How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

When a fire occurs, the first thing people usually look for is a fire extinguisher. By using an extinguisher correctly, the fire could be substantially lessened or eliminated quickly. It is important that you read all of the operating instructions for your fire extinguisher in advance so that you will know exactly how to use it when you are faced with a fire emergency situation.

There are a variety of different kinds of fire extinguishers currently available. Fortunately, most of them work in a similar way to make fire extinguishing a lot easier. Here are the four basic steps to remember if you need to use a fire extinguisher to put out a fire:

1) Pull out the pin.

Unless the pin is removed, the locking mechanism will prevent an extinguisher from being discharged. In order to release the mechanism, just pull the pin when you first locate the extinguisher.

2) Aim for the base of the fire, not the flames.

One of the most common mistakes made in fire extinguishing is discharging the fire extinguisher in the direction of the flames. While it might seem natural to spray the flames because they are the most visible aspects of a fire, you need to point the extinguisher at the bottom of the fire. This will put out the fire’s fuel and subsequently the fire itself.

3) Squeeze the lever of the fire extinguisher slowly.

Another error is to press the extinguisher’s lever with too much speed and/or force. It takes an even grip and slow pressure applied to the lever for the extinguishing agent to be fully released. The discharge of the extinguishing agent will stop once the operator lets go of the handle.

4) Sweeping motions work best, from side to side.

Standing at a safe distance away from the fire, use a sweeping motion as you move the fire extinguisher back and forth repeatedly. Continue to use the same method until the fire is out. As the flames of the fire subside, you can move closer towards it. Be very careful to watch all of the flames, and again, you want to aim for the base. Many extinguishers require the operator to remain several feet from the fire. However, it is strongly recommended that you read the instructions for your unit and learn more about the specific distance that is approved for that model.

You will notice that the first letters in each of the four steps above spell out the word “PASS.” To make it easier to remember the instructions, you can post them next to a fire extinguisher with the letters on the side. Show anyone who might be operating it how the letters spell the word and what they represent. In a fire, it often helps to have quick references, and a basic system (like remembering the word PASS) will greatly reduce the reaction time.

An average fire extinguisher has the power to extinguish for 10 seconds. Depending on whether or not the extinguisher has been previously discharged, it could contain less than 10 seconds of power. Never walk away from a fire that is extinguished. Instead, wait for a few minutes and make sure that it does not reignite. Obviously, if it is unsafe for you to stay at the location of the fire, you should evacuate promptly and safely. Fire extinguishers need to be recharged immediately following use.

Generally, an extinguisher is used on smaller fires. Larger fires are handled by the fire department in your local area. Refer to the owner’s manual and learn about the parts of your fire extinguisher to find out when and how they need to be maintained to ensure reliability. Do not delay and prepare yourself as soon as possible by contacting the experts at They provide a full service that includes Fire Training, Fire Safety and Evacuation Plans, Fire Audits, and the correction of any Fire Code Violations.

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

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