Fire extinguishers are a lifesaver when used correctly, but in the wrong hands, they can turn into a tool for disaster.
In the event of a fire, having access to and knowing how to use fire extinguishers properly can mean the difference between a minor incident and a catastrophe. Fire extinguishers are one of the most critical tools to combat fires. However, knowing how to use them properly is important, as misuse of such tools can be extremely dangerous.
In this blog, we’ve compiled a list of 8 disastrous ways people can misuse fire extinguishers. From ignoring written instructions to using it against wind direction, these will make you think twice before grabbing that red canister.
Fire Extinguishers And Their Types
A fire extinguisher is a fire protection device that can prevent small emergency fires. They contain different chemicals that prevent the reaction of oxygen with heat and fuel, thereby preventing ignition.
There are many criteria used in classifying fire extinguishers. However, a standard classification is based on the five classes of fire they are designed to extinguish. See the chart below.
Although there are many fire extinguisher suppliers in Singapore, it is good to remember that no single fire extinguisher can eliminate all kinds of fires.
In Singapore, strict rules guide installing, use, maintenance, and inspection of fire extinguishers. According to the Code of practice SS 578 of Singapore, titled Use and Maintenance of Portable Fire Extinguishers, it is stated that inspection, usage and maintenance of fire extinguishers in any premises is the responsibility of the owner or occupant of the home or workplace.
Improper usage and maintenance of fire extinguishers can result in severe damage and fatalities. Therefore, they should be installed, maintained and stored according to the correct specification with a certified provider like Hart Engineering.
How To Use A Fire Extinguisher
A fire extinguisher is an essential tool that can help prevent disasters in a fire. However, knowing how to use one correctly can make a significant difference in keeping you and your property safe.
Here are the steps to using a fire extinguisher:
- Assess the situation: Determine whether it is safe to use the extinguisher and whether you have the appropriate type of extinguisher for the type of fire.
Remember to use the acronym PASS. Using the acronym PASS is an easy way to correctly remember the steps to use a fire extinguisher.
PASS stands for:
- Pull the pin: The pin on the extinguisher needs to be pulled to release the locking mechanism.
- Aim the nozzle: Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, not the flames.
- Squeeze the handle: Squeeze the handle to discharge the extinguishing agent.
- Sweep the extinguisher: Sweep the extinguisher from side to side until the fire is out. Make sure to keep a safe distance from the fire.
Besides analysing the situation and doing the PASS method, also remember to:
- Monitor the area: Even after the fire is out, monitor the site to ensure it does not reignite.
Remember to follow these steps in order. With the PASS method, you can be confident using the extinguisher effectively and safely.
The ‘DON’Ts’ of Using a Fire Extinguisher
Using a fire extinguisher requires proper knowledge and technique to ensure its effectiveness. While many people know the “DOs” of using a fire extinguisher, it is just as important to know the “DON’Ts.”
1. Ignoring the instructions written on the fire extinguisher
Ignoring the instructions is one of the most significant mistakes people make when using a fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers come with clear and concise instructions on operating them effectively. However, many people need help reading and understanding the instructions before using the extinguisher. It can lead to improper use of the extinguisher, resulting in harm or damage. Therefore, it is essential to take the time to read the instructions carefully before using the extinguisher.
Ensure you understand the proper use of the extinguisher, the type of fire it is meant for, and the steps to follow to avoid complications. Always remember fire extinguishers are designed for specific types of fires, and using the wrong kind of extinguisher can worsen the fire.
2. Using the wrong type of extinguisher for the wrong class of fire
Using the wrong kind of fire extinguisher for the wrong class of fire can be dangerous and can cause the fire to spread.
For example, using a water extinguisher on a Class B fire involving flammable liquids can worsen the fire. Similarly, using a dry powder extinguisher on a Class K fire involving cooking oils and fats can cause the fire to reignite.
Understanding the different types of fires and the appropriate extinguisher for each class is essential. Always check the label on the fire extinguisher to ensure it is the correct type for the fire you are dealing with. Using the wrong type of extinguisher can result in injury, property damage, and even life loss.
3. Rushing into a fire unprepared
Before using the extinguisher, you must have briefly analysed the fire to determine where it started from, the source of the fuel and the direction of its possible spread. This information will show you how best to position yourself or if the fire is uncontrollable using the available extinguisher. Conversely, you must also think on your feet and react quickly — most fires double within 60 seconds.
4. Putting out an extensive fire using several extinguishers
Trying to put out a big fire using several extinguishers one at a time can be a frustrating and ineffective approach. While it may seem like a logical strategy, fires can quickly grow and spread, making it difficult to contain them with a single extinguisher. Additionally, using multiple extinguishers can be costly and time-consuming and may not address the root cause of the fire.
It’s important to remember that fires can be unpredictable, and attempting to put one out without proper training and equipment can be hazardous. In a fire, evacuating the area immediately and calling emergency services is best.
5. Aiming the extinguisher directly at a burning liquid while you are near it
Directly aiming the extinguisher at a burning liquid while standing near it can be a dangerous course of action. When a liquid is on fire, it may create a pool of flames that can quickly spread to other surfaces or even engulf the entire area.
By standing too close and aiming the extinguisher directly at the flames, there is a risk of getting burned or injured from the sudden fire flare-up. However, there is no need to either get too close or go too far. The discharge range of most extinguishers is between 1.8 to 6 metres.
6. Trying to extinguish the fire from the top of the flame
Attempting to extinguish a fire from the top of the flame can be a common mistake people make when trying to extinguish a fire. This approach may not be practical as flames tend to move upwards and may reignite once the extinguisher has been depleted.
A more effective way is to aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire where the fuel source is located. This method will smother the fire by removing the oxygen and heat, effectively putting it out. However, it is essential to remember that different types of fires require specific extinguishers. Therefore, it’s best to assess the situation and use the appropriate extinguisher to extinguish the flames effectively.
7. Using the extinguisher against the wind direction
Using an extinguisher against the wind direction can be a problematic strategy when trying to put out a fire. The wind can carry the flames or embers towards you, spreading the fire and making it more difficult to extinguish.
Instead, position yourself upwind from the fire so the extinguishing agent can be propelled towards the fire, not back towards you. Placing yourself upwind can also reduce the risk of inhaling smoke or other harmful fumes.
8. Ensure the extinguisher is fully discharged and there are no signs of damage after putting out a fire
Inspect the extinguisher carefully to ensure it is not damaged or leaking, indicating a potential hazard. If any damage, such as cracks or dents, or the pressure gauge indicates that the extinguisher is not fully charged, the unit must be removed from service immediately and replaced or recharged.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep track of the extinguisher’s expiration date and have it serviced and maintained regularly to ensure it’s functioning correctly. It’s also vital to ensure the extinguisher is stored in a cool, dry place where it can be easily accessed.
Many fire hazards occur, not because there are no fire extinguishers within the premises but due to inexperience in properly using fire extinguishers. Remember, fire can be unpredictable, and it’s essential to have the proper training and equipment to deal with it.
More importantly, always remember that fire extinguishers are designed only for small fires. Therefore, you should call the SCDF immediately once you notice that the fire begins to get uncontrollable.
Remember, safety always comes first! If you have any questions or concerns about using a fire extinguisher or need one on your premises, contact Hart Engineering today.