Use a portable fire extinguisher only if the fire is small, contained to one area, and does not involve highly flammable materials. Evacuate the building immediately and call for help if the fire spreads out of control.

Know when and how to extinguish a fire using a portable fire extinguisher and when to call 911 and evacuate the building with these helpful tips.

Call the fire department first

 This first step may surprise you, but before you even attempt to extinguish a fire on your own with an extinguisher, give your local fire department a call. It doesn’t matter how small or manageable the fire may seem; it never hurts to have back up if the extinguisher can’t control the fire in time. If the worst thing that happens is that the fire department shows up and isn’t needed, consider that the best-case scenario.

When the fire does not involve highly flammable liquids

If any fire involves highly flammable liquids or other materials, do not try to extinguish it on your own with an extinguisher. Fires that involve highly combustible liquids like gasoline, alcohol, solvents, etc. can cause an explosion or spread rapidly out of control.

These flammable liquids are referred to as Class B hazards and can be incredibly dangerous to manage on your own.

When the fire is fully contained

Use a portable extinguisher is the fire is contained to one area. If the fire has spread to other areas of a room, or has progressed beyond incipient stage, evacuate the room, and call for help.

What does fully contained mean? It can mean different things depending on the room and size of fire, but it generally means that there is little to no threat that the fire will spread beyond the place of inception.

When the fire is not extinguished with one portable extinguisher  

If the extinguisher you are using is empty and the fire is not yet fully extinguished, it’s time to evacuate and call 911.

Do not try to use another portable extinguisher to put out the fire. If one full extinguisher doesn’t extinguish the fire, it’s too big to put out on your own.

Have an emergency action plan

Knowing when and how to extinguish a fire using a portable fire extinguisher should be a part of your business’ emergency action plan. Educate employees on the placement of each extinguisher, how to use the extinguisher, and when to do so. Some small fires can be extinguished with a portable extinguisher, and others require a call to 911.

It’s critical that employees know the limitations of a portable fire extinguisher and the hazards associated with fighting fires.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) lays out some helpful tips for business owners in implementing an emergency action plan, noting that “Evacuation plans that designate or require some or all of the employees to fight fires with portable fire extinguishers increase the level of complexity of the plan and the level of training that must be provided employees.”

Train all employees

By training employees on the proper use of fire extinguishers, you’re essentially adding a layer of protection for you and your employees. A trained staff is a safe staff. Don’t underestimate the benefits of training from a fire safety standpoint.

Your fire protection company may offer free on-site extinguisher trainings, like Fire Systems, Inc. Fire Systems offers this complimentary service to all clients.

If you don’t have access to formal training programs, remind employees of the P.A.S.S. method:

P– Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism.

A- Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.

S– Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.

S– Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.

Make sure you have enough extinguishers

Having access to the appropriate type of fire extinguisher is equally important. Make sure you know how many portable fire extinguishers you need for your building. The NFPA sets the code requirements for how many extinguishers a building needs, using criteria like hazard type and building size. The purpose of these codes is to make sure portable fire extinguishers are correctly placed and visibly accessible in the event of a fire emergency. Even the size of extinguisher is specifically tailored to your building size and type. For example, 5-pound, 10-pound, or 20-pound extinguishers to ensure you have sufficient fire extinguishing agent to address a fire emergency within a specific space.

 Fire Systems, Inc. can help you determine the size, type and number of portable fire extinguishers you need for your building. We can also install and inspect your extinguishers. Call us today at 770-333-7979 or visit our website for additional information on all of our services.