It’s not common that someone can go through an American school system and not experience his or her share of fire safety drills. But more often than not, adults pass into their professional lives having forgotten some of the basics. If you need a refresher of fire safety and how to work a fire extinguisher, check out this guide.
We’ll remind you to “PASS a fire extinguisher.” Read on to learn more!
Importance of Fire Safety
There were 1,319,500 fires reported in the United States in 2017, resulting in a recorded 3,400 civilian deaths. Thankfully, home fires aren’t nearly as common as they used to be thanks to modern technology and fire alarm upgrades, but 3,400 civilian deaths in either residential or commercial fires is no small number. Think about how many of those 1.3 million fires could have been prevented with proper fire safety practices.
Although we see fire extinguishers in public buildings or inside our work offices all the time, you may be surprised to learn that only an approximate 87% of people actually know how to use one.
If you’re here to educate yourself, that’s fantastic, but you should be aware before we go any further that there are different classes of fire extinguishers designed for different kinds of fire. If you don’t have an extinguisher capable of taking on the fire you’re dealing with, it’s best to call 9-1-1.
Here’s two other crucial checks. First, determine if the fire is small enough that you could successfully suppress it with an extinguisher. If its size is beyond your control, don’t risk your life and health. Get out and call the fire department. Second, if you have determined the fire is a workable size, be sure you have a safe and accessible escape route in case the flames become uncontrollable while you’re extinguishing them. If you’re afraid you won’t have a route like this, don’t panic, but take immediate action to get out of the building in the safest way available to you. Call the fire department instead of taking on the fire.
However, if the fire’s small, you’ve identified a safe escape route, and you feel confident enough to wield a fire extinguisher, all that’s left to remember is “PASS”.
After you’ve removed the fire extinguisher from its wall holding, the first thing you’ll want to do is to pull the pin. Be advised, the round pin may feel stuck or hard to remove. If this is the case, don’t panic. It’s intentionally designed to be a little resistant to prevent it from accidentally loosening.
It should only take a few seconds for you to loosen the pin and pull it out. As you work on the fire extinguisher, someone should dial 9-1-1 for you, and someone else should go get another extinguisher if one is available. You can never use too many extinguishers on one fire, particularly considering the average extinguisher will only contain thirty seconds’ to a minute’s worth of suppressant.
Once you’re holding the extinguisher with the pin removed, aim the nozzle at the base of the fire. You’ll also want to be as comfortably close to the flames as possible to actually make contact with them. Oftentimes, even if they’re operating the extinguisher correctly, people stand too far away from a fire to really make a difference. Five to a maximum of twelve feet away is the most effective range.
When you’re ready, squeeze the handle of the extinguisher to begin tackling the fire.
Remember where to aim the suppressant (the base of the fire) and how far back from the fire you should be (5-12 feet).
As you aim the extinguisher at the fire and squeeze the handle, you should sweep the extinguisher from side to side. This not only ensures that you cover the base of the fire, but that you cover the surrounding areas where the flames may have already spread or have the potential of spreading to.
Remember that depending on the size and type of extinguisher, you’ll only have about 30-60 seconds of use before you exhaust the store of suppressant inside the device. Proper technique will make those seconds count.
PASS Method Reminders
Now that you know what “PASS a fire extinguisher” stands for and how to execute this move correctly, you’ll be safe during any minor fire.
Please keep in mind that fire extinguishers should only be used for small fires. In the event of anything bigger, find your exit safely and call 9-1-1. If you ever find yourself in a position where you do feel safe enough to act: be sure you’re using the right kind of extinguisher for the right kind of fire and don’t forget to PASS.
We hope you’ll never be in a situation where you have to PASS a fire extinguisher. But if you do, at least you’ll know how to do so correctly. For more information on fire safety, check out our website. There’s always more to learn. You can visit our blog for more articles like this one and/or contact us with any questions or concerns you may have!