“What is that smell? It smells like something’s burning!” You look up and see a fire coming from the trash can… what do you do??

“Hurry! Find something to extinguish the fire! Call 911!”

A fire extinguisher is usually in sight in public locations. Many people may think that a fire extinguisher is easy to use, but if you’ve never been trained, it might not be as simple as you think and you won’t know how to properly use it. When there’s a fire, there’s no time to look for instructions!

Knowing how to properly use a fire extinguisher is important because if a fire starts and no one knows how to use the extinguisher, the fire can spread, and property damage won’t be our only problem—lives become at stake as well.

What do you use a fire extinguisher for?

Fire extinguishers are classified by fire type. They are clearly marked with labels indicating if they are applicable to the fire type. Fire is divided into five categories, and the most common fires belong to A, B, and C (ordinary solid combustibles, flammable liquids and gases, energized electrical equipment). If your fire extinguisher is qualified for all three, then the label will have all three letters. D and K are designed for more specific fire types (combustible metals, oils and fats).

What should you do when you see a fire?

If you see a fire at your workplace, follow the procedures in your Emergency Action Plan:

  • If the fire alarm sounds, or if you see a fire, call 911 immediately
  • Follow the site coordinator’s instructions
  • Alert everyone to evacuate the site of the fire
  • Close the door when you leave to confine the fire
  • Do not take the elevator (the elevator can get stuck and you can get trapped)
  • Seek refuge at your company’s designated meeting location as soon as you evacuate so that you will be accounted for when taking attendance

Those trained to handle a fire must immediately assess the situation and see if they should use a fire extinguisher to extinguish the fire. When the fire is too big, everyone including those who are trained to use fire extinguishers should evacuate immediately.

When training employees on how to use a fire extinguisher, teach them the P.A.S.S. method:

  • Pull the pin
  • Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire. This is important because hitting the top of the flame with the extinguisher powder won’t’ be effective on the fire and could cause it to spread. You need to smother the fire at its base
  • Squeeze the lever above the handle firmly to discharge the extinguishing agent
  • Sweep the hose from side until the fire is extinguished. Keep aiming at the base until the fire is extinguished or when the extinguishing agent/powder is depleted. Most extinguishers will give you 15 to 20 seconds of discharge time

At KCAL Insurance Agency, we would like to remind you that when you are put in a difficult situation and are unsure about how to use the fire extinguisher, immediately leave the scene. 

After the company’s Emergency Action Plan is set, make sure that all employees are familiar with the escape routes, safety equipment, and safety sites outside the workplace.

As an employer, you must confirm that all fire extinguishers in the workplace are inspected, maintained, and tested. Current regulations require companies to have monthly inspections on every single fire extinguisher. A more thorough inspection which is done by a certified professional is required each year. Employers record this date and keep it for one full year or for the life of the extinguisher—whichever is less.

Understanding how to use a fire extinguisher properly can not only prevent property damage, but it can also save lives. In the event of a fire, immediate action taken by employees can reduce the company’s property damage. In regards to the commercial and workers’ compensation premium increase, if there are other safety classes your company can take to prevent disasters like these from occurring, then you should talk to an insurance broker to find out if you can get more discounts!