HOW TO USE A FIRE EXTINGUISHER – STEP BY STEP GUIDE
Hopefully, you’ll never be in a fire and so you’ll never need to know how to use a fire extinguisher.
But of course, fires DO happen. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, in a recent year there were nearly 1,300,000 fires in the US, and they caused nearly 3,300 deaths, 16,000 injuries, and nearly $12 billion in losses/damages.
So we should all hope we’re never involved in a fire, but we should also learn how to use a fire extinguisher just in case.
To help, we’ve put together this fire extinguisher guide, which presents the proper way to select and use a fire extinguisher, and also gives you some guidance about when you should use a fire extinguisher instead of simply getting to safety and when you should evacuate if the fire gets too big despite your efforts.
When to Use a Fire Extinguisher
What’s the first thing you think of when you think of fire extinguisher steps of operation? Take a moment and give it some thought.
Was your first step something like “determine if I should use a fire extinguisher or get to safety instead?” If not, you overlooked a very important decision point.
If you’re involved in a fire, there may be times when it’s best for you to get to safety instead of trying to fight the fire. In fact, there are times when fighting the fire may increase the danger to yourself and to others in the area.
Here is a list of things to consider before you try to fight a fire. Only stay and fight the fire if you can say “yes” to every item on the list.
- Is the fire small enough and contained enough that you can put it out safely?
- Is a fire extinguisher available and within easy reach?
- Is the fire extinguisher of the proper type to put out the kind of fire you want to extinguisher? (Read below for more on types of fires and fire extinguishers.)
- Is the extinguisher fully charged and large enough to put out the fire?
- Have you been trained to properly use a fire extinguisher?
- Can you be certain that you won’t be putting yourself or others at risk if you use the fire extinguisher to fight the fire?
When thinking about how to use a fire extinguisher, it’s easy to overlook the first issue, but it may be the most important of all. Don’t put yourself or others at risk by attempting to follow the fire extinguisher steps listed below if it’s not a fire you can put out safely.
How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
In the rest of this article, we’ll present additional fire extinguisher steps to follow based on the assumption that you’ve already determined it is safe and appropriate for you to fight the fire and that a fire alarm has been triggered.
Step 1: Know What Kind of Fire It Is (Fire Classification)
Fire mean seem simple, but in reality there are different types of fires (these are also called fire classifications). And it’s important to know what type of fire you’re trying to put out so that you can be sure to use the right type of fire extinguishers.
Fire experts have named the different types of fires using a 5-letter naming system (Type A, Type B, Type C, Type D, and Type K). The type of fire depends on what the fire is burning.
The table below explains the different types of fires. Note that these fire types are also known as fire classes.
|Type of Fire||Description of Fire|
|Type A||Fires involving wood, paper, cloth, rubber, and many plastics.|
|Type B||Fires involving flammable liquids and gases including gasoline, solvents, propane, and paints.|
|Type C||Fires involving energized electrical equipment, including fuse boxes, wiring, control panels, computers, copiers, machines, and appliances. In short, anything plugged into electricity.|
|Type D||A fire involving metals, including combustible powders, shavings, or flakes of metals such as magnesium, titanium, potassium, and sodium.|
|Type K||Fires involving cooking oils and fats often used in commercial kitchens.|
Remember that knowing what’s burning, and therefore knowing the type of fire, is important so you’ll use the right type of fire extinguisher.
Additional Tips for this Step of our Fire Extinguisher Guide
- We mentioned this in the earlier section, but when you’re looking at the fire to determine what type of fire it is, make sure it’s not too big to fight and make sure you’ve got a way to get away if things get worse.
- If you’re like almost every living person alive, you’ll forget the five fire types listed above sometime today or tomorrow (fire experts excepted, of course). If you CAN remember them, great. But if not, it’s a good idea to put a list of the fire types like the one above near fire extinguishers.