The PASS Method in Fire Safety: Know the Basics

While many people may not know everything about fire safety, they can almost certainly recognize one essential piece of equipment: the fire extinguisher. Indeed, this red fire-fighting device is often the first line of defense against small fires in many homes and businesses. However, it’s only going to be effective if you know how to use it properly.


While you can take a course in fire safety if you really want to get comfortable with a fire extinguisher, it’s not necessary. The next time you go to use a fire extinguisher, all you need to remember is PASS: Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep. Let’s learn more about the PASS method and other fire safety basics below.


What are the Different Classes of Fire Extinguishers?

Before you use an extinguisher, you need to make sure you have the right one for the type of fire. The following are the different classes of fires and extinguishers.


  • Class A: ordinary combustibles, like wood, paper, and cloth
  • Class B: flammable liquids like gas, paint, and oil
  • Class C: electrical fires
  • Class D: combustible metals and metal alloys
  • Class K: cooking fires with oils and fats


Look for one of these classifications on the label of a fire extinguisher to determine if it’s appropriate for the job.

What is the PASS Method in Fire Safety?

The PASS method is an easy way to remember how to use a fire extinguisher in an emergency. After verifying that you’re using the correct extinguisher for the type of fire, follow these steps:


1. Pull

The first thing you need to do is pull out the pin that prevents you from pressing the handle on the fire extinguisher. This is a safety feature that helps ensure the extinguisher won’t accidentally go off in someone’s hands.


Look for the pin near the top of the extinguisher. After you locate it, just pull it out to unlock the handle.


2. Aim

Standing from a safe distance, aim the nozzle low, toward the base of the fire.


3. Squeeze

Once the nozzle is pointing in the right direction, squeeze the handle. Try and squeeze it slowly and evenly for best results. Then, to stop the stream, simply release the handle.


4. Sweep

While squeezing, sweep the nozzle of the extinguisher from side-to-side. Make sure you’re always pointing toward the base of the flames as you sweep the area.


Can a Child Use a Fire Extinguisher?

Though the steps are fairly basic, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) doesn’t believe that children shouldn’t use portable fire extinguishers. This is due to many reasons, such as:


  • It’s against NFPA’s message to get out and stay out if they encounter a fire
  • They may not be able to judge whether the fire is small enough for an extinguisher
  • Children may not be physically capable of handling the extinguisher safely and effectively
  • They may not know what to do if the fire spreads


If an adult is around, they should always be the one to operate a fire extinguisher. Children should be taught to leave the situation as soon as possible.


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