Fire Extinguishers

Extinguishers Have Limits
USED PROPERLY, a portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives.

Portable extinguishers for home use, however, are not designed to fight large or spreading fires. They are useful only under certain conditions

· Extinguishers should not be used by small children.
· The operator most know how to use the extinguisher. There is no time to read directions during an emergency.
· The extinguisher must be within easy reach and in working order, fully charged.
· The operator must have a clear escape route that will not be blocked by fire.
· The extinguisher must match the type of fire being fought. Extinguishers containing water are unsuitable for use on grease or electrical fires.
· The extinguisher must be large enough to put out the fire. Many portable extinguishers discharge completely in as few as 8 to 10 seconds.

Choosing Your Extinguisher
SELECT ONLY fire extinguishers that have been tested by an independent laboratory and labeled for the type and size of fire they can extinguish. Use these labels as a guide to purchase the kind of extinguisher that suits your needs.

Classes of Fires
There are three basic classes of fires. All fire extinguishers are labeled using standard symbols for the classes of fires they can put out. A red slash through any of the symbols tells you the extinguisher cannot be used on that class of fire. A missing symbol tells you only that the extinguisher has not been tested for a given class of fire.

Class A:
Ordinary combustibles such as wood, cloth, and paper.

Class B:
Flammable liquids such as gasoline, oil, and oil-based paint.

Class C:
Energized electrical

The extinguisher must be appropriate for the type of fire being fought. Multipurpose fire extinguishers, labeled ABC, may be used on all three classes of fires. If you use the wrong type of extinguisher, you can endanger yourself and make the fire worse.

In some cases, it may be dangerous to use any type of fire extinguisher. An extinguishing agent released under pressure could, for example, spread a grease fire in a frying pan rather than put it out. In a kitchen, safety for a grease fire is under Class B.

Extinguisher Sizes
Portable extinguishers are also rated for the size of fire they can handle. This rating will appear on the label, for example, 2A:10B:C. The larger the numbers, the larger the fire that the extinguisher can put out, but higher rated models are often heavier. Make sure you can hold and operate an extinguisher before you buy it.

Installation and Maintenance
EXTINGUISHERS SHOULD BE installed in plain view, above the reach of children, near an escape route, and away from stoves and heating appliances.

Extinguishers require routine care. Read your operator’s manual to learn how to inspect your extinguisher. Follow manufacturer’s instructions or maintenance.

Rechargeable models must be serviced after every use. (Service companies are listed in the Yellow Pages under “Fire Extinguishers”.) Disposable fire extinguishers can be used only once and must be replaced after use.

Remember the PASS-word
KEEP YOUR back to an unobstructed exit and stand six to eight feet (two to three meters) away. Follow the four-step PASS procedure:

PULL the pin: This unlocks the operating lever and allows you to discharge the extinguisher. Some extinguishers may have other lever-release mechanisms.

AIM low: Point the extinguisher nozzle (or hose) at the base of the fire.

SQUEEZE the level above the handle: This discharges the extinguishing agent. Releasing the lever will stop the discharge. (Some extinguishers have a button instead of a lever.)

SWEEP from side to side: Moving carefully toward the fire, keep the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire and sweep back and forth until the flames appear to be out. Watch the fire area. If the fire re-ignites, repeat the process.

Always be sure the fire department inspects the fire site, even if you think you’ve extinguished the fire.

Should You Fight the Fire?
Before you begin to fight a fire, make sure:

· Everyone has left, or is leaving, the building and make sure the fire department has been called.
· The fire is confined to a small area and is not spreading.
· You have an unobstructed escape route to which the fire will not spread.
· The extinguisher is the right type for the fire.
· You have read the instructions and you know how to use the extinguisher.

It is reckless to fight a fire under any other circumstances. Instead, leave immediately and close off the area.
People Protecting People Since 1896
© National Fire Protection Association
Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02269-9101

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