Portable fire extinguishers come in man sizes and types. While the operating procedures of each type are similar, first responders should become familiarised with the detailed instructions found on the label of the extinguisher.
Fire extinguishers in the workplace and home need to be inspected regularly to ensure that they are accessible and operable.
Before attempting to use any fire extinguisher in an emergency, quickly check it first. Such a check is necessary to ensure that the extinguisher is charged and operable. This check may protect you from injury caused by a defective or depleted extinguisher. If the extinguisher appears to be in working order, you can then use it to suppress a fire.
When inspecting an extinguisher immediately before use, check the following:
After selecting the appropriate size and type of extinguisher for the situation, approach the fire from the upwind side; that is, with the wind at your back.
All modern fire extinguishers are operated in a similar manner, therefore after performing the quick check described earlier, pick up the extinguisher by its handles and carry it to the point of application. Once in a position to attached the fire, use the PASS method:
Be sure the extinguishing agent reaches the fire – if it cannot, the agent is wasted. Smaller extinguishers will require a closer approach to the fire then larger extinguishers, the radiant heat may prevent you from getting close enough for the agent to reach the fire. Adverse winds can also limit the reach of an agent.
Operating an extinguisher close to the fire can sometimes scatter lightweight solid fuels or penetrate the surface to liquid fuels. Apply the agent from a point where it reaches but does not disturb the fuel. Releasing the handles will stop the flow of agent.
After the fire is knocked down, you should move closer to achieve the final fire extinguishment. If extinguishment is not achieved after an entire extinguisher has been discharged, withdraw and re-assess the situation.
If the fire is in a solid fuel that has been reduced to smouldering, it can be pulled apart using a rake or shovel. A fire extinguisher or hose can be used to soak it well enough to achieve complete extinguishment. If the fire is in a liquid fuel, it may be necessary to apply the appropriate type of foam extinguisher or simultaneously attack the fire with more than one extinguisher.
If more than one extinguisher is used simultaneously, work in unison with other first responders and maintain constant awareness of each others actions and positions. Used extinguishers should be laid on their sides after use. This signals to others that they are empty and reduces the chances of someone taking one and approaching the fire with an empty extinguisher.
Always have an identified escape route in case you need to withdraw quickly, and operate the extinguisher from a point between the fire and the exit.
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