Fire extinguishers are an important tool in preventing a small fire from growing larger. However, they should not be used to combat large or rapidly spreading fires. The most important thing to do during a fire is to get yourself and coworkers to safety then call the proper authorities (911) to combat the fire. Equipment, building, and property are not worth putting yourself or anyone at risk trying to put it out with a fire extinguisher. It is important to understand how to use a fire extinguisher and the limitations they have. Most only spray for 10 to 30 secs after that you are left beating out the fire with a red cylinder on the end of a hose!
The easiest way to remember how to use a fire extinguisher is to follow the P.A.S.S. method. The PASS acronym was developed to allow people to remember the basic four steps to properly use a fire extinguisher.
P- Pull. Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher away and release the locking mechanism.
A- Aim. Aim the stream towards the base of the fire. Spraying the flames will not put the fire out.
S- Squeeze. Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly. Pulling the lever too fast may shoot the stream from your target wasting the valuable firefighting agent.
S- Sweep. Sweep the nozzle side to side to combat the fire.
Fire Extinguisher Limitations
- A dry chemical fire extinguisher (“ABC”) will reach a distance between 5 and 20 feet. It is important to be familiar with the models used in your work areas.
- A 10lb to 20lb dry chemical fire extinguisher will last anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds.
- Fire extinguishers are only designed to fight small fires. A rule of thumb is the size of the fire should not be any larger than the size of a small trash can.
Fire Extinguisher Inspection Tips
- Extinguishers in office, yard and onsite should be checked each month. Extinguishers on equipment should be checked every day with the Daily Inspection. These inspections should be documented and turned in. A formal check by a third party of all fire extinguishers is done annually and a decal applied to the body.
- Ensure the pressure is okay when inspecting a fire extinguisher. There is a gauge that has an arrow that should be in the green portion of the gauge. If the arrow is in the red the fire extinguisher needs to be tagged out of service until recharged.
- Check to make sure the pin is still in place. Often times the pin is bumped out of place leaving the chance of accidental discharge occurring.
- Look for rust on the container and ensure that the label is in good readable condition. Verify that the latch or strap holds the unit in place.
- Look for mud, insects, and debris in the hose end of the extinguisher to make sure it is not plugged. Check to see if the hose is cracked or damaged.
- Make sure there is a tag on the extinguisher and it is signed off each month. Operators/drivers sign off on their equipment extinguishers.
- Turn in used or inoperative extinguisher to warehouse or your supervisor to be serviced or a replacement one put in its place.
It is important to know more than just where the fire extinguishers are located in your work area. Make sure you know how to properly use them in case the time comes where you need to extinguish a fire. Always make sure the fire extinguishers in your work areas are in good condition through thorough inspections. If you are unsure on extinguisher operation ask your supervisor for help & demonstration.