How to use a Fire Extinguishers
Inadequate maintenance and incorrect use of fire extinguishers in the home are two major causes of small house fires getting out of control and causing significant damage. The fire can be extinguished within the first few minutes of ignition if it is handled correctly with an extinguisher that has been properly maintained, which can buy valuable time before the fire department arrives.
Before Using A Fire Extinguisher
- You must first check that the fire extinguisher you intend to use is suitable for the type of fire encountered e.g. a water fire extinguisher must never be used on any fire involving live electrical equipment.
- Identify a clear exit path or escape route. Prior to using the fire extinguisher, ensure you have a clear escape route. If you are unable to extinguish the fire, you must have a safe path out of the area. When deciding where to keep your fire extinguisher, think about how you will escape if necessary, and make sure you have multiple escape routes close by.
How to operate a fire extinguisher
Portable fire extinguishers have four basic steps to follow. Pass is an acronym for these four steps.
1. Pull (Pin)
To use a portable fire extinguisher, you must first break the seal that holds the pin in place and then pull the pin. This pin keeps the handle from accidentally operating the extinguisher by keeping the handle from being pressed. Immediately test the extinguisher while aiming away from yourself. This is to ensure the extinguisher works and shows you how far the stream travels.
Approach the fire at a safe distance and aim the nozzle or outlet at the base of the fire.
Squeeze the handles together to discharge the extinguishing agent. After the extinguishing agent has been discharged, release the handles.
Sweep the nozzle from side to side as you approach the fire, directing the extinguishing agent at the base of the flames. After extinguishing a Class A fire, probe for smouldering hot spots that could reignite the fuel.
Fire Extinguisher Tips
- Everyone in the home/office should know where all the extinguishers are located and how to use them.
- In an Emergency Call Triple Zero (000)
- If it is not safe, don’t use the extinguisher.
- Remove the safety pin by pulling it sharply (this also breaks the plastic seal). After removing the extinguisher from the mounting bracket, test it to make sure it is operational.
- Always work in pairs for safety.
- Drag or carry the fire extinguisher to the scene of the fire.
How To Choose The Right Fire Extinguisher
Before selecting a fire extinguisher you need to know that there are different classes of fire and that different types of fire extinguishers work on specific classes.
Class A: These fires are fuelled by solid combustibles like paper, wood, fabric, plastic, and rubber.
Class B: These fires are fuelled by flammable liquids such as petrol, paint, turpentine, lubricants and some cleaning products.
Class C: These fires are started or fuelled by flammable gases like butane and methane.
Class D: These fires are started or fuelled by combustible metals, such as magnesium, aluminium, and potassium.
Class E: These fires are started or fuelled by equipment that requires live electricity or circuitry to operate. Once the live electrical item is removed, the fire changes class.
Class F: These fires are started or fuelled by cooking oils and fats.
Though there are six main classes of fires, there are five main types of fire extinguishers. The fire risk at your business will determine which types of extinguishers you need, as well as the size and weight required for compliance.
In Australia, the fire extinguishers types are water, foam, dry powder (ABE and BE), carbon dioxide, and wet chemical. There are also fire blankets, which offer more limited extinguishing capabilities.
There is no single type of fire extinguisher that works on all types of fire.
Common fire extinguisher mistakes
It is easy to make simple mistakes when fighting fires, because we do not regularly have the opportunity to practice. You can avoid making a mistake while under pressure by knowing where most people go wrong.
1. Not reading the instructions
You should read the operating instructions that are on the sticker of your fire extinguisher. Make sure that all employees have read and understood the information. Review them during your fire evacuation practices.
2. Using wrong fire extinguisher
You must never use a fire extinguisher on a class of fire that is not indicated on the label. Using the wrong fire extinguisher can cause:
Electrocution – if a water-based extinguisher is used on live electrical equipment it can cause electrocution.
Burns or more damage – The fire may spread and become worse.
3. Letting your extinguisher expire
Fire extinguishers have an expiry date. After this date the extinguisher is no longer as effective. You must know the dates on your fire extinguisher and replace them or have them pressure testing and recharged when due.
4. Not regularly servicing
The Australian Standards require that fire extinguishers be serviced by a qualified service technician every 6 months. During this service the technician will make sure that the extinguisher is:
- in correct working condition
- installed correctly
- in the correct location
- is suitable for the fire types present
- and more…
Not educating and training employees
It’s vital to have the right types of fire extinguishers in your workplace that your staff has the knowledge to use them effectively. This is so you meet regulations and helps to protect yourself and your team from an incident that can escalate to bigger hazard or injury by using the wrong type of extinguisher on a fire.
In order to protect your family from a fire we recommended that you keep a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket kept within your home.
Fire Extinguishers In The Home
Many of us feel safe in our home but are we really prepared to handle a fire if it starts? It’s easy for us to think that a fire won’t start in our home and involve our family. This kind of thinking can lead to a lack of preparation which can lead to fire damage, personal injury and even death. In order to protect your family from fires we recommend that you have both a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket in your home.
Most residential fires start in the kitchen. Some people will store a fire extinguisher under the sink or in a cupboard to help if a fire does start in the kitchen. While a fire extinguisher is a great piece of fire safety equipment to have with us, it’s not always the best to use in the kitchen. Many fire extinguishers contain water and should not be used on grease or electrical fires which are the most common types of fire for kitchens.
A grease fire is a fire that contains cooking oils or fats. Adding even a very small amount of water to these fires can cause a fireball explosion that can quickly consume the entire kitchen. If you happened to be standing close to this you could be severely burned.
An electrical fire describes any fire that involves any electrical equipment. Water should not be added to these fires as it can cause electric shocks that can be very severe and even cause death. To receive an electric shock you don’t have to be close to the flames as electricity is conducted through the water. It can travel through the water and into the person who is trying to put out the fire.
When dealing with grease fire or electric fires you should always use a fire blanket. The blanket is made out of fire retardant material that can be thrown over a kitchen fire to smother the flames. The blanket can also be safely wrapped around a person if they come in contact with the fire and become engulfed in flames. It is for this reason that a fire blanket should be stored in the kitchen.
A fire extinguisher can be used to put out all other types of flames including ordinary combustibles fires, flammable liquid fires, gas fires and metal fires. An example of this happening is a campfire that quickly becomes out of hand and spreads to nearby grass. This is considered a combustible fire and can be put out with a fire extinguisher. Another example of when to use a fire extinguisher is if a gasoline tank started to leak and then a fire started. Because this is a gas fire a fire extinguisher may be used.
What is a fire blanket?
A fire blanket is a fire-resistant sheet that is normally made from a woven glass fibre. Their come in various sizes although a 1m x 1m fire blanket or bigger is normally suitable for use in the home. They are compact, portable and easily stored. The blankets are packaged in a quick-release PVC container.
How does a fire blanket work?
A fire blanket is mainly used to smother a fire by cutting off the oxygen supply to the fire. A fire blanket is very quick and effective. It does require the user to get close to the fire and if it’s unsuccessful on the first attempt it usually cannot be used again as it can be dangerous for the user to retrieve it.
What fires can the fire blanket extinguish?
A fire blanket can be used to extinguish most small contained fires in the home like a fire in a small bin or in a cooking pan. It can also be used to wrap around a person if their clothes catch on fire. After any use the fire blanket must be replaced.
Where should a fire blanket be stored?
Fire blankets are best kept in the kitchen. They are best mounted on the wall where they are easily accessible. They should never be stored in the cupboard too close to any cooking elements.
NOTE – Surfaces can remain very hot after being extinguished with a fire blanket and need time to cool before being touched.
Fire Blanket Tips
- It is important to purchase a fire blanket that carries the Australian Standards logo.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
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Your safety and peace of mind is our objective. Aegis Safe has been helping our clients protect their staff and property with our full range of comprehensive fire protection solutions since 2009. We specialise in installing, inspecting, testing, diagnosing and repairing fire protection systems.