How to Safely Operate a Fire Extinguisher

The first line of defence during a small house or business fire is often a fire extinguisher. However, do you know the correct way to operate one? If not used correctly, the situation can worsen, endangering lives and causing extensive damage to property. Let’s de-mystify this life-saving piece of equipment and discover how to operate a fire extinguisher safely.

Understanding Your Fire Extinguisher

Fire extinguishers are not one-size-fits-all. They come in various types, each designed to combat different kinds of fires. Before anything else, make sure that the fire extinguisher is suitable for the potentially hazardous situation that you’re facing. For instance, a water-based extinguisher should never be used on fires involving electric equipment. You can easily identify the type of your extinguisher by looking at the colour coding and labelling.

Operating Your Fire Extinguisher: The PASS Method

Fire and Rescue NSW recommends the “PASS” method to safely and effectively operate a fire extinguisher:

  1. Pull Pin: Pull the pin at the top, breaking the seal. This will enable the extinguisher handle to be squeezed. Firstly, test the extinguisher (away from yourself) to ensure it’s working and to gauge the distance the spray reaches.
  2. Aim: Stand at a safe distance from the fire and aim the extinguisher nozzle towards the fire’s base, not the flames.
  3. Squeeze: Squeeze the handles together to release the extinguishing agent and release to stop.
  4. Sweep: Sweep the nozzle sideways while moving towards the fire, focusing the agent at the base of the flames. If dealing with an A-Class fire, probe for smouldering hot spots afterwards, as they could rekindle.

Important Extinguisher Tips

  • Familiarise everyone in the home or workplace with the extinguisher’s location and operation.
  • Always prioritise safety. If it doesn’t feel safe, evacuate the premises.
  • Remove the extinguisher from its bracket and remove the safety pin by pulling it sharply before heading to the scene of the fire.
  • If possible, have someone accompany you for safety.

Fire extinguishers, when used correctly, can buy valuable time before the Fire Services arrive. In an emergency, don’t hesitate to dial triple zero (000). Stay prepared, stay safe.

NOTE: For comprehensive information, refer to the Australian Standard 2444 (AS 2444) Portable Fire Extinguishers and Fire Blankets – selection and location.

Contact Harbour Fire & Security today for complete training courses, advice, and fire safety equipment.

Tags: Extinguisher tips, extinguisher types, fire extinguishers, PASS method
How to Safely Operate a Fire Extinguisher

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