Environmental Safety Services, Portable Fire Extinguisher Safety Training
They are small and unobtrusive. You carry one on the your road in your vehicles and watercraft. Most emergency responders and members of the general public have one at home, usually with clothing hanging from them or hidden in cabinets.
Few emergency responders and even less civilians ever receive the amount of hands-on training necessary to use one effectively. They can cause serious injury or death if used improperly. What are we talking about? Hand portable fire extinguishers.
What You Need to Know Before the Fire Breaks Out
There are four different classes of fire that you may have to deal with.
Class "A" fires consist of those fuels that leave behind ash and glowing embers. Some examples of these fuels are wood, paper, clothing, plastics, hair, skin, etc. Yes, we can become a fuel if we use the extinguisher improperly.
Class "B" fires are those that involve flammable and combustible liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, diesel, alcohol, grease and cooking oils.
Class"C" fires involve energized electrical equipment. The fuel that is burning may be Class "A", Class "B" or Class "D" while "C" designation indicates an electrical shock hazard.
Class "D" fires are composed of combustible metals such as magnesium, lithium, sodium, etc. They normally burn with a very intense, white hot flame which is aggravated by most extinguishing agents.
Fire extinguishers have several potential hazards including obscured vision from the extinguishing agent, toxic by-products from the extinguishing agent or the fire, asphyxiation from displacement of oxygen in a confined space, electrical shock and an increased fire spread.
Inspecting Your Unit:
All fire extinguishers should be inspected monthly. Proper inspection should follow the following general procedures:
Wipe the extinguisher shell clean with a damp cloth; Check the extinguisher for damage to the shell or operating parts such as the gauge, nozzle or handles; Check to see that the pressure is within the operable range if it is a stored pressure extinguisher (Check the weight if it is a carbon dioxide extinguisher or pressure cartridge); Check the date of manufacture on the extinguisher label.
Check to be sure the anti-tamper seal is intact; Twist the locking pin slightly to make sure it is not frozen in place; Check inside the hose or nozzle for obstructions; Turn the extinguisher upside down to fluff the extinguishing agent if it is a dry chemical type.
Activation and Usage:
For self protection, the general rules listed below should be adhered to:
Call for help (911)
Obtain the proper fire extinguisher-some extinguishing agents can make the fire worse, e.g. water, CO2 or Halon on combustible metal fires.
Stay upwind of the fire, Stay a safe distance away from the fire - 6 to 10 feet minimum for most extinguishers. Any closer use of the extinguisher may lead to gouging of a liquid fuel which will cause the fire to spread and grow rapidly in size as well as endanger the extinguisher operator.
Release the extinguisher locking mechanism. This may be a ring pin, a locking lever, a break- away seal or a combination of the three.
If the extinguisher is a cartridge operated type - several important safety precautions should be followed: Check the tightness of the extinguisher lid first - a loose lid may come off the extinguisher under sudden pressurization leading to death or serious injury,
Remove the extinguisher hose from it's bracket, breaking the anti-tamper seal, Keep a firm grip on the nozzle assembly with the nozzle pointed away from your face, Point the top of the extinguisher away from yourself as well as other people, Activate the extinguisher by pushing down on the cartridge activation lever, Keep all extinguishers upright during use Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, Squeeze the activation lever fully open - this may be hose or extinguisher mounted Sweep the extinguishing agent from side-to-side working from the lowest level of fire up to the highest
Replace the used extinguisher with a full one as soon as possible and get the used one serviced.
Hands-on fire extinguisher training is a must.
You cannot safely operate fire extinguishers without it. Training is not just for emergency response personnel, however. If you have a fire extinguisher in your home, you must train your family how to safely use it.
Everyone should be trained in the basic operating principles of the extinguisher they are expected to use. The training should be conducted on a realistic sized fire that they may be expected to encounter.
Most Fire Departments have Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training, and they do provide Fire Extinguisher training during that course.
If you are not going to train your family to use a fire extinguisher, please get rid of your home extinguishers, buy more smoke detectors, and teach your family how to evacuate in case of fire. An improperly used fire extinguisher may make the fire worse and may lead to serious burn injuries for the untrained operator.
Protect yourself, your fellow emergency responders and your family by obtaining proper training in the use of portable fire extinguishers.