How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

We feel safe seeing fire extinguisher lying around but in case of fire, do you know how and when to use them?

During a small fire, a portable fire extinguisher may come in handy. However, in case there is a fire spread, the USFA recommends that only trained adults use fire extinguisher. This is to ensure that a fire will be effectively and safely put out.

If you think you are capable of using a fire extinguisher, these tips from will teach you the types of fire extinguishers and when to use each one.

  1. Call for help before attempting  to extinguish a serious fire. The fire may take hold much faster than  you’re capable of dealing with it, and if help is on the way, it removes  one less concern for you.

2. Check for your own safety before starting to extinguish a fire. There are some key things to check for before you start fighting a fire using a fire extinguisher:

3. Assess the fire. Only a contained fire should be fought using a fire extinguisher. Portable fire extinguishers are valuable for immediate use on small fires because they contain a limited amount of extinguishing material, which needs to be used properly or it will be wasted. For example, when a pan initially catches fire, it may be safe to turn off the burner, place a lid on the pan, and use an extinguisher. By the time the fire has spread, however, these actions will not be adequate, and only trained firefighters can safely extinguish such fires.

4. Check the type of extinguisher. In the USA, there are five main classes of fire extinguisher (note that the classes and nomenclature can vary from country to country): A, B, C, and the less common classes D and K. The extinguishing agent might be water, dry chemical, halon, CO2, or a special powder.

    • Class A: This is suitable for  cloth, wood, rubber, paper, various plastics, and       regular combustible fires. It is usually filled with 2 1/2 gallons (9.46 litres) of pressurized water.
    • Class B: This is suitable for  grease, gasoline or oil-based fires is usually filled with a dry chemical. Extinguishers smaller than 6lbs (2.72kg) are not recommended.
    • Class C: This is suitable for electrical fires caused by appliances, tools, and other plugged in gear. It can contain either halon or CO2. Halon 1211 and 1301 is very expensive and depletes the ozone layer, but it is being replaced by non-depleting agents such as FM200. Note that halon is now illegal in numerous jurisdictions.
    • Class D: This is used for  water-reactive metals such as burning magnesium and will be located in factories using such metals. It comes in the form of a powder that must cover the material to extinguish it.
    • Class K: This contains a special  purpose wet chemical agent for use in kitchen fires and deep fryers to  stop fires started by vegetable oils, animal fats, or other fats started in cooking appliances.

 5. Ready the fire extinguisher. Almost all fire extinguishers have a safety pin in the handle. This pin usually looks like a plastic or metal ring, sometimes colored red, that is held in place by a plastic seal. The distinctive features will vary depending on the type of fire extinguisher you have. You must break the seal and pull the safety pin from the handle before you can use the fire extinguisher by squeezing the lever, which discharges the fire extinguishing agent.

6. Aim for the base of the fire. Shooting into the flame is a waste of the fire extinguisher, as you’re not putting out the source of the flames. It’s vital to stop the fire at its source, or to remove or dampen the fuel from the fire, in order to put it out. By focusing the extinguisher’s spray at the base of the fire or the source, you’re extinguishing the fuel.

Remember the simple acronym P.A.S.S. to help you use the fire extinguisher effectively. P.A.S.S. stands for: Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep, explained below the printable diagram.

7. Be aware that the typical fire extinguisher will contain around 10 seconds of extinguishing power. If the extinguisher has already been discharged partially, this time will be less.

 8. Purchase a new fire extinguisher immediately. The old one is now depleted and will serve no further purpose. Do not allow an empty extinguisher to be present where it could create the false impression of being a good extinguisher. A multi-purpose extinguisher is best for a home; check that it is labeled by an independent testing laboratory. ]Some fire extinguishers can be recharged; for smaller ones, replacing may be cheaper.

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