Having a basic knowledge of how to fight off a fire should be an essential skill of every person. Even though you might never encounter a full-scale fire in your lifetime the potential threat from it can’t be neglected. The tool of first response to any type of fire is a fire extinguisher.
They come in many shapes and forms but serve the same mission to help people stop a fire before it spreads.The analysis of fire cases during 1976 – 2010 years done by NAFED revealed that around 95% of fires are successfully fought off by fire extinguishers. Even though the design of the majority of extinguishers is made plain and simple there are some peculiarities to the proper usage of each of them. Thus, we decided to provide you with a complete guide on how to use fire extinguishers to pump up your awareness and security.
The Nature Of Fire
Prior to any fight, it is essential to understand your enemy. Every fire has three fundamental elements that keep burning going. Known as the fire triangle it consists of fuel, oxygen, and heat. Such mixture results in the ignition and burning only if each of the three obligatory elements is present. Fire extinguishers are designed to influence one of these ingredients breaking the fire triangle and thus putting the ignition down. However, the nature of fuel elements can be very different taking into account how many different combustible materials there are in our environment. In its turn, the different fuel nature requires a different approach to firefighting. Across the US, a gradation is used, called Classes of fire which specifies the nature of ignition and, therefore, how to fight it.
- Class A fire. The most common type of fire starts around such flammable materials like paper, cloth, wood, leaves, etc. Such fires can be put out with ordinary extinguishers such as water or sand. Nevertheless, there is a special type of extinguishers that fight such flames more effectively.
- Class B fire. Flames that ignite around combustible liquids such as gas, oil, alcohol, etc. Against this type of fire, regular extinguishers are less effective or even can cause a negative effect. Thus, special fire extinguishers are used for such fires based on dry chemicals.
- Class C fire. Any ignition that happened around electric hardware or is caused by its malfunction is classified as a class C fire. Due to the nature of electricity extinguishing, such fires require a specialized approach. Using water or chemicals can provoke either a short circuit or additional unwanted damage to electric hardware. Thus, for this purpose special non-conductive fire extinguishers are used.
- Class D fire. Burning metals have a special classification around fire types. It’s a pretty rare phenomenon when metal bursts into flames, however, there are some alloys that do it much easier. Due to the extreme temperature of burning it is quite hard to extinguish metals. Therefore, special fire extinguishers based on wet chemicals were designed to solve this problem.
- Class K fire. The kitchen hides many threats of sudden fire. Aside from open flames and the high temperature that cooking requires, cooking surfaces in a kitchen usually get dirty in the process of food preparation. Such substances as kitchen grease, animal or vegetable oils, and fats are easily flammable. A traditional approach to firefighting with water can only worsen the situation, thus, in kitchens class, K fire extinguishers are widely used.
Strategy Of Fire Fighting With A Fire Extinguisher
The majority of fire extinguishers contain instructions on how to use them. However, there are some essentials that are usually not described, yet might play a crucial role in successful extinguishing.
Confirm the class of the fire threat
Prior to starting the extinguishing process, you should confirm which class of fire you are confronting. The information about the fire extinguisher’s class is usually described with big visible markings on its shell. When it comes to A, B, or C class of fires they usually can be fought off with the same fire extinguisher. Modern market generally proposes a multifunctional solution for this type of fire threats with ABC fire extinguisher. Nevertheless, you have to be 100% positive on the nature of blazes before starting the extinguishing. You can not only be unsuccessful in fighting the fire but you also might harm yourself.
Size does matter
Choose the biggest extinguisher you can carry and operate. You will never know for sure the exact amount of extinguishing agent you will require to put out the ignition. At some point, the usage of a fire extinguisher might not be aimed at putting out fire but on winning precious time keeping blazes from spreading before a fire unit arrives.
Follow the extinguishing technique step by step
Take into account what kind of fire extinguisher you are using. When it comes to portable fire extinguishers they mostly operate through standard routine which is called PASS:
- Pull. The first step is to remove a safety pin located on the top of a fire extinguisher near the handle.
- Aim. No matter if it is a hose or nozzle – before squeezing the handle and starting the extinguishing you have to aim first. Generally, you will have to aim at the base of fire where the fuel is. However, when it comes to class D fires it is recommended to spread extinguishing agent from above, in a vertical manner, keeping the current of foam as straight as possible.
- Squeeze. Squeezing the handle will start dispensing the extinguishing agent.
- Sweep. Sweeping from side to side is generally the most effective method to cover the fuel source and hence putting down the fire.
While this is a great technique on how to use fire extinguishers there are some additional steps you might require using different extinguishers. Besides portable fire extinguishers there are wheeled ones. Most of the time these kinds of extinguishers are not self discharged and use separate containers with gas for these purposes. Thus, you will have to open the valve on such a tank to provide pressure to the extinguisher. Additionally, some extinguishers operate nozzles that require prior set-up to the deployed position.
Be aware of extinguisher special aspects
Fire fighting is a lifesaving process, however, doing it recklessly can lead to the opposite effect. Some extinguishing agents have their specifications. For instance, class C extinguishers are working on CO2, which is quite an effective extinguishing agent since it simply removes oxygen from the fire triangle and suffocates the fire. However, people who operate this extinguisher use the same oxygen for breathing. Thus, if you use a CO2 fire extinguisher in closed areas for a long time you might suffocate yourself. Besides, nozzles of some extinguishers can become very cold in the process of discharging. Thus, don’t hold the nozzle of the extinguisher with your spare hand if you don’t want to get frostbites.
Probably the most essential part of fire extinguisher usage is understanding when you are done. You are not always done when the fire ceases to exist. When you feel that fire continues spreading despite your struggle it is time to evacuate and leave it to a fire unit. Additionally, even if you successfully fight off a fire you still should call a fire department to check the place of ignition. Only fire specialists can confirm if the fire threat passed.