For many years fire blankets have been used for extinguishing small, contained fires and for clothing fires. However, they are most associated with kitchen use for chip pans and similar small cooking container fires.
Many users are aware of the British Standard BS EN 1869, covering the manufacture of fire blankets; however, what may have escaped the notice of some is that this standard, first issued in 1997, was comprehensively updated and reissued in 2019.
The Firechief BPR1/K40 has become one of the first fire blankets to be certified to the new BS EN 1869:2019 standard.
Are your fire blankets up to standard?
A major change with the new BS EN 1869:2019 standard is the testing. Originally the testing scope was limited to the use of fire blankets on cooking oil fires, despite the fact that they are often are installed for a far wider range of risks than those in the kitchen. With the updated 2019 standard, the original tests for electrical conductivity and cooking oil fires are now joined by a typical small, contained Class B fire using heptane. This gives users reassurance that a tested and approved blanket to BS EN 1869:2019 is truly effective on the wide range of small fires in Classes A, B and F, including where live electrical equipment is involved.
It is important to note that for both Class B and Class F fires, the maximum size of fire a blanket is tested on - regardless of blanket size - is a container holding 3 litres of oil or heptane to a 10cm depth and a 34.5cm diameter. That’s a 0.09sq.m. exposed surface area so it’s important that where larger risks exist the appropriately rated fire extinguisher is provided instead.
Under both the existing and the new standards, a fire blanket must meet the requirements on the maximum allowed weight, clear instructions and have the necessary flexibility to drape and wrap around all likely items on fire. However, under the new 2019 standard, for the first-time blankets have to be marked with batch numbers to allow traceability and ageing. This is something that has been an issue in the past with relation to recalls, determining age and verifying test claims.
Why change existing blankets?
Many premises already have fire blankets, but they can suffer from a range of issues, for example:
- Age and condition: An existing BS EN 1869:1997 standard fire blanket could be up to 25 years old, particularly as even where supposedly serviced historically, it is rare for blankets to be replaced routinely, unlike extinguishers. Blankets can fray and degrade, stiffen, soak up contaminants (especially in greasy kitchen environments) and otherwise lose the ability to perform. Do you know how old a fire blanket actually is? Current guidance sets a maximum service life of 7 years.
-Not to modern standard: There are still fire blankets to the original manufacturing and testing standard BS 6575:1985 in circulation. These are somewhere between 26 and 37 years old and suffering from age issues as well as being tested to a long-superseded standard. It is not unknown to still find blankets over 37 years old that have never been subject to usage specific testing and are made from plain woven fibre glass that met BS476 parts 4 & 7, which were materials flammability tests that had little relevance to a blankets performance on actual fires. In fact, the failures of these blankets in real fires and consumer tests in the 1980’s led to the introduction of BS6575.
-Verification of performance on risks covered: The 1997 and earlier standards only tested on small cooking oil fires, but many blankets are installed for other risks, such as in laboratories. The time to find out whether it will perform should not be when you need it most, but on purchase by selecting a product tested on the risks you want it for.
-Counterfeit: As highlighted in the BBC’s Fake Britain consumer series in recent years, the UK has been flooded with cheap fake fire blankets. These are usually sold online and have no fire performance at all. Many claim manufacture to EN 1869, some fraudulently claiming independent approval citing TUV certification or a non-existent kitemark license number.
One of the many advantages of the BSI Kitemark is the reassurance that it gives customers. It’s a mark of quality, safety, and trust, which is why any fraudulent claims should be taken very seriously. BSI representatives visit the manufacturer, assess their factory production control system, and monitor their quality management system to ensure continuing quality production. BSI’s independent certification verifies the product’s performance, it tests and assesses the manufacturer’s product and quality management system and confirms the manufacturers performance claims.
What should I look for in a fire blanket?
To be sure that a fire blanket will perform adequately in any of the designed for (and independently tested) risks, you need to look for approval markings to BS EN 1869:2019 accompanied by the official logo/mark of an approved body such as the LPCB or BSI, not just a reference number. The best thing is to double check the blanket manufacturer’s listing against the LPCB Red Book or BSI Kitemark Check service as appropriate.
Finally, ensure that the blanket is correctly serviced in accordance with the Fire Industry Association Code of Practice and replaced if used or alternatively at the FIA 7-year recommended lifespan.
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The information contained within this blog is provided solely for general informational and educational purposes and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Before taking any actions based upon this information, we advise the reader to consult any and all relevant statutory or regulatory guidance and where felt necessary to consult a qualified fire or industry regulation professional. The use or reliance on any information contained herein is solely at the reader’s risk.