How To Use A Fire Extinguisher
We sometimes get asked how to use a fire extinguisher. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to use one.
1. Make sure it is safe for you to extinguish the fire
Before you use a fire extinguisher to tackle a fire, you must determine whether or not it is safe for you to do so and whether or not you’ll be able to put it out yourself. It is vital to remember that fire extinguishers are only for fighting a fire in its very early stages. Never try to put out a fire by yourself if the fire is starting to/already spread, or if the room is filling with smoke. It is found that more people are killed by the smoke of the fire and fumes rather than by the actual fire. If this occurs and you are unable to extinguish the fire you should evacuate the building immediately and call the fire department, as it is critical you don’t pose any risks to yourself or others.
2. Ensure you have the correct fire extinguisher to use
It is important that you ensure you have the correct fire extinguisher to start with as not every fire is the same. There are different classes of fire and each one requires a certain fire extinguisher to help put it out. If the wrong one is used, it can be life-threatening. So, making sure you have the correct extinguisher in hand is essential to putting out fires.
3. Identify a clear exit/escape route
Before using the fire extinguisher, you need to make sure you have a clear, safe evacuation route. There is a chance that the fire may not be able to be put out by the fire extinguisher, and in this case, you’ll need to make/identify a safe exit. Having multiple exit options nearby is ideal to be able to escape the area safely.
4. Stand back
When facing the fire, you’ll need to keep a fair distance away from the flames but still ensure you are near the exit you earlier identified. Depending on what extinguisher you are preparing to use, you’ll need to stand different distances away as each substance in the fire extinguisher can come out at different speeds or some much further than others. The list below shows which distance you should stand depending on the fire extinguisher you are operating.
Water Jet 6-8 meters
Water Spray 4-5 meters
Water Mist 3-4 meters
Foam 4-5 meters
Co2 2-3 meters
Wet Chemical 1 meter
Powder 3-4 meters
5. Use the fire extinguisher
In an emergency, it is sometimes hard to think straight. Below is a fire extinguisher technique put into the acronym ‘PASS’; this will help you ensure you’re taking the necessary steps to prepare the extinguisher for use and to tackle the fire correctly and safely.
Pull the pin on the fire extinguisher. This may also require twisting it.
Aim the extinguisher hose towards the base of the fire. The way you aim may differ depending on the type of extinguisher you are using.
Squeeze the handle quite firmly on the extinguisher to discharge the contents inside.
Sweep the hose from side to side while aiming it at the base of the fire. Do this until the fire has extinguished. They only last for a short period of time so ensure you can put the fire out with the fire extinguisher(s) you have available.
6. Keep an eye on the area
It is important that you keep watch of the area the fire started in to ensure the area doesn’t reignite and another fire starts. If this is the case, repeat the PASS process until the fire is extinguished.
7. Call the fire department
Even if you have extinguished the fire yourself, it is still important to call the fire brigade, as they will be able to inspect the environment where the fire took place, and make sure that it has completely gone out.
8. Get to a safe place
If you are unable to put the fire out, or even if you have, leave the scene as soon as possible and get to a safe place while you wait for the fire brigade.
Common fire extinguisher mistakes
Fighting a fire can be a very stressful thing to experience, so making simple mistakes can be quite common, especially when under a lot of pressure. By making one of the mistakes listed below can sometimes be life-threatening, so it is essential to know where people go wrong so that you are not making the same mistakes.
Don’t ignore the instructions: On your extinguisher, there will be instructions telling you how to use it and what fire it is not suitable for. It is important that you read this before putting out a fire.
Don’t use the wrong type of extinguisher: This is one of the most common mistakes that people make and one of the most dangerous. Never use it for a class fire that is not indicated on the label or on an ID sign above your extinguisher. Using the wrong type can be life-threatening.
Don’t abandon maintenance: Getting your extinguisher regularly serviced is one of the most important things to do. Overtime, the contents in your extinguisher will eventually expire, leak, or it can get damaged. All of these things make it no longer fit for use, and you will have to then get it replaced. Using an extinguisher that is condemned, may put your life at risk as it could not work when trying to put out a fire. You should always get your extinguishers serviced annually.