A couple of ground rules will make owning and hopefully-never-using your fire extinguisher a rewarding experience. First, DO NOT BUY A FIRE EXTINGUISHER THAT IS NOT U.L. LISTED.
The three elements of fire are fuel, oxygen, and heat. Together, they cause the chemical reaction we know as fire. Fire prevention depends on eliminating one of the elements so that the chemical reaction we call ‘fire’ cannot occur.
Here are some fire extinguisher basics:
1) Maintain it. This can be accomplished in three easy steps you can perform monthly:
A. Make sure it’s in the correct location and that everyone knows where it is located.
B. Make sure it’s visible and accessible.
C. Make sure the gauge reads the correct pressure (in the green!) and that it has no rust, corrosion, or visible damage to the pin, nozzle, or cylinder.
2) Know your fire extinguisher’s capabilities and uses. There are different types of fire extinguishers for different types of fires. Get to know yours. Below are some options that you might see on your fire extinguisher. Read the directions carefully and pay close attention to the photos and their meanings:
A) A is for ordinary combustibles, such as trash, word, cloth.
B) B is for gasoline, petroleum and paint—flammable liquids (not kitchen grease). Propane, butane.
C) C is for Electrical fires, fires energized by power. Cut the power and this fire turns into another class of fire
D) D is for combustible materials such as potassium, sodium, aluminum and magnesium.
E) K is for KITCHEN Cooking oil, grease, animal fats and vegetable fats
3) In an office or family setting, bring donuts to the meeting and engage your fellow workers/family with pleasantries and humor to help them remember as you teach them about the fire extinguisher and the fire plan. Don’t forget to also have an evacuation plan.
4) Remember the three A’s of fire: Activate the alarm (in a work setting) and call 9-1-1( or have someone else do so), Assist people in immediate danger to safety or help, and last of all, Attempt to extinguish—but ONLY if it’s safe for you to do so.
5) Remember the 4 safety rules of firefighting: Only if the fire is small and contained; only if you are safe from toxic smoke, only if you can escape easily, and only if your gut tells you you’re safe.
6) How to operate the fire extinguisher—PASS! Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep!
A) Pull the pin
B) Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire
C) Squeeze the operating lever slowly and evenly
D) Sweep the nozzle back and forth to apply the material evenly.
Fire extinguishers need to be serviced once per year by a trained fire equipment professional. It’s important to have a working fire extinguisher that one time you might need it. If you don't have it serviced, it won't work.
These basic tips are enough to get you started, but are by no means comprehensive. Our hope is that they will nudge you to have an understanding of your fire extinguisher as a tool you MIGHT use should something catch on fire. However, if something big catches on fire, if there is toxic smoke, a danger to you, or you have a bad feeling about it, get yourself and the others out of the building and call for help. Always err on the side of caution when dealing with safety matters.