red fire extinguisher below hose reel

A blog post about occupational safety and fire extinguisher training isn’t likely to rank on many people’s favorite reading lists, but it might just save your life. That alone should warrant a few minutes of your valuable time.

In this step-by-step guide, we will run through the essentials of fire extinguisher training that are applicable to various types of fire extinguishers, so you can tackle any fire that flares up in the future.

Using a Fire Extinguisher - Step by Step

woman using fire extinguisher to put out fire

There are three main types of fire extinguishers: water, foam, and dry powder. Each type has its own use cases, so it’s important to use the right fire extinguisher for the type of flames you are dealing with.

Water fire extinguishers are best used on solid fuels such as wood or paper, while foam fire extinguishers are more effective on flammable liquids, such as when cooking appliances cause a fire. Dry powder fire extinguishers can be used on both solid and liquid fires, but they are most effective on fires involving electrical equipment.

In order to use a fire extinguisher effectively, there are only a few crucial steps to remember and all it takes is a simple acronym: PASS (pull-aim-squeeze-sweep)

  • PULL the safety pin: To prevent unintentional discharge, the handle on top of the canister needs to have a pin passing through it. Take out this pin. Some fire extinguishers lack hooks and use a lock latch or pierce level instead. Before a fire starts, find out which one your extinguisher has.

  • AIM the nozzle: Hold the handle in one hand and the hose's end in the other. To put out whatever is burning, aim the extinguisher nozzle at the source of the fire. A common error is to aim at the flames directly, which is useless.

  • SQUEEZE the handle: Depress the fire extinguisher's handle to release a stream of fire suppressant through the hose and out the nozzle.

  • SWEEP the nozzle in a side-to-side motion: Use a sweeping motion to douse the fire once the suppressant starts to flow. Keep doing this until the flames seem to be extinguished completely. If the fire re-ignites, keep a close eye on the area for a few minutes for local fire departments and use the extinguisher once more if required.

Common Errors To Avoid When Using A Fire Extinguisher

A fire extinguisher is your primary line of defense if there is a fire since it can stop the flames from spreading. However, there are a few errors that users of portable fire extinguishers commit. Although using a fire extinguisher is relatively simple, it is essential to learn the proper, efficient, and secure approach to extinguishing a fire. Following are common fire extinguisher mistakes to avoid if you need to use a fire extinguisher.

  • Not reading the instructions. Fire extinguishers have instructions on how to use them and what they should be used for. If you don't read those instructions, you could end up using the wrong kind of extinguishing agent or using it incorrectly.
  • Using water on an electrical fire. This could cause electrical shock or electrocution! Water is not recommended for electricity fires; instead, use CO2 or dry chemical extinguishers.
  • Not knowing where your fire extinguisher is located. A study found that only about half of people knew where their fire extinguisher was located in case of emergency. Make sure you know where yours is so you can access it quickly in case of an emergency.
  • Not knowing which type of fire extinguisher to use. Different types of fires require different types of extinguishers. For example, if you have a grease fire, you need an ABC fire extinguisher. If you have a wood or paper fire, an ABCD fire extinguisher will be more effective. If you aren't sure what kind of extinguisher to buy, ask your local hardware store or call the fire department.
  • Another common mistake is not keeping your fire extinguishers up-to-date and fully charged with pressurized air. If you have been having trouble finding time to check on their condition or refill them, consider hiring a fire extinguisher maintenance professional who can manage this task for you so that you don't have to worry about it at all anymore.
  • Leaving a fire extinguisher in a place where it might freeze during the winter months (if it's an ABC-rated extinguisher). This could cause damage that renders it unusable. It's best to keep them inside so they don't freeze up during these cold months!
  • Failing to check your fire extinguishers regularly (every 6 months) and replace their CO2 canisters every 12 years or so. Not doing this could cause them not to work properly when needed most.

The Bottom line

That's it. You've got all the information you need to know how to use a fire extinguisher. Safety is important, and fire extinguishers are a necessity. For your home, office, or classroom, make sure you have the right fire extinguishers for the job. A little preparation goes a long way—and it could save your life. But remember that even the best fire extinguisher training does not make you a fully equipped firefighter, so always be aware of a safe evacuation path and evacuate immediately if a fire shows signs of burning out of control.

If you have any questions about using fire extinguishers or how to make sure your staff are properly trained on how to use a fire extinguisher in order to comply with local occupational health and safety regulations, Canada Safety Training offers fire extinguisher training courses with bulk discount pricing.

We have been proudly training workers across Canada since 2005, and we look forward to helping your team understand more about fire safety and fighting fires.

Contact us today for more information.