How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

A fire extinguisher is a portable, chemical-based device used to put out small fires before they spread and damage an area. In the United States, there are five common types of fire extinguishers: water, wetting agent, dry powder, dry chemicals (classes ABC and D), and carbon dioxide. Each type is rated for different classes of fire. Before using a fire extinguisher, check the operating instructions on the label and make sure it is rated for the type of fire you are fighting. Identifying the fire type is also important because different extinguishers have different effective ranges and require you to approach the fire from different directions.

Before you use a fire extinguisher, it is vital to ensure you and the person you are with are in a safe position and that there are no obstacles between you and an exit. If there is an evacuation path, use it immediately. If not, call the fire department and alert people within earshot of the fire to evacuate. It is reckless to fight a fire without a clear, safe evacuation route.

Once you’re in a safe location, you should locate the fire extinguisher and make sure it is rated for the fire you are facing. Read the operating instructions and check for damage and signs of tampering or misuse. Check the pressure on the gauge on the top of the extinguisher to ensure it is at a good level to operate. Aim the nozzle low and point it at the base of the fire. Squeeze the handle to discharge the agent, but do not aim directly at the flames; this will scatter the fire-fighting material over a wide area. Sweep the nozzle from side to side to apply the agent and continue squeezing until the fire is extinguished.

After you’ve discharged the fire extinguisher, move away from the area and check for re-ignition. If the fire is still burning, call 911 and evacuate again. If the fire isn’t immediately extinguished, re-engage the fire extinguisher and repeat the process.

It is important to pair fire extinguisher knowledge with a well-practiced evacuation plan and schedule regular fire drills to ensure everyone in your workplace knows what to do when a fire breaks out. Also, have your fire extinguishers regularly inspected and replaced as they expire. This helps keep your building or workplace compliant with fire codes and prevents costly damages to property, equipment, and data from the fire.

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