Investing in a fire extinguisher is a critical part of any emergency strategy. When used
effectively, a quality fire extinguisher can quickly put out small, contained blazes and
protect your home, business, family and staff from damage and injury.
However, this does hinge on your ability to use the extinguisher correctly. While most
extinguishers are built on the same basic principles, it is easy to get their specific
functions confused – especially when you’re in the midst of an emergency situation.
With more than 20 years of experience manufacturing, installing and maintaining
emergency response products, S.E.P.M.A.R. is your number one choice when it
comes to fire extinguishers in Australia. In this article, you’ll find everything you need
to know to operate a fire extinguisher safely, improve your ability to put out a small
blaze and minimise the risk of personal injury or property damage caused by fire.
Your safety is the top priority. Only attempt to put out a fire if you are familiar with the extinguisher and confident that it can be safely used on the materials involved in the fire. If the flames are taller than you, the blaze is uncontained or you feel like you are in danger, do not engage with the fire or deploy your extinguisher.
Before using the extinguisher, ensure that everyone has been evacuated from the vicinity and familiarise yourself with the building’s fire exits. Check the extinguisher’s pressure gauge to ensure it’s charged and assess the safety pin and nozzle for signs of tampering or damage.
Once you’ve determined that it’s safe to use the extinguisher, remove the safety pin and start to spray, using the PASS technique:
- Pull the pin.
- Aim at the fire’s base.
- Squeeze the lever or button.
- Sweep from side to side until flames are extinguished.
Be sure to call emergency services if the fire continues to burn.
Understanding the Different Types of Fires
In Australia, fires are classified according to the type of material that has ignited.
Class A fires: The most common type of fire in which carbon based materials act as the base fuel.
- Most effective type of extinguisher: Water, foam, vaporising liquid, wet chemical.
Class B fires: A fire in which flammable and/or combustible liquids are involved.
- Most effective type of extinguisher: Foam, powder, carbon dioxide, vaporising liquid.
Class C fires: Combustible gases.
- Most effective type of extinguisher: Water mist, dry powder.
Class D fires: Flammable metals.
- Most effective type of extinguisher: Specialist dry powder.
Electrical fires: Strictly speaking, there’s no such thing as a Class E fire because electricity is not a fuel. Nevertheless, electrical fires have their own classification due to how dangerous they can be.
- Most effective type of extinguisher: Powder, carbon dioxide, vaporising liquid.
Class F fires: Cooking fats and oils.
- Most effective type of extinguisher: Wet chemical, water mist.
How to Use Specific Types of Extinguishers More Effectively
Just about every fire extinguisher, you’ll encounter features a handle, lever, pressure gauge, nozzle and safety pin, and contains a type of powder, fluid or gas engineered to fight flames. Despite these similarities, there are a few key differences to consider:
- Water extinguishers: Most effective when using the aforementioned PASS technique. Do not use on live electrical equipment, combustible liquids or cooking oils and fats.
- Foam extinguishers: If using on solid-fuel fire, use PASS principles. Do not aim straight at liquids; instead, try to aim the extinguisher at an adjacent surface so that foam can accumulate and seep across the flames.
- Carbon dioxide extinguishers: Feature a horn at the end of the hose. Keep your hands away from the end of the horn, as the carbon dioxide is extremely cold. If using on an electrical fire, remember to switch off the power source if you can do safely.
- Dry powder extinguishers: Aim at the base of the fire and sweep quickly until the fire goes out. Avoid inhaling the powder and do not use in confined areas.
- Wet chemical extinguishers: Stay at least one metre away from the fire when using this type of extinguisher. Apply in slow, circular motions to prevent the fat and/or oil from splashing. When the surface becomes foamy and soapy, use the extinguisher to stop the fire from reigniting.
If you’re in the market for a new fire extinguisher, we’d love to hear from you. Contact the friendly S.E.P.M.A.R. team today to find out more about our extensive range of fire extinguishers.