Fire extinguishers are an extremely effective item of fire fighting equipment, but only if you know how to use them properly. There really is no substitute for hands-on training, so if your company offers this, leap at the chance.
If you own a business, when periodic disharge tests are due or you are replacing your old but safe fire extinguishers with new ones, consider using the older extinguishers for invaluable hands-on training for your staff.
If In Doubt, Get Out
When considering whether to tackle a small fire yourself if you discover one, always bear in mind the golden rule of fire safety; If in doubt, get out, stay out and call the Fire Brigade immediately.
Using a Fire Extinguisher on a Class A, B or C Fire
These fires are the most common that you might be required to deal with. Most water, water additive, CO2 and powder fire extinguishers work in the same way, regardless of shape or size. An easy way to remember what to do when operating a fire extinguisher is to think of the acronym PASS.
PULL the safety pin out, to free the lever on top of the extinguisher
AIM the fire extinguisher nozzle or hose at the base of the fire, standing around 8 feet back from the fire
SQUEEZE the handle to release the fire-fighting agent
SWEEP the nozzle or hose across the base of the fire (not the flames) until it is fully extinguished
Using a Fire Extinguisher on a Class D Fire
Class D fires involving flammable metals require specialist fire extinguishers and fire extinguishing materials which have a special lance and low velocity applicator.
You should always be given full training in the use of these specialised extinguishers. For more details, see our Specialist Fire Extinguishers page
Using a Fire Extinguisher on a Class F Fire
Class F fires involving cooking oils and fats should only be tackled using a wet chemical fire extinguisher and this needs special training to be used effectively. For more details, see our Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers page.
Using a Fire Extinguisher On or Near Electrical Equipment
Only use a fire extinguisher on or near electrical equipment if the extinguisher carries the electrical safety icon, (a lightning flash with arrow). These would normally be CO2, powder, clean agents and water mist.
The best fire extinguisher safe to use directly on live electrical equipment is a CO2 fire extinguisher.
Using a CO2 Fire Extinguisher
When using CO2 fire extinguishers with a “swivel horn”, be careful not to hold the extinguisher by the horn. As the CO2 is released, ice rapidly forms on the horn and your skin may get frozen and burnt as a result.
Note: Many new 2kg CO2 extinguishers feature a “frost-free” horn that is safe to hold. However, it will not be obvious to most which ones are safe and which ones are not. For that reason, we still recommend not holding it at all.
Larger CO2 fire extinguishers should have a hose and horn. You can safely hold this horn by it’s handle or by the end of the horn that joins to the hose. For more details, see our Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishers page.