Many if not most people have fire extinguishers in their homes, and business are usually required to have them. But just as important as having a fire extinguisher is ensuring you or any employees know how to use it. When it comes to fire emergencies, you don’t want to waste time trying to figure it out on the fly.
Utilizing fire extinguishers can save lives and prevent terrible property damage. But not all fire extinguishers are the same. There can be many different types of fires – electrical, grease fires, etc- and so there are different types of fire extinguishers meant to handle each of them.
There are five main types of fire extinguishers, and each type has a symbol to distinguish it.
- A fire extinguisher with this symbol means it’s intended for use with ordinary materials, like wood, paper, and cloth. This type is usually found in homes and businesses.
2. This symbol means it’s meant to be used on flammable liquids like gasoline, grease, oil, and oil-based paints. This is also often found in homes and businesses.
3. A fire extinguisher with this symbol means it is for electrical fires- from electrical appliances, tools, or any other equipment that is plugged in. Common in homes and businesses.
4. This next symbol is designed for cooking fires, meaning anything that has vegetable oils or animal oils and fats used in cooking. You can find these in commercial kitchens (restaurants, cafeterias, catering businesses, etc).
5. The fifth symbol is for specialized fire extinguishers meant for factory use. They are designed to handle mechanic and industrial fires that involve flammable metals.
There are also several types of fire extinguishers that can be labeled “B-C” or “A-B-C”. Multipurpose fire extinguisher are usually easy to find at home improvement stores and can cover a variety of fire emergencies.
When should you use a fire extinguisher?
Alright, so this might seem like a silly question, but different instances call for different actions. Fire extinguishers are helpful for immediate use on small fires. Consider providing a checklist to help your family or your employees decide on using a fire extinguisher on a potential fire.
- Have I alerted others in the building that there’s a fire?
- Has someone called the fire department?
- Am I physically able to use a fire extinguisher?
- Is the fire small and contained in a single object (like a pan or a wastebasket)?
- Am I safe from the fire’s toxic smoke?
- Do I have a clear escape route?
Use a fire extinguisher when all of these questions are answered “yes.” If you’re unsure about whether or not it’s safe to use a fire extinguisher, and for all other situations, alert others, leave the building, and call 911 from a mobile or neighbor’s phone. It’s also not recommended that children use fire extinguishers.
How to use a fire extinguisher:
The easiest way to remember the steps to operating a fire extinguisher is to remember the word PASS.
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.
Other things to remember:
Easy access in an emergency – be sure nothing is blocking or limiting your ability to reach it.
The recommended pressure level – many extinguishers have gauges that show when pressure is too high or too low.
Working parts – make sure the can, hoses and nozzles aren’t damaged, dented, or rusted.
Cleanliness – remove any dust, oil, or grease that might be on the outside of the extinguisher.
Guidelines and instructions – some extinguishers need to be shaken monthly, others need to be pressure tested every few years.
You can learn more about using fire extinguishers and other fire safety information at usfa.fema.gov.