How to Use a Fire Extinguisher Properly

women using fire extinguisher

Having fire prevention and management equipment like fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, and Shutguns are ideal for building safety. Still, you’ve got to learn to use them when emergencies arise.

Learning how to use a fire extinguisher is easy, and your fire protection officer can help you teach your employees how to use one to put out a small fire without necessarily waiting for the fire department, which will take several minutes to arrive.

Let’s take a quick look at how you can properly use a portable fire extinguisher to contain a small fire.

Steps to Using a Fire Extinguisher Properly

Below are crucial steps in fire extinguisher use training.

1. Ensure the fire alarm is on and sounding. The smoke and fire alarms serve to notify other people in and around the building that a fire is ongoing and that they must evacuate immediately.

If possible and necessary, you should notify the fire department that your building is on fire.

2. Ensure you have a clear evacuation route before you get to the fire. Since fires can go from small to uncontrollable in a matter of seconds depending on the fuel and other enabling components, you’ll want to have a clear and safe escape route before approaching it.

The path you map should be clear of debris, smoke, fire, heat, slipperiness, and water.

You have to be able to use the path conveniently to escape if the fire grows and becomes impossible to handle with a simple fire extinguisher.

3. Choose the correct fire extinguisher type. While you may not immediately know the cause of the fire, it would be a great advantage to try to figure out what might have caused it.

Knowing the cause of the fire helps you choose the right type of extinguisher for the fire, since different types of extinguishers are ideal only for specific types or classes of fire.

For example, a water fire extinguisher is only ideal for putting out Class A fires, which stem from ordinary combustibles like soft furnishings and wood, whereas Class B fires involve flammable liquids, gasses, oils, solvents, or alcohols.

Spraying the water extinguisher at the fire soaks it and removes heat from the tri-element fire triangle of heat, fuel, and oxygen – the three requirements for a fire.

If you work in a kitchen where there is a risk of an oil or grease fire, you will need a wet chemical extinguisher or a water mist extinguisher to kill a Class K fire.

4. Discharge the fire extinguisher using the P.A.S.S technique. To start killing the fire, get within the recommended effective range for the extinguisher and discharge at the fire using the proven technique detailed below:

fire extinguisher using guide
  • Pull: Pull the fire extinguisher safety pin found at the top to break the tamper seal.
  • Aim: Aim the fire extinguisher low with the nozzle, hose, or horn directed at the base of the fire rather than the bubbling flames. (Avoid touching the discharge horn if you use a CO2 extinguisher. You risk damaging your skin as the horn on carbon dioxide extinguishers becomes very cold with the flow of the trapped gas.)
  • Squeeze: Squeeze the fire extinguisher handle at the top to release the enclosed extinguishing agent.
  • Sweep: While aiming the nozzle at the base of the developing fire, use a sweeping motion, moving the extinguisher from side to side over the burning material until the fire dies out. Release the handle to stop discharging the agent.

5. If the fire goes out, back away to avoid injury if it reignites. If it reignites, repeat the P.A.S.S. steps.

6. If your extinguisher empties before the fire is out, evacuate immediately. Sometimes, you may have another readily available fire extinguisher you can use, but you should only employ it if you feel that discharging it will help kill the remaining fire.

7. Exit the building immediately if the fire grows beyond the emerging stage.

Sprinklers, Shut Off Tool, and Fire Extinguishers Combo

working sprinkler system

While portable fire extinguishers are necessities for a fire emergency, you could do much better if you had a functional fire sprinkler system, complete with fire sprinkler head shutoff tools.

When a fire starts, the fire sprinkler system activates, pouring water on the fire from above, below, or the sides, depending on where the fire suppression systems are and their direction of flow.

A working fire sprinkler system eliminates the need to use fire extinguishers in the first place, even when they are available, especially if it is a Class A fire and can be extinguished by water.

With fire sprinklers, you don’t have to struggle to put out the fire yourself and risk your life doing it. Anything could go wrong at any second when trying to put out a fire with an extinguisher, even when you know how to use one.

The one shortcoming of fire sprinkler systems is that the fire sprinkler heads can activate accidentally when something hits them or a false fire is detected, leading to expensive water damage in just a few minutes.

To help you avoid water damage from accidentally activated fire sprinkler heads, we created a handy manual tool called a Shutgun that shuts off the flow of water quickly and easily.

sprinkler head

Ideally, every sprinkler head should have a Shutgun fire sprinkler shut-off tool nearby for when a false head activation occurs.

Alternatively, you can install the Shutgun permanently in the fire sprinkler heads to protect your building from both fire and accidental sprinkler head activation all the time.

If a fire occurs, the Shutgun activates when the temperature reaches 73°C (163°F) to release water on the fire.

If you have no sprinkler head shut-off tools in your building, we can help you save thousands with Shutgun when you place one with each fire extinguisher or install it directly on the sprinkler heads.


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