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How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

A fire extinguisher is not just a necessity in any building; it’s legally required in many settings. That’s because a fire extinguisher, when used properly, can save a life. Fire extinguishers are your first line of defense against a fire.

Do you know how to use one? If a fire broke out and the only way to escape the building was by using a fire extinguisher, would you know what to do?

Fire extinguishers are invaluable in commercial, industrial, and even residential settings. If you own a business, it’s essential that you along with everyone that works in the building understand how to operate a fire extinguisher. Facilitating fire extinguisher training to ensure every employee is up to speed on how a fire extinguisher works could prevent a small garbage fire from getting out of control and causing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in damage. On top of that, regular fire extinguisher inspections help remind everyone how to properly operate the extinguisher and ensure your extinguisher is functioning correctly.

Using a fire extinguisher is relatively simple. However, there are a few things to note before using one. Not every fire extinguisher works for every fire. That is why you’ll notice a class on the canister. The class designation dictates which type of fire you should use that extinguisher for:

Class A – A fire started by combustible solids (wood, cloth, paper, plastic).
Class B – A fire started by flammable liquids (gasoline).
Class C – A fire resulting from electrical wires and appliances.
Class D – A fire that contains metals like magnesium from a laboratory.
Class K – A grease and/or oil fire.

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Before you grab the fire extinguisher, check the classification to see if you have the appropriate model for your needs. If you do, there is a quick mental checklist you should go through that will keep you as safe as possible:

Are you taller than the fire? If yes, that’s typically a good way to judge that the fire is in the beginning stages and you could extinguish it yourself.
If the fire is taller than you, the extinguisher won’t help you anymore. Escape the building and call 911.
Does the extinguisher have pressure? There will be a gauge on the fire extinguisher that tells you the pressure. If the needle is green, there is pressure and you can use the extinguisher.
If the needle is not green, there is not enough pressure. You then need to leave the building and call 911.

If you’ve determined that you have the right extinguisher, there is enough pressure, and the fire is manageable, then it’s time to extinguish the flame. Position yourself so you can spray directly at the fire with no obstructions. However, you don’t want to get too close and hurt yourself. A fire extinguisher’s range is anywhere between six to 20 feet. You then go through the following four steps (PASS).

1. PULL – Remove the pin located near the handle of the extinguisher.
2. AIM – Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire. You want to be the most effective, so going to the base of it will be your best option.
3. SQUEEZE – Squeeze the trigger on the extinguisher to discharge the solution.
4. SWEEP – Spray the extinguisher in a sweeping, side-to-side motion until the fire is out. You’ll have anywhere between 10 to 20 seconds of discharge time.

Once you think the fire is out, slowly back away. Keep tabs on the spot, as there could still be hidden spots that can burst back into flames. If there are still flames and the extinguisher is out, it’s time to evacuate and bring in the professionals. Call 911.

Whether you used the whole extinguisher or only some of it, you’ll need to get it recharged. This requires a professional fire extinguisher inspection to get the extinguisher back working at its full capacity.

General Safety Reminders

Knowing how to assess the situation is crucial. Attempting to fight a fire that is out of control and beyond your capabilities can lead to harming the surrounding area and yourself. Know when the fire is beyond your control and to involve the fire department (err on the side of caution – if the fire is bigger than you, call 911).

When it comes to fire safety, having a plan is essential for everyone’s safety. Make sure everyone in the building knows the different escape routes. If you’re in a commercial or industrial building, ensure that the escape routes are visibly labelled. Implement routine fire drills with employees at work and family members at home.

It cannot be understated the importance of monthly inspection of the unit, and the extreme importance to have the units maintenance every six-year service and 12-year hydrostatic service. Regular maintenance checks every part of the extinguisher that makes it work. You are also required to service and recharge stored pressure fire extinguishers every six years. With this procedure, it not only checks the extinguisher, but it also ensures it’s working properly.

On top recharging and pressure inspection, your extinguisher must go through hydrostatic testing. A hydrostatic test recertifies the fire extinguisher shell. Depending on the type of fire extinguisher you have, you may be required to retest it more frequently. We can help you determine all of your maintenance and testing needs and how often they should be performed.

When fighting a fire, your safety is imperative. Ensure that you’re not putting yourself in danger to extinguish the fire. Approach the situation from a safe distance before making your decision. If you find that you cannot get close enough without getting burned, or that the fire grows beyond your height, it’s time to sound the fire alarm, follow your escape plan, and call 911.

Learn to properly use an extinguisher to help prevent a small fire from growing into an out-of-control one. Regular fire extinguisher training will keep people up-to-speed on not just how to use the extinguisher, but what all it entails (and how the wrong extinguisher can be harmful).

Regular fire extinguisher maintenance is a necessity and should be apart of your regular fire plan. Monthly inspections should include checking the pressure gauge, the expiry date, no visible damage, and that there is nothing obstructing the fire extinguisher.

Save the building, save the business, and even save a life. Learn how to use a fire extinguisher to prevent a fire from growing into a serious disaster.


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