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While fire extinguishers are a helpful safety tool, always remember that they should only be used in certain instances. Do not use a fire extinguisher if:
- The fire is spreading too quickly
- The fire could block your only exit
- The fire is too large
- The fire is so hot you can’t get close enough to fight it effectively (10-15 feet)
- You’ve had to get down on your knees and/or crawl because you can’t see well otherwise, because of high temperatures, or because of smoke.
Evacuate immediately to a safe distance and call the fire department.
Types of Fire Extinguishers
There are four different classes of fire extinguishers – A, B, C and D. Each class can extinguish a different type of fire. There are also multipurpose fire extinguisher. It is very important to use the correct class of fire extinguishers, as some will make things worse and can result in increased flames, electrocution and death. It is recommended to use an ABC fire extinguisher to guarantee safety.
- Class A extinguishers – Fires involving wood, paper, cloth, rubber and many plastics
- Class B extinguishers – Fires involving flammable liquids and gases including gasoline, solvents, propane and paints.
- Class C extinguishers – Fires involving energized electrical equipment, including fuse boxes, wiring, control panels, computers, copiers, machines and appliances.
- Class D extinguishers – Fires involving cooking oils and fats often used in commercial kitchens.
Using Fire Extinguishers
Typically fire extinguishers are quite easy to use, but make sure to familiarize yourself with the directions on your fire extinguisher. Fully understanding the directions can be the difference between a small fire and a burnt building. It is recommended to stand approximately 8 feet away from the fire or farther if unsafe and use the P.A.S.S. technique.
- Pull the pin on the fire extinguisher to break the tamper seal.
- Aim the fire extinguisher low, with the nozzle pointed at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the handle of the fire extinguisher to release the extinguishing agent.
- Sweep the nozzle from side to side while pointed at the base of the fire until it is extinguished
If the fire re-ignites, repeat the last 3 steps.
Fire Extinguisher Inspections and Maintenance
OSHA regulation states “The employer shall provide portable fire extinguishers and shall mount, locate and identify them so that they are readily accessible to employees without subjecting the employees to possible injury”. Fire extinguishers should be mounted on brackets or in wall cabinets with the carrying handle places 3-1/2 to 5 feet above the floor. Larger fire extinguishers need to be mounted at lower heights with the carrying handle about 3 feet from the floor. Ensure there are signs to makes it easy for people to know where an extinguisher is.
Fire extinguishers need to be maintained and inspected to make sure that they are in working order. Every month, do a visual inspection of your fire extinguisher. During this inspection, if any of the following is an issue, either fix or contact a qualified technician to perform maintenance.
- Extinguishers are in their designated locations
- Fire extinguishers are accessible and not blocked
- Instructions labels on extinguishers are legible
- All seals and tamper indicators are sound
- No signs of corrosion, damage, leaking or clogging
Fire extinguishers must also undergo annual maintenance by a qualified technician. They will exam the extinguisher to ensure that the extinguishing agent, mechanical parted, expelling means and physical condition of the extinguisher are all in good working order. Lastly, any rechargeable extinguisher must undergo a hydrostatic test after 6 and 12 years. Non-rechargeable extinguishers do not require this test but must be removed from service no later than 12 years after their manufacture date.
Fire extinguishers are not only important, but required for your ReStore. Ensure you have the proper extinguishers in place and up to date.