How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
It is important that you know how to use a fire extinguisher before you need to use one because you won't have time to read the instructions when a fire breaks out.
The easiest way to learn how to use an extinguisher and how to remember what you have learned is the P.A.S.S. method that is explained in the diagrams below.
Before using a fire extinguisher, you must first identify the class of fire and then select the appropriate type of extinguisher for that class. Using the wrong type of extinguisher on a fire can make the fire worse and can also cause serious injury to the user. You can learn how to do this from our guide located here.
Diagram and Explanation of P.A.S.S. ActionsThe P.A.S.S acronym is an easy way to remember how to use a fire extinguisher:
- P stands for Pull out the safety pin
- A stands for Aim at the base of the fire
- S stands for Squeeze the levers
- S stands for Sweep from side to side
Pull Out the Safety PinAll fire extinguishers are fitted with a safety pin to prevent discharge occurring if the lever is accidentally pressed. The pin is located between the two levers that comprise the handle of the extinguisher. A plastic or lead seal is usually fitted to hold the pin in place and to prevent tampering. The action of pulling the pin will break the seal and allow you to operate the extinguisher.
Aim at the Base of the FireIt is important that you aim the hose, nozzle or horn of the extinguisher at the base of the fire, and not at the flames. The flames are simply the light-emitting, gaseous part of a fire, not the combusting fuel source. A fire will therefore be extinguished more efficiently if you attack its fuel source directly.
Squeeze the LeversSqueeze the levers together to operate the extinguisher and discharge the extinguishing agent.
All EN3 compliant fire extinguishers are fitted with a controllable discharge mechanism that allows the user to stop and restart the discharge during fire-fighting as appropriate. Squeezing the levers to the full extent possible will cause the extinguishing agent to be discharged at its maximum discharge rate, while releasing the levers will stop the discharge.
Sweep from Side to SideSweep the hose or nozzle from side to side across the base of the fire to ensure an even distribution of the extinguishing agent on the fuel source.
Tips for How to Safely Use a Fire Extinguisher
- Call for assistance before tackling a fire.
- Always keep your back to your fire exit and never let a fire get between you and your means of escape.
- Fire extinguishers are designed to cope with small fires or fires in the early stage of outbreak. Never attempt to fight a fire that is too big, spreading rapidly, or already out of control.
- Make sure that you have the right type of extinguisher for the fire. Using the wrong type of extinguisher on a fire can make the fire worse or cause serious injury to you.
- Check the fire area for any items that might present an explosive risk such as pressurised or flammable liquid containers, etc, and do not attempt to fight the fire if any of these items are present.
- If the fire involves electricity or gas, isolate the electricity or gas supply before fighting the fire. If you extinguish a gas fire without disconnecting the supply you will likely cause an explosion when the escaping gas builds up and makes new contact with a source of ignition.
- When fighting a fire, it may be helpful to crouch down on one knee to where you are below any overhead fumes, smoke or embers.
- Keep back a safe distance from the fire and never get closer than you need to be. If it's too hot, you're too close!
- Aim at the base of the fire and sweep from side-to-side across the base.
- Always remember the most important rule: If in doubt, get out!