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The 1, 2, 3s of Using a Fire Extinguisher

It seems so simple. There’s a fire, and you have a fire extinguisher on hand. It doesn’t seem serious yet, so you think you can handle it. You grab the fire extinguisher, and suddenly you realize that you’re looking at a foreign device. It’s time to learn the language.

Remember this acronym for fire extinguisher use: P A S S …

  • P
    Pull the pin.
    The pin releases the locking mechanism and enables the extinguisher for use. Immediately test, aiming away, before approaching the fire from a safe distance.
  • A
    Aim at the base of the fire.
    The base, the fuel of the fire - NOT the flames - must be extinguished.
  • S
    Squeeze the lever slowly.
    This will release the extinguishing agent. NOTE: A typical fire extinguisher contains only 10 seconds of extinguishing power.
  • S
    Sweep from side to side.
    Don’t walk away! Look for hot spots that could reignite.

Before attempting to use a fire extinguisher, quickly ask yourself these questions:

  1. Has someone called the fire department?
  2. Do I have 2 ways to exit quickly and safely if I attempt to put out this fire?
  3. Is the fire small and contained? (A trash basket, pot on the stove, etc.)

When in doubt, get out.

If the answer is “no” to any of the above questions, get out. Only attempt to extinguish a fire when it is safe to do so. If you’re unsure if you will be able to put out the fire with the extinguisher in 5 seconds, evacuate immediately, shutting all doors as you leave to prevent the spread of the fire. Call 9-1-1 as soon as you vacate the building.  

Familiarize yourself with the “fire triangle” - elements that enable fire to exist:

  • Heat
    Heat elevates temperature to its ignition point.
  • Fuel
    Fuels may be comprised of anything from solids (paper, wood, cloth, coal) to liquids (gasoline, kerosene, paint, cooking oil) to gases (propane, butane, natural gas).
  • Oxygen
    Without oxygen, fuels will vaporize but not burn. An atmosphere of 20 percent oxygen allows for a vigorously burning fire.

Fire extinguisher usage tips:

  • Stand with an exit at your back.
  • Stand several feet away, only advancing when the fire wanes. If you feel the heat, you are too close.
  • Use a slow sweeping motion at the fire’s base.
  • Work in pairs whenever possible for safety.
  • Call 9-1-1 as soon as the fire is out, continuing to observe the area in case the fire reignites.

Don’t neglect proper fire extinguisher installation and maintenance!

  • Locate extinguishers in plain view, near an escape route, and out of reach of children. Never store extinguishers near stoves or heating appliances.
  • Routinely follow the manufacturer’s maintenance inspection instructions.
  • Purchase a replacement for disposable models immediately following use, or service rechargeable models immediately.

After the fire is out, call Rainbow International® immediately. Soot and smoke from fire damage must be handled within the first 24-48 hours. Fire Destroys, but Rainbow International restores your home. Learn more about the dangers of fire damage. We have complete smoke and fire restoration services.

Other Related Blog Posts:

Plan Your Fire Escape

How Fire Protection Equipment Can Save Your Life

Understanding the Classes and Choosing the Right Fire Extinguisher