Fire Extinguisher Safety: Knowing How and When to Use Them
Chances are, you’ve encountered a fire extinguisher on multiple occasions. They’re commonly found in stores, restaurants, and other public spaces as a safety precaution. However, it’s essential to know how to utilize them correctly in the event of a fire and understand their appropriate usage. Fire extinguishers serve as effective safety tools, but there are instances where they may not suffice alone. By familiarizing yourself with the proper usage and timing of fire extinguishers, you can minimize fire damage and ensure the safety of yourself and others.
Types of Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers can be classified into five main types. Type A extinguishers are suitable for materials such as cloth, paper, and wood. Type B extinguishers are designed for flammable liquids like oil and gasoline. Type C extinguishers are recommended for fires caused by tools or equipment. Type D extinguishers, although uncommon, are used to put out fires involving combustible metals and are not typically found in commercial establishments. Finally, Type K extinguishers are primarily used for cooking-related incidents, such as grease fires. Each type is formulated differently, some containing foam while others do not. The composition may include water or CO2 depending on the type.
When Should I Use a Fire Extinguisher?
Before considering the use of a fire extinguisher, it’s crucial to assess whether it’s appropriate for the situation at hand. Familiarize yourself with the instructions and know the type of fire extinguisher you possess in advance, as you may need to make a split-second decision. If a full-scale house fire is raging, an extinguisher would not be the ideal solution. In such cases, it is best to call 911 and evacuate the premises. Fire extinguishers should only be used for small, contained fires. For example, if a candle knocked over by a cat ignites a trash can, it would be appropriate to use a fire extinguisher. However, if the candle falls on a kitchen table and sets fire to a tablecloth, attempting to extinguish it with an extinguisher would be ineffective as the fire may spread rapidly. Fires can triple in size in under a minute. If you have any doubts about your ability to control a fire with an extinguisher, it’s best not to take the risk. Evacuate the building or house, stay outside, and call 911.
How Do I Use a Fire Extinguisher Safely?
If you need to use a fire extinguisher, remember the acronym PASS: Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep. Maintain a distance of about 8 feet from the fire. First, pull the pin on the extinguisher’s handle. Next, aim the nozzle at the base of the fire. Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly to release the contents, and sweep the nozzle from side to side in a sweeping motion.
What Do I Do After Using a Fire Extinguisher?
Once the fire is extinguished, and everyone’s safety is ensured, you’ll likely have a mess to clean up. The cleanup process will depend on the type of fire extinguisher used. If you used a fire extinguisher with dry chemicals, it’s important to clean up promptly as those chemicals can be corrosive, particularly when in contact with metal. For powder extinguishers, vacuuming the residue and scrubbing the affected areas (such as carpets) with a damp rag should suffice. However, for dry chemical extinguishers, refer to the instructions to determine if any specific cleaning procedures are required. When dealing with foam extinguishers, wear a mask and gloves during cleanup, as the foam’s chemicals can be carcinogenic.
Can I Reuse a Fire Extinguisher?
The short answer is usually yes, most fire extinguishers can be reused. However, they need to be recharged before reuse. Even if the extinguisher was only used for a few seconds to put out a small fire, it still requires recharging. Most fire stations or fire protection companies offer fire extinguisher recharging services. Contact your local fire station or search for fire protection companies in your area. The cost of recharging an extinguisher typically ranges from $15 to $50. Additionally, fire extinguishers usually need to be recharged every 6 to 12 years, even if they haven’t been used.
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