Fire extinguisherEven if you have the right number of appropriate fire extinguishers in your building, what good are they in protecting you from a fire if you don’t know how to use them?

A fire can cause devastating damage to a building and, worst case scenario, can cause injury and even death. That’s why learning how to use a fire extinguisher safely along is crucial when it comes to protecting your premises, employees and visitors safe from the consequences of a fire.

Basic fire safety

Having the appropriate equipment to extinguish a fire doesn’t meant it’s always safe to do so yourself. It is vitally important to know to evacuate and leave the fire to the professionals.

The key steps business owners need to take include:

  • Conducting a fire risk assessment (or have a professional company like Hartson Fire to conduct one) to identify the fire hazards at your premises, so you can do everything you can to mitigate them.
  • Having a fire alarm system in place to alert everyone on the premises in the event of a fire. The fire alarm should be regularly checked to make sure it’s working properly.
  • Having a fire evacuation procedure in place to get everyone to safety as quickly as possible, minimising the risks of any injuries or fatalities.

It can be difficult to judge if a fire can be put out using your fire extinguishers or if you should call emergency services.  So our advice is to err on the side of caution and, if in doubt, evacuate and call the fire brigade.

Which Extinguishers for Which Materials?

The types of fire extinguishers you will need in your business premises will depend on the nature of your business and the types of fires that are likely to occur.

Fires are identified using a classification system. They are separated into different classes identifying the fuel of the fire involved, which makes it easier to know which fire extinguishers you will need.

The fire classification categories are:

  • Class A: Combustible fires such as wood, plastic, paper, fabrics, coal etc.
  • Class B: Flammable liquids such as gasoline, petroleum oil, paint, diesel etc.
  • Class C: Flammable gases such as propane, butane, or methane etc.
  • Class D: Combustible metals such as magnesium, lithium, sodium, titanium, aluminium etc.
  • Electrical Fires (Class E): Technically, electrical fires are not recognised as a separate class of fire, but rather an informal type of fire class. This type of fire involves live equipment and electrical sources, you can think of it as your ‘Class E’ fire.
  • Class F: Fires that include cooking oils such as vegetable oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, butter etc. Deep fat fryers are commonly a cause of Class F fires.


Type of Fire Extinguishers

How you tackle a fire depends on what has caused it in the first place. This is why there are different types of fire extinguishers to help you to tackle the fire in the safest way possible.

The different types of fire extinguishers available are:

  • Dry Powder fire extinguisher: For Class A, Class B, Class C & electrical fires.
  • L2 Dry Powder fire extinguisher: For Class D fires.
  • Foam fire extinguisher (AFFF): For Class A & Class B fires.
  • CO2 fire extinguisher: For Class B & electrical fires.
  • Water fire extinguisher: For Class A fires.
  • Wet Chemical: For Class A & Class F fires.
  • Multichem (Foam) fire extinguisher: For Class A, Class B & Class F fires.

Operating Fire Extinguishers

Though generally, the operating of fire extinguishers is for the most part the same, different types of fire extinguishers do come with different instructions. So, it’s important to read these instructions for all the fire extinguishers in your workplace as soon as they are installed.

The general term for using a fire extinguisher is know as the PASS Method ie

Pull the pin; this breaks the seal, making the fire extinguisher ready for use

Aim; at the base of the fire

Squeeze; the handle/lever slowly to discharge the extinguisher at the fire

Sweep from side to side; to ensure you reach all of the fire

A typical fire extinguisher contains 10 seconds of extinguishing power, which will obviously be less if the extinguisher has already been partially discharged.

Once the flames have been extinguished, don’t leave straight away: wait and watch the area for a few minutes just in case the fire reignites. You also need to recharge the extinguisher immediately after use.

Recharging of Fire Extinguishers

After using a fire extinguisher, it should be recharged immediately so that the fire extinguisher is fit for use at all times. This includes fire extinguishers that have only been partially discharged.

As each type of fire extinguisher contains different agents, the method of recharging each type of extinguisher also differs. Recharging a fire extinguisher can involve refilling it with its agent, or sometimes emptying the remaining agent and then refilling it.

It’s advisable to get a professional company to recharge your fire extinguishers as they will have the experience and knowledge to ensure the extinguisher has been recharged completely. If  you do plan to do it yourself, you will need to have access to a pressurising machine, the appropriate refilling agents, and some basic training on the recharging process.

Also, if you have numerous (and of different types) fire extinguishers at your workplace, it may be more convenient and cost-effective to hire a specialised company, like Hartson Fire, to carry out regular checks and recharges.

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