Whilst many business premises have them and people are familiar with their existence, knowing how to use a fire extinguisher properly and safely, is a different story. Most are quite easy to use, but confusion may occur when you are stressed at the time of a real fire, and the written instructions on the side of the extinguisher may be confusing... assuming you have time to read them, of course.
That is why it is important to know how to properly use a fire extinguisher so that if or when the time comes, you can fight fires with confidence.
The following guide aims to give an overview of the best techniques for using a fire extinguisher and the things you should avoid when attempting to operate particular types.
1. Be Prepared
Although extinguishers are generally quite easy to use, you need to be prepared before a fire occurs. Once a fire has started, taking time to read the instructions whilst in a panicked state could be extremely costly to yourself, those around you and of course, the premises.
Therefore, you should always read the instructions and be familiar with the way the extinguisher operates before you need to use it. Keep yourself reminded of the instructions by reading them every once in a while, and always make sure that when a new extinguisher is purchased you again check it's particular instructions.
An excellent training opportunity is to ask your Fire Extinguisher Service Provider, to show you how to use one. This is something any reputable Fire Protection Company should be offering, as it is written in Para 4.5, of the Fire Extinguisher Selection and Installation Code of Practice BS5306:8-2012, which every Fire Protection Company should follow (see excerpt below):
Most types of extinguisher operate in the same way, but there are extinguishers with different methods of operations on the market, so you need to familiarise yourself fully with the types you have in your place of work or home. In addition to this, always make sure you know all the locations of the extinguishers so that you can get to one easily if and when needed.
2. Learn the acronym "P.A.S.S."
The first step to using a fire extinguisher is to pull the pin out. Once the pin is pulled out, the extinguisher is no longer locked and can be discharged.
You should aim the nozzle, hose or horn at the base of any fire. This is where the fuel is which is producing vapours supporting the chemical chain reaction. Breaking the Chemical Chain Reaction, by either cooling, suffocation or smothering will ultimately extinguish the fire.
If you simply aim at the top of the flames you will not extinguish the fire permanently and your extinguisher could be empty before the fire is out.
Whilst aiming the extinguisher, you need to slowly squeeze the handle/trigger/lever on the extinguisher to begin discharging it.
*(FSC (Nationwide) recommend you give a brief 'half a second' squeeze of the handle/trigger/lever in order to test it's operation, before moving towards the fire).
If you stop squeezing on modern extinguishers the discharge will stop, enabling you to move around and make the most of the extinguisher's contents.
DO NOT turn the extinguisher upside down or thump it on the ground, as was often required in the old days. If the extinguisher label says to do this, then it is likely that your extinguisher is too old and could be dangerous to use.
Whilst you squeeze the operating mechanism you will need to sweep the discharge hose/nozzle/horn of the extinguisher from side to side, covering the base of the fire until it has been totally extinguished. Start at sensible distance from the fire and then move closer as the flames reduce.
Remember These Points
3. Fire Training
If it has not already been offered at your place of work, remind your employer of their legal duty to provide adequate Fire Safety Training. This is a legal requirement in accordance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Unless you are using it in a genuine Fire Situation, do not “test” extinguishers by momentarily discharging them. Fire Extinguishers are designed to be used once and with the full contents. Testing them in this way, will reduce the contents and ultimately lessen the fire fighting capabilities of the Extinguisher, putting yourself, other personnel and your premises at risk.
For more advice on Fire Extinguishers, contact FSC (Nationwide) at:
Tel: (0161) 298 4999
...or fill in our online form, which you can get to by clicking on the following link:
CONTACT US HERE