How to properly use fire extinguishers

A fire extinguisher is a piece of equipment specially designed to control a fire in both open and enclosed spaces. They are an essential safety precaution for commercial properties, however homes should also have a fire extinguish in place of emergency. Knowing how to properly use a fire extinguisher and which types to use for each different fire type could really save the day in the future. It’s worth knowing exactly how to combat a fire safely without putting yourself in harm’s way. 

For more information about fire or smoke protection please contact us on 01202 985655.  

How do fire extinguishers work?

Fire extinguishers work by eliminating one of the three elements that creates and sustains a fire. These elements are collectively known as a fire triangle. They are oxygen, fuel and heat. Each type of fire extinguisher is designed to knock out a specific element depending on the fire type. For example, a water fire extinguisher removes heat by cooling the area and a CO2 extinguisher removes the oxygen.

What are the classes of fire?

Even though fire needs all three elements, not all fires are the same. The fire has different origins depending on the type of fuel that reacts to air and heat. It’s important to be able to identify the type of fire before going to put it out as different fires will need different methods to be extinguished safely.

Fire is identified into different classes based on their fuel. There are:

  • Class A: fire is born due to solid fuels such as wood, paper, woven carbon or plastics.
  • Class B: fire caused by liquid agents such as gasoline, diesel, alcohol, oil or asphalt.
  • Class C: fire started due to gases like butane, propane, city gas, methane or acetylene.
  • Class D: metals such as aluminium, sodium, titanium or inorganic chemicals are the principal agents of ignition.
  • Electrical fires: these fires are caused by faulting electrical equipment and appliances. Due to the risk of electric shocks, water cannot be used to put out these classes of fire due to water’s conductivity.
  • Class F: This class is common in kitchens both at home and in a workplace, caused through hot oil either in a deep-fat fryer or chip pan.

Keep this classification in mind when you’re using extinguishing systems because not all fire extinguishers are suitable for all types of fires. Most portable fire extinguishers on the market are effective against class A, B and C fires. However, it is always necessary to check the equipment label. That way, it is possible to know what the range of the fire extinguisher is and what types of fire it is capable of calming.

What are the types of fire extinguishers?

Fire extinguishers are not all the same. They contain different substances that are used to smother the fire. They contain either water, foam, powder or CO2. Each type of fire extinguisher is properly labelled and colour coded.

Type Colour code Type of fire
Water Red Suitable for type A fires as long as there is no electricity.

Water is not suitable for fires involving liquid fuels such as gasoline or oil because it is denser than these liquids and the fuel will be placed on top of the water and will not extinguish the fire.
Foam Cream Ideal for fires of type A and B. Like the previous one, it is dangerous in the presence of electricity.
Powder Blue It is the most common type and used in any building.  It is indicated for fires of type A, B and C and as it is powdery it avoids the electrical risk.  It is the most recommended for houses, offices or any building.
CO2 Black This type of fire extinguisher is suitable for fires of type A, B, and C.
Wet Chemical Yellow These extinguishers are specifically for Class F fires however they are effective against Class A and B.

What type of fire extinguisher should I keep at home?

The best type of fire extinguisher for home use is the dust type due to its versatility for combatting more types of fire. They can be used on electrical fires until water fire extinguishers. The powder compound doesn’t conduct electricity and so smothers the fire safely without making matters potentially worse. The only downside is that powder fire extinguishers can be messy if let off accidentally.

For a home to fully comply with fire safety regulations, its essential that the kitchen is equipped with the means to deal with a fire quickly and safely. As fires occur more commonly in the kitchen, this is the best place to keep your fire extinguisher. A wet chemical extinguisher is specifically designed for quick use and combats the types of fire that are commonplace in a kitchen – especially Class F which are incredibly dangerous.

How to use a fire extinguisher?

Each fire extinguisher has a label with instructions for use. In general, to use it you only have to remove the safety catch from the hose, place yourself at least 2 metres away from the flames and pull the trigger pointing towards the base of the fire. It is always recommended to wait for instructions from the local fire brigade before taking any action against the fire, also use the emergency exits.

What Is The P.A.S.S Method?

The PASS method is a good thing to memorise in case of an event where you would have to use a fire extinguisher.

P: Pin

Pull the pin and hold the nozzle pointing away.

A: Aim

Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.

S: Squeeze

Squeeze the lever evenly and not too fast.

S: Sweep

Sweep the nozzle left to right.

What to do with a fire extinguisher once it’s been used?

You can’t dispose of a fire extinguisher in your household waste but they can be taken to a recycle centre where they can be disposed of properly. This ensures that the fire extinguisher is completely recycled for further use.

Fire safety companies replace used extinguishers as part of their service and will dispose of the extinguishers for you.

What other fire safety precautions are available?

Fire extinguishers are not only one safety precaution that are necessary to fit in current fire safety legislations for business owners. Smoke alarms and fire blankets are among some of the necessary features that must be available for a workplace to be deemed safe.

At TJC Electrical, we provide fire protection services that fit in line with the current legislation for companies and businesses to follow. We also provide fire safety services for residential properties. Part of our service includes a free survey where we can assess your fire safety standards and inform you of what equipment you need to ensure the proper protection is in place.

For more information about our fire protection services, get in touch on 01202 985655.

Is your building compliant with fire safety regulations? For more information about our smoke detection and fire protection products and services contact us on 01202 985655.