How to Properly Use a Fire Extinguisher

fire extinguisher

Chances are, you’ve seen a fire extinguisher many times. They’re in every store, restaurant, and other public spaces as a safety measure. But do you know how to use one properly in case of a fire, and do you know when they should and should not be used? Fire extinguishers are a great safety tool, but sometimes there comes a point where a fire cannot be controlled by an extinguisher alone. Ensuring that you know how and when to use a fire extinguisher is a great way to minimize fire damage while keeping yourself and others safe!

Types of Fire Extinguishers

There are five main types of fire extinguishers. Type A fire extinguishers are for materials such as cloth, paper, and wood. Type B extinguishers are for flammable liquids like oil and gasoline. Type C extinguishers should be used on fires caused by tools or equipment. Type D extinguishers are not very common- they are used to extinguish fires on combustible metals, so you will not find this type lying around in a store or restaurant. Finally, Type K extinguishers are used mainly for cooking-related incidents such as grease fires. Each type is formulated differently. Some will have foam, others will not. Some have water, others have CO2- it all depends on the type. 

When Should I Use a Fire Extinguisher?

Before you even think about using a fire extinguisher, you’ll need to judge whether it’s appropriate for the situation at hand. Read the instructions and know which type of fire extinguisher you have ahead of time, because this will likely need to be a split-second decision. Obviously, if you have a full-blown house fire raging, an extinguisher is not going to be the ideal solution. At that point, you should call 911 and evacuate the space. Fire extinguishers should only be used on small, contained fires. For example, if your cat knocks a candle into a trash can and the contents start burning, this would be a good time to use a fire extinguisher. However, if the cat knocks the candle over on your kitchen table and your tablecloth ignites, you shouldn’t try to put that fire out with an extinguisher- it’ll spread too rapidly. Fires can triple in size in under a minute. If you have any doubts about whether you’ll be able to control a fire with an extinguisher, don’t take the risk! Get out of the house or business, stay out, and call 911. 

How Do I Use a Fire Extinguisher Safely?

If you do need to use a fire extinguisher, there’s a simple acronym to help you remember how. PASS stands for Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep. Make sure you are standing about 8 feet away from the fire. First, pull the pin on the handle of the fire extinguisher. Next, aim the extinguisher at the fire. Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly to release the contents, and move the nozzle from side to side in a sweeping motion. 

What Do I Do After Using a Fire Extinguisher?

Once the fire is out and you’ve confirmed that everyone is okay, you’ll probably have a bit of a mess to clean up. The kind of mess you’re dealing with will depend on which type of fire extinguisher you used. If you used a fire extinguisher that involves dry chemicals, you’ll want to clean that up quickly, as those chemicals can be corrosive (especially if they came into contact with metal). For powder extinguishers, vacuuming up the residue and scrubbing the affected areas (carpet, etc) with a damp rag will work fine, but especially for dry chemical extinguishers, be sure to read the instructions and see if there’s anything special you need to do when cleaning up. For foam extinguishers, wear a mask and gloves during cleanup- the chemicals in the foam can actually cause cancer. 

Can I Reuse a Fire Extinguisher?

The short answer to “can I reuse a fire extinguisher?” is “usually, yes.” Most types of fire extinguishers can be used more than once. However, you can’t just put it back on the wall and wait for the next emergency- you do need to recharge them. Even if the fire was small and you only used the extinguisher for a few seconds, it still needs to be recharged. Most fire stations will recharge fire extinguishers, so try calling your local fire station. If not, look for fire protection companies in your area. It usually costs between $15 and $50 to recharge an extinguisher. Even if they haven’t been used, fire extinguishers usually need to be recharged every 6-12 years. 

Fire Damage? Call Americon Restoration.

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