In addition to knowing the proper way to use a fire extinguisher (PASS – see below), it is also important to know when to use your extinguisher. Properly using a fire extinguisher can help save lives and property by putting out or containing small fires until the fire department arrives. If you have the correct type of extinguisher, there are a few additional criteria to check when deciding whether or not to use an extinguisher:
- Make sure everyone has evacuated the building and the fire department has been called;
- This should be covered in your Emergency Response Plan;
- Make sure the fire is confined, not spreading, and within the capabilities of the extinguisher to put out;
- Only stay to fight a fire if there is a clear escape route available.
You can use the acronym PASS to remember how to use 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 size of an extinguisher is important to consider when using one, they have limited material to use in fighting a fire and it is important to know the capabilities of the size and type of extinguishers available before an emergency strikes. There are three basic types of extinguishers and each specializes in different type of firefighting.
- Class A: best if used for fires fueled by paper or wood
- Class B: best for fires involving flammable liquids, oils, paints, and gasoline
- Class C: best used when the fire involves electrical systems such as wiring, or devices like power tools