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Is Your Fire Extinguisher Working?

Did you know that there is no single fire extinguisher that can combat every kind of fire?

Effective fire safety begins with having the right fire extinguisher type that's relevant to your unique situation. There are different types of fire extinguishers on the market and you need to get the right kind.

A portable fire extinguisher can do magic to prevent disasters. According to surveys done in the UK, 93% of fire was successfully extinguished by portable fire extinguishers in 2021.

Read the following carefully to see what kind of fire extinguisher you need to have. Each fire extinguisher is created for distinct purposes so you need to choose the right kind for effective fire prevention.

Five Different Types of Fire

Class A - Involving ordinary combustibles such as paper, wood, cloth, plastics, or rubber.

Class B - Involving flammable liquids such as grease, oil paint, solvent, etc.

Class C - Involving energized/live electrical equipment such as electrical panels, appliances, or power tools.

Class D - Involving combustible metals such as Magnesium, Aluminum, Titanium, and Potassium.

Class K - Involving commercial cooking equipment such as combustible cooking oil.

Types of Portable Fire Extinguishers

Water Extinguishers: They are filled with approximately two-thirds with water and then pressurized with air. Class A fire can be extinguished with this type of extinguisher as they rapidly remove the heat from the burning material.

Water extinguishers must not use for any electrical fire for water is a conductor of electricity. Also, it must not be used for flammable liquid or cooking oil fires.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extinguishers: They are pressurized Carbon Dioxide, useful for Class B and C fires. Carbon Dioxide covers the fule by blanketing it and effectively prevents further reaction by displacing oxygen. Please note that Carbon Dioxide extinguishers have a moderate spray range and only last between 10 to 30 seconds. You may need to attach a hard horn to aim at the target area better.

You must not use this type of extinguisher in confined spaces unless you and other people have appropriate respiratory protection gear. Also, do not use Carbon Dioxide extinguishers for Class A fires as they will re-ignite after the CO2 disperses.

Know When to Use a Portable Fire Extinguisher

You need to be trained to correctly use a fire extinguisher to combat a fire, with a clear understanding of what type and class of material are burning. If you are not trained or cannot safely extinguish the fire using a portable extinguisher, immediately pull the fire alarm, evacuate the area, and then call the fire department.

Use the PASS system to use an extinguisher:

P: Pull the pin on the extinguisher

A: Aim the extinguisher

S: Squeeze the trigger/top handle

S: Sweep the affected area with the extinguisher's spray and maintain the action until the fire is completely out

For floor fires, start from the edges and move inward. For wall fires, move from the bottom up. Even if the fire seems out, never walk away from the scene immediately. See if the residue would reignite and confirm. Always make sure you stay near the escape route so that if the fire grows too big to be extinguished, you can leave the scene immediately.

Location and Maintenance of Fire Extinguishers

Every fire extinguisher's location must be easily accessible and clearly visible. They need to be easily reached without any obstructions. Location signs, class markings, and operating instructions all need to be clear.

Make sure you use the proper size of extinguishers. Install them according to the height requirement as per your jurisdiction's Fire Code. Service them at least once a year or when the monthly inspection indicates. Keep written records including the type of extinguishers, location, inspection date, description of texts, date of next inspection, and inspector's signature and comments.

*Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

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