How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

A Detailed Guide to the Proper Use of Fire Extinguishers

Despite having fire extinguishers in their offices and even homes, most people don’t know how to use them. Fires usually double in size every minute, so a small flame on your stove can quickly turn into an inferno while you’re still fumbling around or reading over the instructions in an emergency situation. Therefore, it’s vital to learn how to use a fire extinguisher and practice using it in order to be prepared to protect your business, home and other assets with basic firefighting skills and techniques using fire extinguishers.

  1. Seek assistance before trying to extinguish any serious fire

A fire can escalate faster than you can handle. Therefore, you can alleviate some concern if you’ve already called for help and it’s actually on the way.  Have someone call the appropriate emergency number as soon as possible and ask for immediate assistance. Be sure to give a brief explanation of the type and cause of fire (if possible) and the correct address.

Ensure that everyone is out of the building and remove all pets as well before assembling at a safe fire meeting point. Reacting to disasters and emergencies such as fire requires a sound decision-making process that kids as well as some adults are unable to cope with especially when they panic. Therefore, children and some adults should not be allowed to use fire extinguishers or control fires in any way. Training on the proper use of fire extinguishers can help avoid some of these fears.

  1. Ensure that you are safe before you start Extinguishing a Fire.

There are several vital things you should check before using a fire extinguisher to fight a fire.

  • Physical ability

Make sure that you are physically capable of fighting the fire: In case you have any physical limitation that might diminish your ability to use the fire extinguisher, avoid using it all the same. Children, people with disabilities and older adults may find that a fire extinguisher is too heavy to carry and/or operate

  • Look for clear exit points.

It is extremely important to ensure that there are clear exits so you can easily escape when necessary. In case your exit is threatened in any way, leave immediately. It is recommended that fire extinguishers be placed near exit points so the user can keep his/her back to the exit when using the extinguisher. This way, they can make an easy escape if the fire escalates and becomes uncontrollable.

  • Don’t attempt to put out fires that are emitting toxic fumes

In case you suspect or if you’re uncertain whether the fumes are toxic, leave the fire to professionals. Check the building’s structural safety to ensure that burning walls, rafters or floors do not pose any risk to your safety while extinguishing the fire.

If there is more than one working fire extinguisher ask another mature person to use it alongside with you. Always keep in mind that human life is more valuable than property. Therefore, you should never place yourself or anyone else at risk.

  1. Assess the fire

Fire extinguishers should only be used to fight contained fires. Since portable fire extinguishers contain a limited amount of active extinguishing agent, they are valuable only for use against small fires. Therefore, the extinguishing material should be used properly in order to avoid wastage. In case your instincts are telling you the fire is too big or dangerous to tackle safely, trust them and wait for professional help.

  1. The Different Types of Fire Extinguishers.What type of fire extinguisher are you using?

There are 5 main classes of extinguishers; the most common classes A, B and C, and classes D and K , which are rather uncommon (However, it is vital to note that the nomenclature and classes of extinguishers can vary from region to region or country to country). The extinguishing element might be CO2, halon, dry chemical, water or a special powder.

Let’s explore the different types of fire extinguishers, their extinguishing elements and application:

  • Class A: These fire extinguishers are ideal for regular combustible fires, wood, plastics, rubber, cloth, and paper fires. They are usually filled with 9.46 liters (2½ gallons) of high pressure water.
  • Class B: These extinguishers are filled with dry chemical and they should be used for gasoline, oil, and grease-based fires.
  • Class C: These contain either CO2 or halon. However, halon 1211 and 1301 is not only expensive but it also depletes the ozone layer and this is the main reason why it’s being replaced by agents such as FM200 which are non-depleting and rather inexpensive.
  • Class D: they contain a powder that must cover the burning material to extinguish the fire. They are mainly used for metals that are water-reactive such as magnesium and this is why it’s commonly found in factories that use such metals.
  • Class K: They contain a wet chemical agent that stops fires started by animal fats, vegetable oils and fires started in cooking appliances. These fire extinguishers are largely used in kitchens.

Although most fire extinguishers work on a combination of different fire classes, it is essential to determine quickly the type of fire you are facing in order to check for compatibility with your extinguisher.

  1. Get in position and ready your fire extinguisher

Most fire extinguishers are equipped with a safety pin at the top that looks like a metal or plastic ring and it is usually held in place by a seal. The seal must be broken so you can pull the pin from the handle before squeezing the lever which discharges the extinguishing agent.

It is essential to keep in mind that different fire extinguishers have different methods of use. Therefore, you should always read the instructions and familiarize yourself with the special parts and features of your extinguisher before attempting to use it in real life situations.

  1. Aim low and point the nozzle at the base of the fire

In order to put out a fire it is vital, to stop it at its source or to dampen or remove the fuel. You can only extinguish the source or the fuel by spraying at the base instead of shooting directly into the flames.

P A S S Fire Safety

Use the acronym P.A.S.S as a quick reference in order to employ the proper method when using the fire extinguisher.

  • Pull the pin that is located at the handle in order to release the locking mechanism so you can easily discharge the agent.
  • Aim the hose or nozzle at the base and keep yourself low in order to remove the source of the fire
  • Squeeze the lever slowly to discharge the extinguisher and let go off the lever to stop the discharge.
  • Sweep from side to side until the fire is expended. Stand at least 6 feet away from the fire.

Remember: The contents of most fire extinguishers last about 10 seconds when sprayed continuously and this will be less if the fire extinguisher had been discharged partially. Make a hasty exit in case the room fills with fumes and smoke or if the fire is not expended even after using up the extinguishing agent.

Tend to the affected area after putting out the fire successfully to ensure the fire is totally extinguished and there are no remaining sparks that might re-ignite. Purchase new fire extinguishers as soon as possible and get rid of empty extinguishers. Mount your fire extinguishers on the wall in accessible places and ensure that everyone knows where they are and how to use them.

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