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Friday, 27 September 2019 19:10

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher Before You Need It

If you have a portable home fire extinguisher in case of fire emergencies, you are one step closer to putting out a small home fire. But do you know how to use it?

While you may think you are prepared to extinguish flames inside or outside of your home, it's critically important to know how to use a fire extinguisher properly.

When you know how to properly use a fire extinguisher you should only attempt to put out a fire that is confined to a small area and not rapidly growing. If the fire has already developed and is spreading, evacuate your home immediately and call 911.


How To Operate A Fire Extinguisher

The time to learn how to operate a fire extinguisher is before a fire begins. Consumer Reports provides step-by-step instructions.


Remember This Word:

remember PASS to operate a fire extinguisher

As instructed in the above video remember the word PASS to operate a fire extinguisher,

  • Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
  • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.


The #1 Cause of House Fires

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) states that cooking fires are the top reason for house fires. Therefore, mounting a smalled kitchen fire extinguisher can help prevent a fire from spreading when caught at the early stages.

The NFPA Home Fire Statistics

  • U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 172,100 home structure fires per year started by cooking activities in 2012-2016, or an average of 471 home cooking fires per day. These fires caused an average of 530 civilian deaths, 5,270 reported civilian fire injuries and $1.1 billion in direct property damage per year.
  • Home fires caused by cooking peaked at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • Ranges or cooktops were involved in 63% of reported home cooking fires, 86% of cooking fire deaths and 79% of cooking fire injuries.
  • Households that use electric ranges have a higher risk of cooking fires and associated losses than those using gas ranges.
  • Unattended cooking was the leading cause of cooking fires and casualties. Clothing was the item first ignited in less than 1% of these fires, but clothing ignitions led to 15% of the home cooking fire deaths.
  • One-third of the people killed by cooking fires were sleeping at the time. More than half of the non-fatal injuries occurred when people tried to control the fire themselves.

Read more about the other top causes of home fires: heating, electric, smoking, and candles.


More Safety Tips From The NFPA

Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and is not growing; after everyone has exited the building and after the fire department has been called or is being called; and the room is not filled with smoke.

  • For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher (can be used on all types of home fires) that is large enough to put out a small fire, but not so heavy as to be difficult to handle.
  • Choose a fire extinguisher that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • Read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher and become familiar with its parts and operation before a fire breaks out. Local fire departments or fire equipment distributors often offer hands-on fire extinguisher training.
  • Install fire extinguishers close to an exit and keep your back to a clear exit when you use the device so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled. If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.
  • Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape. Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.


More Information About Fire Extinguishers

Fire Extinguishers Can Lose Pressure

Portable fire extinguishers contain water or chemical extinguishing agents. They are then pressurized with an expellant gas, normally dry nitrogen or dry air within the same cylinder. The extinguisher valve and its related components keep the compressed gas from escaping until operated.

Over time, a fire extinguisher can develop a slow leak that releases the gas due to a leaky or damaged valve or valve components such as an O-ring seal or valve stem, or other damage to the cylinder itself.  When this happens, fire extinguisher depressurization occurs.

The Dangers Of Depressurized Fire Extinguishers

Leaking or depressurized fire extinguisher isn’t dangerous -- the gas won’t cause damage to people -- yet there are serious dangers.

A lack of pressure causes a fire extinguisher to be inoperable -- causing safety issues during a fire that you are trying to extinguish. Every second matters. If you take time trying to figure out how to use the extinguisher only to discover it's inoperable, the fire will become larger and more difficult to control.

What to do in case of fire extinguisher depressurization

Look at the pressure gauge on your portable extinguisher -- if it's is in the "Recharge" position or is reading in the "Over Pressurized Range" bring the portable extinguisher to a fire protection professional for an inspection. If the extinguisher is damaged or unsafe to recharge, the fire protection professional can recommend an appropriate replacement.

Do A Monthly Visual Inspection

Check your fire extinguisher once a month to ensure that the pressure gauge is in the proper position and that there are no signs of physical damage. At the very least check for damage during the semi-annual battery replacement for your smoke and carbon dioxide detectors.


Safety First!

Fire extinguishers are just one element of a fire response plan. Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.

A portable fire extinguisher can save lives by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives, but portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the #1 priority for residents is to get out safely.

In the event of a fire, we are all confronted with the decision of whether to fight the flames with an extinguisher or evacuate the building immediately. This is probably the most important decision you will face when a fire breaks out.

If you are not trained in portable extinguisher use, the answer is easy: evacuate and call 911.

Never attempt to fight a fire if you do not have extinguisher training. If you are trained with extinguishers, however, there are many things to consider when deciding whether to fight or take flight.


Five Fight Or Take Flight Questions

The University of Texas at Austin Fire Prevention Services advises that you ask yourself these five questions when determining whether to fight a fire with a portable extinguisher or evacuate the building:

  1. Is the fire small enough to be controlled by a portable extinguisher?
    The time to use a portable extinguisher is during the early stages of a fire. Once a fire starts to spread, your best option is to evacuate the building.

  2. Am I safe from toxic smoke and gases?
    Remember that all fires produce carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless toxic gas. Many fires will produce other toxic gases in addition to carbon monoxide. If the fire is producing large amounts of smoke, or you suspect the fire involves a hazardous material, your best option is to evacuate the building.

  3. Do I have an escape route?
    Before attempting to extinguish a fire, always ensure you have a reliable escape route. If you are in a room or confined area, position yourself between the fire and the exit door. In other words, when you are facing the fire the exit door should be at your back, ensuring you are not trapped if the fire is not quickly extinguished.

  4. Do I have the right extinguisher? Make sure the extinguisher’s label indicates it is rated for use in fighting the type of fuel that is burning, and check if the extinguisher is fully charged. If the extinguisher is not fully charged or is not the proper type, your best option is to evacuate the building. You can find information about extinguisher ratings in Know Your Fire Extinguisher ABCs.

  5. What do my instincts tell me?
    If you do not feel comfortable trying to extinguish the fire, do not attempt to. Evacuate the building and let the fire department do their job. Remember: firefighters have equipment, training, and experience that you do not possess.

The Safest Choice During A Home Fire

Even if you have a fire extinguisher and you have used one before, chances are you don't use it often and may not remember how to properly use it. Seconds matter. For the safety of your family and pets, the best choice is to evacuate your home immediately and call 911 once you are outside at a safe distance.

Need a Portable Fire Extinguisher?

Safewise, an independent review site, offers a comparison on top-rated portable fire extinguishers. Take a look at their 2019 list of fire extinguishers before you purchase a fire extinguisher for your home.


Additional Fire Safety Resources:

Sources: NFPA, Impace Fire Services, Consumer Reports



Read 1785 times Last modified on Tuesday, 07 January 2020 20:21

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