Fire Extinguisher Safety Tips

Fire extinguishers play an important role in protecting property and saving lives

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For fire extinguishers to serve the role of protecting property and saving lives they do have to be properly maintained and used in the correct manner. A large number of people don’t perform the correct level of maintenance on their fire extinguishers. While others just don’t know how to use a fire extinguisher. This results in dangerous situations where a small and easily manageable fire spreads and grows into a serious fire threat because the right measures weren’t taken when the fire initially broke out. This ultimately leads to personal injuries, property damage and even loss of life in fires that could have been effectively controlled with the correct use of appropriately maintained fire extinguishers.

The best chance to bring a fire under control is within the first few minutes after the fire ignites. This is where the question as to whether one’s fire extinguisher is well maintained or not becomes a necessity. If the fire extinguisher is not well maintained, valuable time is lost trying to get it back into proper working condition if it works at all. This is all the time that a fire need to spread and be beyond control.

There are some very important steps that you should follow if a fire does occur.  These steps can help you to minimize or avoid serious damage.

Here are 4 rules you should know before making an attempt to combat a fire of any size:

  1. If the building has any people inside it must be evacuated immediately. Human life and wellbeing is more important than anything else.
  2. Make sure that someone is calling the local fire brigade to notify them of the emergency.
  3. Ensure that there is always a route that you can use to escape the fire and any other threats. This route must be unobstructed and safe from danger.
  4. Ensure that you give up on your fire fighting attempt immediately if the escape route you had identified is under threat or begins to be threatened by the fire’s path as the fire spreads. Also, be sure to leave immediately you notice that the fire has started to spread rapidly in spite of your attempt at fighting it. In that scenario you should wait for the fire brigade, as it will get much better results with its more specialized fire fighting equipment.

How to use a Fire Extinguisher:

  • Start by taking the step of pulling the pin. Not all extinguishers come with pins though. Some come with latches which have to be released. Others come with levers that have to be pressed.
  • Focus on the base of the fire. You will have a much better chance of controlling a fire if you aim at the base of the fire rather than the top or where the flames are hitting.
  • Once you have aimed correctly at the base, go ahead to squeeze the extinguisher’s handle.
  • Move from the base of the fire, where you initially aim, to the sides of the fire in a sweeping motion, taking care to go from side to side. Continue this till the fire dissipates.  You should watch the affected area very closely to make sure that it doesn’t reignite. In case it does reignite, repeat the fire fighting drill described above.

Tips for maintaining your fire extinguishers:

  • Don’t keep a yellow extinguisher, as you’ll be breaking the law (specifically the environment law) by doing so. If you have an extinguisher of this type you should make a point of returning it to a local fire station.
  • Adhere AS 1851-2005. This is about having your fire extinguishers subjected to pressure tested regularly (that is, every 5 years), or simply replacing them that often. Remember, not just anybody can do this testing. Only a duly registered extinguisher service provider – like Wormald – can do this sort of testing for you.
  • Regularly check, by yourself, whether the extinguishers’ nozzles or outlets may have gotten blocked (and resolve the blockages immediately, once you discover them).
  • Every six months, subject the extinguishers to a procedure where they are kept in the upside down position for some 10 minutes. The objective in doing this is to be sure that the fire fighting powder in them is actually flowing freely.
  • Make a point of getting the extinguisher replaced immediately, in case the handle gets damaged or in case you discover that the cylinder has rusted.
  • Get the fire extinguisher refilled. This has to be done by a fire extinguisher service provider who is duly registered – like Womarld. And this applies even if the powder or fluid was only partially used.

Some quick facts:

  • It is absolutely essential to have fire extinguishers subjected to pressure testing every 5 years.
  • It is absolutely essential to get fire extinguishers refilled – even when they have only been discharged partially.
  • It is extremely essential to ensure that everybody in your home or everybody in your office not only knows where to find the extinguisher but also, more importantly, how to go about using it.

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