Safety And Fire Extinguisher Usage
It’s a common scene in television and movies. Flames are shooting high, smoke is filling the room and a group of frightened people cower behind one valiant individual, fighting the growing flames with a fire extinguisher. The problem with this scenario is that it inaccurately depicts the way fire extinguishers should be used. There are certain steps that must be taken in order to use a fire extinguisher. Read on for ways to determine if using a fire extinguisher is the right choice in an emergency and for a refresher on how to properly use an extinguisher.
Consideration #1- Is everyone out of the building?
Fire is unpredictable; so it’s never safe for bystanders to stay in the building. The absolute first thing that must happen, even before anyone calls for emergency help, is that everyone exits the building. You should not attempt to use an extinguisher until you are certain everyone is safely out of harms way and emergency services has been contacted.
Consideration #2- Is the fire growing?
A small contained fire is manageable with a fire extinguisher. A growing fire is not something to be trifled with. Instead of attempting to fight a blaze that is spreading, you should exit the building and wait for the firefighters to arrive.
Consideration #3- Is the room filling with smoke?
Smoke inhalation is very dangerous. It is the leading cause of death in indoor fires. The lack of oxygen, combined with toxic fumes, can overwhelm you in no time, causing you to lose the ability to think clearly and eventually even causing you to lose consciousness. If the room is filled with smoke, do not use the fire extinguisher. Exit the building and wait for emergency crews to fight the fire.
Consideration #4 Do you know how to use the fire extinguisher?
It seems like a no-brainer. You aim the hose at the fire and shoot, right? Wrong! If you aren’t aware of how to use the fire extinguisher, such as one from Total Fire Protection Services, it can take precious time to figure it out; time you may not really have. If you have had some training on how to use it, keep your back to a safe exit route and try to remember PASS:
- Pull the pin. It’s in place to prevent accidental extinguisher discharge, so you have to pull it for the equipment to work. It’s generally easy to spot. Look for a round circle near the level. Insert your finger and pull backwards. The pin should be removed.
- Aim the hose at the base of the fire. The base of the flames is where the fuel source is, so you must concentrate the spray there for the extinguisher to be effective.
- Squeeze the lever with firm, consistent pressure. Easing the pressure will lessen the flow. Releasing the lever will stop the flow completely.
- Sweep side to side, moving closer to the fire as it feels safe to you. Continue to sweep the flow from the extinguisher back and forth until the fire is out.
In a fire, safety is paramount. Decisions need to be made in split seconds. If you aren’t confident the above parameters are in place, it’s best to exit the building and make sure help is on the way. If you do feel certain you can safely attempt to use a fire extinguisher, make sure you have an exit path behind you, use PASS and don’t be afraid to leave if it doesn’t seem to be working. If you manage to extinguish a fire, watch for it to potentially reignite and allow professional firefighters to asses the situation.