Even if you have a good number of appropriate fire extinguishers in your building, what good are they in protecting you from a fire if you don’t know how to use them?
A fire can cause devastating damage to a building, not to mention the danger of death. So, learning how to safely use a fire extinguisher along with the related training is pertinent in keeping your business, property, and life safe from the consequences of a fire.
In this article, we will give you all you need to know to be able to use fire extinguishers safely and the related fire safety training to do so.
Basic fire safety
Although you may have the appropriate equipment to extinguish a fire, it’s not always safe to do so yourself. And it’s important to know when it’s time to evacuate and leave the rest to the professionals.
The basics of fire safety are:
- Conducting a fire risk assessment (or have a professional conduct one) to identify the fire hazards at your premises, so you can remove or reduce them
- Having a fire alarm system in place to alert everyone on the premises in the event of a fire. The functionality of the fire alarm should be regularly checked to make sure it’s always up to the job
- Having a fire evacuation procedure in place to get everyone to safety efficiently, minimising the risks of any injuries or fatalities
- Being capable of judging the size of the fire to determine whether it’s a job for you or the emergency services to take care of
- If it’s a job for you; using the appropriate fire extinguisher to put out the flames as well as any other appropriate fire safety equipment (such as fire blankets) if needed
Types of fire and the appropriate extinguishers
Before trying to tackle a fire, you first need to understand what type of fire you are dealing with, so that you can use the appropriate fire extinguisher to put out the flames.
Of course, this means you also need to know what the contents of each type of fire extinguisher contains and what type of fire they can be used for.
Types of fire
Fires are identified using a classification system. They are separated into different classes identifying the fuel of the fire involved, which makes it easier to identify which fire extinguisher is appropriate.
The fire classification categories are:
- Class A: Combustible fires such as wood, plastic, paper, fabrics, coal etc.
- Class B: Flammable liquids such as gasoline, petroleum oil, paint, diesel etc.
- Class C: Flammable gases such as propane, butane, or methane etc.
- Class D: Combustible metals such as magnesium, lithium, sodium, titanium, aluminium etc.
- Electrical Fires (Class E): Technically, electrical fires are not recognised as a separate class of fire, but rather an informal type of fire class. This type of fire involves live equipment and electrical sources, you can think of it as your ‘Class E’ fire.
- Class F: Fires that include cooking oils such as vegetable oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, butter etc. Deep fat fryers are commonly a cause of Class F fires.
Types of fire extinguisher
With many different sources of ignition to a fire, tackling one in the best way depends on what the fuel of the fire is. Which is why there are different types of fire extinguishers available, so you can tackle the fire in the safest possible way.
The different types of fire extinguishers available are:
- Dry Powder fire extinguisher: For Class A, Class B, Class C & electrical fires.
- L2 Dry Powder fire extinguisher: For Class D fires.
- Foam fire extinguisher (AFFF): For Class A & Class B fires.
- CO2 fire extinguisher: For Class B & electrical fires.
- Water fire extinguisher: For Class A fires.
- Wet Chemical: For Class A & Class F fires.
- Multichem (Foam) fire extinguisher: For Class A, Class B & Class F fires.
To find out more about different types of fire extinguishers, take a look at our fire extinguisher range.
Operating fire extinguishers (PASS)
Of course, with the variety of different fire extinguishers for different types of fires come different instructions. So, it’s important that you read the label for all types of fire extinguishers present in your workplace before the situation of a fire arises.
However, for the most part, the operating of fire extinguishers is the same. And there is an easy way to remember this operation using the ‘PASS’ system:
- Pull the pin; this breaks the seal, making the fire extinguisher ready for use
- Aim; at the base of the fire
- Squeeze; the handle/lever slowly to discharge the extinguisher at the fire
- Sweep from side to side; to ensure you reach all of the fire
A typical fire extinguisher contains 10 seconds of extinguishing power, which will obviously be less if the extinguisher has already been partially discharged.
Once the flames have been extinguished, don’t leave straight away: wait and watch the area for a few minutes just in case the fire reignites. You also need to recharge the extinguisher immediately after use.
Recharging fire extinguishers
As mentioned above, after using a fire extinguisher, it should be recharged immediately. This is so that the fire extinguisher is operational at all times. This includes fire extinguishers that have only been discharged partially/not completely emptied.
As each type of fire extinguisher contains different agent(s), the method of recharging each type of extinguisher differs. Recharging a fire extinguisher can involve refilling it with its agent, or sometimes emptying the remaining agent and then refilling it.
You can recharge fire extinguishers yourself or get a professional to do it. However, if you are going to do it yourself, you will need to have access to a pressurising machine, the appropriate refilling agents, and some basic training on the recharging process.
Also, if you have numerous (and of different types) fire extinguishers at your workplace, it may be more convenient and cost-effective to hire a specialised company to do regular checks/recharges.
Fire safety training
Fire safety training is an essential part of protecting yourself, staff, visitors and your property in the event of a fire.
It is a legal requirement that all employees undergo basic fire safety training at induction and periodically thereafter, expected annually in most workplaces. The training must be carried out by a competent person with suitable and sufficient skills and knowledge of fire safety.
There are different staff fire safety courses available that are adapted to your business’s workplace and which include learning how to operate a fire extinguisher safely.
At Fireline, we offer 2 fire safety training courses:
This is a basic 1-hour fire safety training course, and the key contents are:
- Sounding the fire alarm and evacuation procedure
- Means of escape (adapted to your premises)
- DOs and DON’Ts in the event of a fire
- Use of portable fire extinguishers and fire blankets
- Hands-on practical demonstration
This is a more in-depth 3-hour fire warden training course, and the key contents are:
- Fire precautions regulations and legislation
- Chemistry of fire (how fires spread and the types, classifications and causes)
- Action on discovering a fire and calling the Fire Service
- Building safety features, hazards & reducing risks
- Fire notices
- Evacuation procedures
- Personal emergency evacuation plans & daily/weekly fire checks
- Staff induction
- Dealing with bomb threats
- Fire extinguishers (theory and practice)
Both courses include a Q&A session and a hands-on practical session. To find out more about our fire safety training courses, check out our Staff Fire Training.
Safely use a fire extinguisher in your workplace
Now that we have gone through the basics of how to safely use a fire extinguisher and what related training there is available, it’s time for you to take action in educating yourself and your staff in fire protection and prevention.
If you are interested in staff training, hiring a professional risk assessor, essential fire safety equipment or anything else we have mentioned above, contact us here.
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