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  • Rob Haywood

How to use a fire extinguisher

Updated: Jan 23

The UK Safety Hub has prepared this advice on how to use a fire extinguisher, as recommended by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK:

CO2 and Foam fire extinguishers in an office building
CO2 and Foam fire extinguishers in an office building

1. Assess the situation

  • Before attempting to use a fire extinguisher, take a moment to assess the situation and ensure you are not putting yourself at risk. If the fire is too large or spreading too quickly, it is safer to evacuate the building.

  • If the fire appears to be manageable, check for exits and make sure everyone is aware of the fire. Close doors behind you to contain the fire.

2. Choose the right extinguisher

  • There are different types of fire extinguishers for different types of fires. Class A extinguishers are for ordinary combustibles, such as paper, wood, and textiles. Class B extinguishers are for flammable liquids, such as petrol, oil, and paint. Class C extinguishers are for flammable gases, such as LPG and butane. Class D extinguishers are for combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, and sodium.

  • Check the label on the extinguisher to make sure it is suitable for the type of fire you are dealing with.

3. Stand back and aim

  • Stand at least 6 feet (2 metres) from the base of the fire.

  • Aim the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the fire, not at the flames.

4. Squeeze the lever and sweep from side to side

  • Squeeze the lever on the extinguisher to release the extinguishing agent.

  • Sweep the nozzle from side to side, covering the entire base of the fire.

  • Continue until the fire is completely extinguished.

5. Check for reignition

  • After using the extinguisher, check the area for any signs of reignition.

  • If the fire starts to reignite, use the extinguisher again.

6. Activate the alarm

  • If you have not already done so, activate the fire alarm to alert others in the building.

7. Evacuate the building

  • Once the fire is extinguished and the alarm has been activated, evacuate the building using the designated fire exits.

  • Do not return to the building until the fire service has declared it safe to do so.

Additional tips:

  • Familiarize yourself with the location of fire extinguishers in your workplace and practice using them regularly.

  • Attend fire safety training to learn more about fire extinguisher use and other fire safety procedures.

  • Keep fire extinguishers where they are easily accessible and in good working condition.

  • Inspect fire extinguishers on a regular basis, to ensure they are not damaged or leaking.

  • Replace fire extinguishers when they are past their expiry date.

Remember, if you are unsure about how to use a fire extinguisher, it is always best to err on the side of caution and evacuate the building.

Shop for Fire Extinguisher Signs at the UK's Fire Safety Signs store, The Sign Shed.


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