When you focus on fire prevention and fire safety, there are a number of things that you need to consider. One of them is how to use a fire extinguisher correctly, since many people aren’t sure about its proper usage. While it seems like a simple thing to do, using a fire extinguisher can actually be more complicated than one might expect. In an emergency, when tensions are running high and there’s a tendency for confusion, you must be knowledgeable and ready to handle fire extinguishers.
While this post covers the basic instructions, you must remember that not all fire extinguishers are the same. Some of them may have recommended distances for proper use or other important differences that must be considered. Read the instructions that come with your extinguisher, and make sure you’re familiar with how it operates.
Keep in mind that an extinguisher with a full charge will provide approximately 10 seconds of extinguishing chemical. Such amount should work well for a small fire—but for a large fire, it wouldn’t be enough. Most people recommend the PASS method in using a fire extinguisher safely:
- Pull the pin
- Aim toward the fire’s base
- Squeeze the lever
- Sweep the extinguisher from side to side
While the steps seem simple, it’s important to know how each step can be done properly and why each step is so important…
In the PASS method, the first step is to pull the pin. It’s located on top of the extinguisher. Pulling it allows a locking mechanism to release. Until you pull the pin, you can’t use the extinguisher. Aiming at the base of the fire is the next step. You should aim there because your first priority is not the flames themselves. Rather, your focus should be on whatever is fueling the fire—and that’s found at the base. If you just use the extinguisher to knock down the flames, you won’t put the fire out. It will quickly come back and continue to grow.
Squeezing the lever comes next, and you must do that slowly. Doing so will help you control the chemical that’s coming from the extinguisher and give you the best opportunity to put the fire out. Sweeping the extinguisher from one side to the other and back again can help you put the fire out faster. You should start from a few feet away, so you’re at a safe distance—then move closer as the fire gets smaller. Don’t walk away easily, even if the fire seems to be out and under control. A hot spot might cause it to flare up again, and you must be prepared for that.
It’s also a good idea to get hands-on training to help you be more prepared if you need to use an extinguisher. Knowledge of what to do if and when a fire does occur is very important for your health and safety at work.