When used properly, portable fire extinguishers can save lives and property. Portable fire extinguishers can be used to extinguish small fires or contain a fire until the fire department arrives. Fire extinguishers are not designed to extinguish large or rapid growing fires and can be very dangerous in any situation for the untrained user.
You can try to use a fire extinguisher if you know the fire is small and confined and you keep a clear escape route; don’t let the fire get between you and the exit. If you have any doubt, exit the area immediately. If the fire becomes bigger from when you began, exit immediately, close the door behind you to contain the fire, and do not re-enter until the fire department grants permission.
- Assume the fire is out (have the area inspected by a fire department personnel)
- Attempt to extinguish a large or rapid growing fire
- Fight fires if there is any doubt about the size or intensity of the blaze
- Fight fires in a smoke-filled room
- Fight fires without an escape route
Fire extinguishers come in various classes and sizes. The class of the extinguisher informs the user of what kind of fire the extinguisher will be effective against. The different classes are:
Size Does Makes a Difference
The size of the extinguisher is given a numerical rating that informs the non-expert user of the approximate square feet of fire area it may extinguish. The minimum rated extinguisher for home use is a 1A:10BC extinguisher. However, the recommended size is 2A:10BC extinguisher, which is the minimum size for commercial use.
The Proper Operating Method
Fire extinguishers are not difficult to use if the user has proper training. The acronym used to remember the proper operating method is PASS:
- Pull - Remove the safety pin from the handle of extinguisher by pulling it out.
- Aim - Aim the discharge hose or nozzle at the base of the fire. Keep a safe distance between you and the fire. The fire extinguisher will have a recommended distance located on the label.
- Squeeze - Squeeze the discharge handle to release the extinguishing agent. If extinguisher has a discharge hose, ensure a secure grip on the hose before you squeeze.
- Sweep - Sweep the extinguishing agent in a back and forth (left to right and right to left) motion at the base of the fire until it is extinguished. Once extinguished, observe the area in case the fire re-ignites.
Before using a fire extinguisher you should first activate the 9-1-1 system so that your local fire department can respond to the fire as quickly as possible. If you are attempting to extinguish the fire and you are not being effective, exit immediately and wait for the fire department to arrive.
It is also very important to read the instruction manual for the fire extinguisher. The instruction manual will provide additional information about that particular extinguisher and provide the required maintenance.
Location Is Important
Another important aspect of fire extinguishers is placement. Fire extinguishers are intended for a rapid deployment while the fire is still small. If you have to find an extinguisher in the closet or go downstairs to get it, chances are the fire will be too big for it to be effective.
The fire extinguisher should be mounted on the wall in a visible location. Second, the extinguisher needs to be placed on an egress path out of the home or business. Always leave yourself the option to get outside if the extinguisher is not effective. (The recommended placement of fire extinguishers is in the kitchen, the garage, and one for every level of the home; businesses should consult with a registered design professional or fire protection professional for placement).