Fire extinguishers are devices that can put out or contain small fires. They only work if they are used properly. Before even considering using a portable extinguisher, make sure access to a clear exit is available. Also, ensure that the correct extinguisher is used for the fire being put out.
Look for these types of extinguishers on the label
- Type A - Ordinary combustibles such as paper, wood and cloth.
- Never use a Type A extinguisher on flammable liquids. This is likely to spread the fire and make it worse.
- Type B - Flammable liquids, gasoline, cooking oils or fats, oil-based paint and kerosene, etc.
- Type C - Electrical equipment, wall outlets, power cords, small/large appliances, wiring and fuse boxes.
How to use an extinguisher
- Here's a simple way to remember the steps to take when using a portable extinguisher:
- Stand approximately three metres back from the fire.
- Follow the acronym "PASS"
- Pull the pin. The pin is there as a safeguard and locks the handle; pulling it out activates the extinguisher for use.
- Aim low. The hose or nozzle should be pointed at the base of the fire to best put it out.
- Squeeze the lever above the handle. This will shoot the extinguishing substance from the hose or nozzle. Keep in mind that most small extinguishers will run out of their extinguishing agent in 10 to 25 seconds.
- Sweep from side to side and move slowly toward the fire, keep the hose or nozzle aimed at the base of the fire. If the flames appear to be out, release the handle and watch closely. If the fire ignites again, repeat the process.
Things to keep in mind
- Before using an extinguisher to fight small fires, make sure everyone else has left the area and that firefighters have been called using 911.
- Always have a clear exit route and ensure the fire isn't in the way of that exit.
- Call the fire department to inspect the fire area, even after extinguishing the fire.
- Once a month, inspect the extinguisher for damage and make sure it is properly charged (see manufacturer's instructions for details).
- If an extinguisher has been used, it must be recharged by a professional. If it is a disposable unit, throw it out.