Fire Extinguisher Know-How

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Fire extinguishers are an important safety component in any home or building. They can mean the difference between a devastating fire or a minor incident. Although a fire extinguisher in the hands of a trained adult can be a life- and property-saving tool, many people are not properly skilled in the use of fire extinguishers.

A large portion of the public has not received training on fire extinguisher use and when to use them. Sometimes the use of the wrong extinguisher can exacerbate a fire, as there are different fire extinguishers for different types of fires. Learning when and where to use an extinguisher can be a matter of life and death.

Type of extinguisher

Not all fires are alike, and fires started from different materials require the use of different extinguishing agents to safely and quickly put the fire out. There are five different types of extinguishers, and generally each will feature a symbol to show the applicable fire on which they can be used.

Class A: These are used on ordinary substances, like cloth, wood, paper and plastics.

Class B: These extinguishers are used on fires that feature flammable liquids, such as oil-based paints or gasoline.

Class C: These extinguishers are used on electrical equipment, such as tools or appliances that are plugged in.

Class D: Commonly found in specific factories, these extinguishers are used on flammable metals.

Class K: Combustible cooking materials, like animal oils and fats, can be extinguished with this agent. They are commonly found in commercial kitchens, but are now infiltrating residential markets as well.

Multipurpose: Some extinguishers combine different agents so they are applicable for a range of fires.

When to use a fire extinguisher

Small fires may be smothered with an extinguisher. If the fire has spread or is already large in size, it’s likely only a trained firefighter can handle the blaze. Only use a fire extinguisher in these circumstances:

• The fire is small and contained.

• You have already called the fire department.

• There is little chance of being consumed by toxic smoke.

• You can escape safely if necessary.

• The fire is not between you and the escape route.

• You are physically able to carry its weight and exert the necessary pressure to operate it.

Fire extinguishers should be routinely inspected and maintained to ensure they will be effective. Some need to be shaken to keep the dry chemicals from settling. Others need to have the pressure at the correct level. An extinguisher may need to be recharged or replaced if it is damaged.

Individuals can talk with firefighters about possible training courses in the use of fire extinguishers. This will help a person know the correct way to handle and activate an extinguisher should it need to be used.

From Metro Services

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