Fire extinguishers come in many different sizes and there are several types. Each one is designed for a different use, and it is essential that you have the right one for the job you are trying to accomplish. Using the wrong fire extinguisher for the job can make the situation worse or cause someone to get injured – so it is crucial to know what you are using before you pull the pin.
Fire Extinguisher Types
There are several common fire extinguisher types you should consider having on a job or work site, ready to use. Water extinguishers are typically silver-colored and contain just straight water for putting out fires on wood, paper, and fabrics, but you can't use them on chemicals, electrical fires, oils, or in areas where water would damage the equipment nearby.
While water is a great way to put out ordinary combustibles, they are not used as much as they used to be – and with today's synthetics and chemicals, there is good reason to set them aside for better, more effective tools. Dry chemical extinguishers are very common and use a mixture of monoammonium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, and potassium bicarbonate powders, or one of the powders by itself.
The powder is sprayed onto the fire and smoother it, removing the oxygen and putting out the fire. Also still commonly used are carbon dioxide extinguishers, the ones with the large black nozzle on them, and they are effective on nearly every fire type without leaving a mess behind. Like the other extinguishers, the CO2 unit removes the oxygen from around the fire so it can't breathe and goes out.
Proper Use of Fire Extinguishers
Every employer should have a class for their employees to learn the proper use of a fire extinguisher, and most local fire departments are happy to provide training for people. The extinguisher is not hard to use, but the first rule is only to use one if you can do so safely. If you need to stand in the smoke or too close to the fire, you are not safe, and you may need to step away and let the fire department handle it.
If you can get to the fire safely, all you need to do to use any fire extinguisher is to remove the safety pin, point the hose or nozzle at the base of the fire, squeeze the handle, and sweep back and forth across the base. Keep the motion slow and constant until the fire is out or the extinguisher is empty, then back away from the area carefully.
Putting the fire out may not be possible if it is too big, but if you manage to keep it from spreading until help arrives, that can make a significant difference in the damage sustained from the fire.
For more information about using a fire extinguisher, contact your local fire department or a fire extinguisher company.