The Basics of Using a Fire Extinguisher

A fire extinguisher is a handy tool that can be used to help combat small fires before they can become dangerous and out of control. They are usually located in areas where they can be easily accessed in the event of an emergency. However, there are some things that you need to keep in mind about using a fire extinguisher.

The most important thing to remember is to evacuate the area once the fire has been put out. Fires can grow out of control very quickly, and it is important to make sure that you have an escape route planned in case the fire gets out of hand while you are trying to fight it.

Always read the fire extinguisher label to see what types of fires it can be used on. Most fire extinguishers are marked with an ABC rating and have a color coded handle or cylinder to indicate the class of fire it can be used on. You should also learn what the weight of your fire extinguisher is, as this may affect your ability to maneuver it and aim at the fire.

Class A: Suitable for cloth, wood, paper, rubber, various plastics and regular combustibles. This type of fire extinguisher uses water or foam to smother the flames and cool down the burning materials.

Class B: Suitable for liquid and gaseous fuel fires such as gasoline, propane, butane, grease and oil. These types of fires are very deadly and can spread quickly, so they require quick and effective action. These fire extinguishers use a combination of water and chemicals such as sodium bicarbonate, potassium acetate or potassium carbonate to cool the fuel and break down the chemical chain reaction that causes the fire.

Class C: Suitable for electrical fires such as wiring and appliances. These types of fires can be very hazardous, as they can cause shocks to the operator. These fire extinguishers use an agent that is composed of a solution of sodium chloride or tetraethylethylene triethylamine to interrupt the flow of electricity and smother the fire.

In the 1920s, DuGas invented a cartridge-operated dry chemical extinguisher that had the capacity to hold up to 9 lbs or 4.1 kg of the chemical sodium bicarbonate. The unit operated by puncturing a wheel valve on top of the cylinder with a pin and squeezing a lever at the nozzle to discharge the chemical. The cylinder was then recharged with a special solvent that was much less toxic than the carbon tetrachloride used in earlier units. Methyl bromide was later introduced as an alternative to tetrachloride, and it was more effective than tetrachloride. It was used until the late 1970s, when it was banned in new production due to its ozone-depleting properties and long atmospheric lifetime.

Today’s hand-held portable fire extinguishers are more user friendly than ever before. They have an ergonomic design that makes them easy to grasp, operate and maintain. They also feature a pressure indicator and pressure gauge to ensure the unit is properly pressurized. Most fire codes and standards, including those established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), require extinguishers to undergo an annual inspection and service to make sure the fire fighting agent is not expired or depleted. A trained professional will inspect the unit and replace it if necessary. These technicians will also record the date of the last hydrotest and six-year maintenance service on a tag that is placed on each fire extinguisher.

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