Having a fire extinguishers in your home, office, RV or vehicle is critical to saving lives and property in the event of a fire. However for a fire extinguisher to be able to perform effectively you need to have the correct type of extinguisher and training in it’s use.
When a fire happens, you need to have an extinguisher close at hand. If you have to leave the area to retrieve one the fire will likely be too large to manage by the time you return. Seconds count in the early stages to catch the fire when it’s still small. The extinguisher should be kept in a readily accessible area preferably near the entry/exit to the room. Areas such as kitchens or rooms with fireplaces should all have an extinguisher nearby.
Which extinguisher for which fire
There are different classifications for fires and extinguishers to match. They use an A-B-C-D letter rating system. Depending on the source of the fire, different chemicals needs to be used. Fire extinguishers should be clearly marked with at least one of these letters to indicate its contents. Class A extinguishers employ water and should be used on ordinary combustibles such as paper and wood. Chemical extinguishers include Class B extinguishers used for grease and liquid, Class C for electrical fires and Class D for flammable metals. It’s important to predict the type of fire likely to occur in a specific area and make sure you have an appropriate extinguisher. For example a Class A water extinguisher would not be a good choice in a kitchen where you would likely encounter electrical or grease fires.
Fire extinguishers do not require a lot of maintenance but they should be inspected yearly by a qualified agency. Extinguishers that are used regularly such as fire department units need to be inspected about every 30 days, given a hydrostatic test once a year, and emptied of contents every six years.
To use a fire extinguisher, just remember the acronym “PASS”:
Pull the pin,
Aim low at the base of the fire,
Squeeze the handle to release contents, and
Sweep the nozzle while moving slowly toward the fire.
This is a very general rule and may not be the ideal approach with some types of fires. We recommend you get Fire Extinguisher training to know how to deal with specific types of fires.
Your Safety Plan
Fire extinguishers just one part of your home or office fire safety and evacuation plan. It’s important to have a fire safety plan so that everyone knows what to do, evactuation routes and meeting places in the event of a fire. Although fire extinguishers are effective against small fires, they should never be used in the event of a large fire. If the fire is large, get everyone to safety, call 911 and wait for the fire department. You can Download this home escape plan to create your own safety plan.
For more information we provide an online training and certification course called Firefighting and Fire Extinguisher Safety. This course will be useful for anyone who may be called upon in time of emergency to use a fire extinguisher.