Fire extinguishers are a common sight in all public buildings. Though everybody is aware of their existence, many are not properly trained on how and when to
properly use them. Having a fire extinguisher in the home and knowing how to use it can reduce your risk of injury or property damage. However, safety is a number one priority and extinguishing a fire may not always be the best choice.
Types of extinguishers - Fire extinguishers are labeled according to the type of fire on which they may be used. Each type of extinguisher will put out a different type of fire.
Types of fires include: solids like cloth or wood, liquids like gasoline or electrical fires.
Using one type of extinguisher on the wrong type of fire could be dangerous and make matters even worse.
Common types of fires
Type A – Combustible materials like, cloth paper and many plastics.
Type B – Flammable liquids such as: gas, oil/grease, oil based paint.
Type C – Electrical or energized electrical equipment.
Type A extinguishers will have an A in a triangle and/or picture of a wood fire in them. These work for only type A fires.
Type B extinguishes will have a square with a B in it and/or a picture of a gasoline container. These work only on type B fires.
Type C extinguishers will have a circle with a C in it and or a picture of an electrical plug.
Many fire extinguishers are multi-purpose and may have an A B and C on them. These will put out all of the above fires. There is a class D fire and extinguisher but these are hazardous materials and should not be used by the general public.
Only use an extinguisher if:
- Building is being evacuated (fire alarm pulled)
- Fire Department is being called (dial 9-1-1)
- Fire is small and contained (not spreading)
- EXIT IS CLEAR – and there is no imminent peril
- You can fight the fire with your back to an exit
- You can stay low and avoid smoke
- The proper extinguisher is at hand and…
- You know how to use it
- You use “Buddy System” – someone back you up
- Get assistance BEFORE trying to fight a fire
How to use an extinguisher
If you have determined you can safely use an extinguisher, use the following steps:
- PULL the pin out to unlock the operating lever.
- AIM low: Point the extinguisher nozzle (or hose) at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent. Be prepared! It will
come out with force.
- Sweep from side to side, moving carefully toward the fire. Keep the
extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire, sweeping back and forth until all the
flames are out. Watch the fire area. If the fire re-ignites, repeat the process.
Fire Extinguisher Safety Tips
- Use a multi-purpose fire extinguisher in the home.
- Choose an extinguisher that is big enough to put out a potential fire but not too
large to be easily lifted and used.
- Read the instructions and know how to use the extinguisher.
- Use an extinguisher that has been approved by an independent laboratory like UL
- Mount the extinguisher near an exit door, out of reach of children.
- Check the fire extinguisher for leaks, dents or a drop in pressure.
- Extinguisher should be turned upside down and shaken one a year to keep the
powder from settling.
- If you have any doubts about whether or not to fight the fire, don’t! Get out to
safety and wait for the fire department to arrive.