Being able to use a fire extinguisher is an important safety skill everyone should acquire. You never know when you might have to use one at work, at home or on the road.
Fire extinguishers work by smothering or cooling fires. Their job is to put out small fires and prevent them from becoming big fires.
At the first sign of a fire, you should sound the building alarm and then call the fire department. The priority is to get everyone out of the building immediately. If you cannot handle the fire safely, get out.
Close (but don't lock) doors behind you—this is to slow down the spread of the fire. Stay between the fire and an exit so that you do not become trapped.
Attempt to fight a small fire only. However, if you are a trained and authorized member of a fire-fighting team, your priorities will be different. Fire-fighting is part of the job description in certain work environments. Some work situations have large fire extinguishers which are transported on carts or vehicles. But we are referring to small portable fire extinguishers.
Remembering the word "PASS" can remind you of the four steps to using a fire extinguisher.
P" stands for "Pull", which means pull the pin. There are some types of fire extinguishers which require another action such as releasing a latch or pressing on a lever.
"A" stands for "Aim". Aim the nozzle of the fire extinguisher at the base of the fire.
The first "S" stands for "Squeeze". Squeeze or press on the handle of the extinguisher.
The final "S" means "Sweep". Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire. Keep doing this until the fire is out.
It is necessary to use the right kind of extinguisher on the fire. These are the main types of extinguishers:
"A" fire extinguishers are used on ordinary combustibles, such as wood, paper, cloth, some plastics and rubber.
The "B" extinguisher is used on fires in flammable liquids. These include kitchen grease, oil, gasoline and certain paints.
The "C" extinguisher is intended to be used on electrical fires, such as those in wiring and other energized electrical equipment. Never use water or a water-type extinguisher on an electrical fire because of the danger of shock.
The "D" extinguisher is less common than the other types. It is used on combustible metals found in certain industrial workplaces.
Combination fire extinguishers such as "ABC" are available and are commonly used in workplaces and homes.
Fire extinguishers need to be serviced and maintained on a regular basis. Never cover or block access to a fire extinguisher. Off-the-job, be sure to furnish your home, workshop and vehicle with the appropriate extinguishers.