Fire extinguishers are safety devices designed to (as their name cleverly suggests) extinguish fires. As with any tool, there are right and wrong ways to use fire extinguishers; since the risks associated with improper handling can be quite severe, it’s vital that you know what to do — and what not to do — when utilizing this equipment. In an effort to emphasize the dangers involved, the following actions describe what you SHOULD NOT do.
- Ignore the instructions written on the extinguisher: This one may sound obvious, but it can be easy to get lost in the panic that fires tend to ignite. By knowing the instructions ahead of time, you’ll be fully prepared in the event of an emergency. All extinguisher should have unique guidelines written on them to enable users to maximize the device.
- Use the wrong type of extinguisher for the wrong class of fire: There are five classes of fire, and thus five extinguishers designed to put each kind out. These are the Water, Foam, Dry Powder, CO2, and Wet Chemical fire extinguishers; if you use the wrong type on the wrong class of fire, you could end up exacerbating the problem and fueling the fire even further.
- Rush into a fire unprepared: Before you go launching yourself in a crusade against the blaze, take the time to analyze the fire — think about where it started from, what the source of the fuel is, and what direction it is moving in. This information will show you the best place to position yourself and help you determine whether the fire can be controlled with the extinguisher on hand. At the same time, you have to act quickly: most fires double in size within 60 seconds.
The best way to truly understand proper fire extinguisher use is to take one of the many fire extinguisher training courses available; you’ll gain in-depth knowledge on the five classes of fire and how to handle each one. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a basic life support class (BLS class) in conjunction with your fire extinguisher training course — after all, you never know when such information will come in handy.