First, let’s hope you never have to use a fire extinguisher. Fires are very dangerous and can grow out of control quickly. However, if a fire has started in the building you occupy, using a fire extinguisher may be necessary and the more you know about the proper use the better chance you have of fighting back the flames long enough to get everyone out of the building safely.
The first step is to read the instructions on your fire extinguisher. You don’t want to wait for a blaze to start and be caught reading the label. Most fire extinguishers operate in a similar manner so once you learn how to operate one you can easily figure out how to use other models. It is also a good idea to become familiar with the parts of the fire extinguisher. Have a check-down list of employees who will be trained on using the fire extinguisher and have more than two since some people may be out sick on the day the fire occurs.
A simple way to remember how to use a fire extinguisher is to learn the acronym P.A.S.S. This stands for Pull the pin, Aim at the base of the fire, Squeeze the level slowly and Sweep from side to side.
The top of the fire extinguisher will have a pin release locking mechanism. Pulling this pin unlocks the device and will allow you to discharge the extinguisher.
Some people panic and start spraying at the height of the fire. This is a bad since that is not where the fire is originating. Locate the where the fire is being fueled from and aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire. If you extinguish the source the flames will die out fast.
Always squeeze the level slowly. Again, panic can set in and if you press the level too hard and fast you could easily use up the extinguisher in seconds. Be careful to check that the fire hasn’t caught on curtains or walls and if it has make a sweeping motion to extinguish these flames before it rises to the ceiling.
The recommended method for putting out a fire with an extinguisher is to use a sweeping motion from side to side. Be sure you are at a safe distance and slowly move forward as the fire begins to fade. Once the fire is out do not leave the scene. Many times embers will be slowly burning and if you turn your back the fire can easily reignite. Stand by for a few minutes and spray again to ensure the fire is out completely.
After the fire is out make plans to have the fire extinguisher recharged and inspected.