Back to Basics: Safe and Effective Use of Fire Extinguishers

A fire extinguisher is a great thing to have on hand in case a fire breaks out at your home or workplace. These portable pieces of equipment may not seem like much, but when used effectively, they can keep a small, contained fire from turning into a life-threatening situation.

However, if you, your loved ones, and/or your coworkers don’t know how to use a fire extinguisher properly, they’re only going to be so effective in an emergency. If you want to help keep everyone safe in a fire, share with them the following tips for the safe and effective use of fire extinguishers.

The ABCDs of Fire Extinguishers

There are 4 general classes of fires: A, B, C, and D. Every fire extinguisher should be labelled with one of these letters to ensure that they are being used for the right class of fire, otherwise there is the chance that it will spread the fire instead of putting it out.

  • Class A fires should be put out with fire extinguishers labelled with an “A”. These fires involve cloth, trash, wood, cardboard, rags, or paper.
  • Class B fires correspond with extinguishers labelled with a “B”. These involve flammable liquids like oil, paint, solvents, and gasoline, as well as grease or gasses.
  • Class C fires go with “C”-labelled extinguishers. These involve electrical wiring and equipment. Note that the water-based extinguishers used to put out Class A fires should not be used to extinguish electrical fires under any circumstances, as it will almost certainly spread the fire.
  • Class D fires should be dealt with by extinguishers labelled with a “D”. These are for fires involving combustible metals, like zinc, aluminum, or magnesium.

Fire classes are certainly not common knowledge, so if you find it difficult to remember what the different letters mean, then check for picture symbols on the extinguisher’s label. Not every label will necessarily have the pictures, but if you see a red slash on a certain picture or letter, then you know not to use it on that type of fire.

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher – PASS

Fortunately, as long as you know what you’re doing, it’s not difficult to use a fire extinguisher. Simply stay back 6 – 8 feet, hold the extinguisher upright, and remember to PASS:

  • Pull the pin or press the lever
  • Aim the hose at the fire’s base
  • Squeeze the handle
  • Sweep the extinguishing agent from side-to-side until the fire is out

Before you start even attempting to put out those flames, however, it is important to make sure that you have a clear path to an emergency exit. While a fire extinguisher can be an effective way of putting out a fire, there is chance that it will not be enough to put out the flames.

If you have any doubt about your ability to deal with a fire, then the safest thing to do is get out of the building. Fire extinguishers are only meant to extinguish small, contained fires, so if you find that a fire is spreading, get out of there ASAP and leave it to the professionals.