A portable fire extinguisher can save lives by extinguishing small fire until the fire department arrives. Portable extinguishers are not designed to fight large fires. Even against small fires, they are useful only under certain conditions.
PROPER USE OF EXTINGUISHERS
The operator should know how to use the fire extinguisher before a fire occurs. There is no time to read the directions during an emergency.
The extinguisher should be readily accessible, fully charged, and in good working order.
The operator must have a clear escape route that will not be blocked by the fire.
The extinguisher must match the type of fire being fought. Extinguishers that contain water are unsuitable for use on grease or electrical fires.
The extinguisher must be large enough to put out the fire. Many portable extinguishers discharge completely in as few as 8 to 10 seconds.
CHOOSING YOU EXTINGUISHER
Fire extinguishers are tested by independent laboratories and labeled for the type and size fire they can extinguish. Use these labels as a guide to purchase the kind of extinguisher that meets your needs.
CLASSES OF FIRE
There are three basic classes of fires. All fire extinguishers are labeled using standard symbols for the classes of fires they can extinguish. A red slash thorough any of the symbols tell you the extinguisher cannot be used on that type of fire. A missing symbol tells you only that extinguisher has not been tested for a given class of fire.
The extinguisher must be appropriate for the type of fire being fought. If you use the wrong type of extinguisher, you can endanger yourself and make the fire worse. Multi-purpose fire extinguishers marked ABC may be used on all classes of fires.
Remember, in some cases it may be dangerous to use any type of extinguisher. For example, pressurized extinguishing agent could spread a grease pan fire rather than put it out.
Portable fire extinguishers are also rated for the size of fire they can handle. The rating will appear on the label, for example: 2A:10BC. The larger the numbers, the larger the fire that the extinguisher can put out, but the higher-rated models are often heavier. Make sure you can hold and operate an extinguisher before you buy it.
RULES FOR FIGHTING FIRES
Fire can be very dangerous and you should always be certain that you would not endanger yourself or others when attempting to put out a fire.
When a fire is discovered assist any person in danger if you can do this without putting yourself in danger.
Activate the fire alarm in you are in an office or call 9-1-1.
After these two goals are accomplished, if the fire is small, you may attempt to use an extinguisher to put it out.
NEVER FIGHT A FIRE IF
You don't know what is burning. If you do not know what is burning, you won't know what type of extinguisher to use. Even if you have an ABC extinguisher, there may be something in the fire, which is going to explode or produce highly toxic smoke. Chances are, you will know what's burning, or at the least have a pretty good idea, but if you don't, let the fire department handle it.
The fire is spreading beyond the spot where it started. The time to use an extinguisher
is in the incipient, or beginning stages of a fire. If the fire is already spreading
quickly, it is best to evacuate your home or office, closing the doors and windows behind
you as you leave.
You don't have adequate or appropriate equipment. If you don't have the correct type or large enough extinguisher, it is best not to try to fight the fire.
Your instincts tell you not to. If you are uncomfortable with the situation for any reason, just let the fire department extinguish the fire.
The final rule is to always position yourself with an exit or means of escape at your back before you attempt to use an extinguisher to put out a fire. In case the extinguisher malfunctions, or something unexpected happens, you need to be able to get out quickly, and you don't want to become trapped, just remember, always keep an exit at your back.
INSTALLATION AND MAINTENANCE
Extinguishers should be installed in plain view, above the reach of children, near an escape route, and away from stoves and heating appliances.
Extinguishers require routine care. Read your operator's manual to learn how to inspect your extinguisher. Follow manufacturer's instructions on maintenance.
Rechargeable models must be serviced after every use. (Service companies are listed in the telephone directory under "Fire Extinguishers"). Disposable fire extinguishers can be used only once and must be replaced after use.