trying to use the extinguisher when they are not trained, and don’t know any of the above.  Some of these historic buildings are sparsely staffed with volunteers and in my experience you could be several rooms away from a staff member when you found a small fire.  I personally would much rather you raised the alarm first before thinking about tackling the fire and even then preferably leave the extinguisher use to the trained staff.

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Personally I would ban the publicans building contractors from all historic buildings. They are a pest and it would be safer for everyone 🙄

On a related matter, we have started to extend the use of P50 'Service Free' extinguishers recently. 

No more annual servicing, just a wipe down and visual check by in house staff, then a refill every 10 years

Has any FRS been using them - or have you seen them? BAA at Heathrow have lots of them. We are trialling around 100 units at smaller sites and we see how it goes before replacing over 5,000 extinguishers 

Service Free Extinguishers

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On 15/08/2021 at 14:37, Messyshaw said:

Personally I would ban the publicans building contractors from all historic buildings

Take it you mean public and building contractors Messy. Were you on a liquid lunch break when you posted?😉

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