Guide to Effectively Using a Fire Extinguisher: When to Use It, Where to Store It, and How to Discharge Its Contents

When it comes to making a decision about whether or not to fight a fire, it is important to evaluate the situation quickly and keep in mind that every fire must be treated with extreme caution. Although no two fires are exactly alike in the circumstances that cause them or the location in which they appear, some generalizations can still be made about their nature.

Depending on the type of combustible material that is involved, fires are generally separated into four groups: Class A, B, C, and D fires. Fires caused by wood or paper, for example, usually fall into Class A while fires caused by appliances or electronics fall into Class C. As a result of these varying classifications, there are also varying types of fire extinguishers.

Each extinguisher is marked with a label on the outside that identifies the types of fires that it is designed to combat. For instance, an ABC fire extinguisher will fight Class A, B, and C fires. Determining if the correct type of fire extinguisher is available is a fundamental factor in deciding if you are equipped to fight the fire at hand. To learn more about fire classification systems and combustible materials, please visit “Types of Fires and Fire Extinguishers.”

When to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Although it is important to think and respond quickly in case of a fire, it is also vital to make thorough observations and to use caution when deciding whether or not to fight the fire. Note the type of material that is burning and ensure that you have the appropriate type of extinguisher on hand.

If the fire is spreading rapidly or if you are unable to determine the type of material that is burning, it is wise not to attempt to fight the fire. Realistically speaking, if you are unaware of the materials that are involved, you may inadvertently make the fire worse in your attempts to quelch it. Additionally, fire extinguishers are meant to be used when a fire has just begun. If the fire has been actively burning before you arrive on the scene or does not appear as though it can be controlled, it is best to call 911 and wait in a safe location until help arrives.

If the fire appears to be controllable and you decide to use an extinguisher, double-check the label to make sure that you are using the correct type. Also, be sure that you are close to an exit so that you can escape quickly after using the extinguisher. If there is someone else there to assist you, have that person call 911 while you are fighting the fire. Even if you put the fire out, it is a good idea to have the Fire Department come to inspect the location of the fire. The firefighters will check for damage and make sure that there will not be a recurrence of the fire.

Where to Keep a Fire Extinguisher

In the same way that it is important to think on your feet during an emergency, it is also essential to think critically and plan ahead when choosing a location in which to store your fire extinguisher. Fire safety experts recommend that extinguishers be kept near the kitchen, garage, and any other work areas that appear particularly vulnerable to the threat of fire. A good rule of thumb is to have at least one extinguisher on each floor in a single-family home.

Using a Fire Extinguisher

When the time comes to make use of a fire extinguisher, there are a few simple steps that will lead to effective operation of the device. The conventional acronym that is utilized to explain these steps is PASS. This stands for Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep.
To begin, PULL the pin out of the extinguisher. Without removing the pin, you will not be able to discharge the contents of the extinguisher.

Secondly, be sure to AIM the extinguisher at the base of the fire because it is important to hit the material that is fueling the blaze. Aiming at the flames is often a wasted effort and may even cause the fire to scatter. While in the process of aiming the extinguisher, also take a moment to position yourself the appropriate distance away from the fire. This will ensure that you are at a safe distance when you begin to discharge the contents of the extinguisher. Generally, fire safety specialists recommend a distance of eight feet, although some experts may recommend a slightly larger span.

After you have taken aim and situated yourself the recommended eight feet from the fire, SQUEEZE the handle of the extinguisher. This will cause the pressurized contents to discharge.
Lastly, SWEEP from side to side. This will allow you to hit all parts of the fire with the extinguishing material.

Please take a look at this video for : How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Once you have PASSed and the fire has been extinguished, remember not leave the area unattended in case any part of the fire reignites. Ultimately, it is now time to wait for the Fire Department to arrive, investigate the scene, and give you a full report.

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