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Knowledge Share: How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

May 21, 2024

Fire extinguishers are essential fire safety tools. They are crucial devices for aiding safe evacuation from buildings. They can also, under certain circumstances, help prevent small fires from escalating into major disasters. Whether you’re at home, in the workplace, or any public space, knowing how to use a fire extinguisher correctly can make a significant difference. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through the basic steps of using a fire extinguisher effectively. We strongly recommend you to carry out some further training to ensure you know how to operate an extinguisher properly. 

Understand the Different Types of Fire Extinguisher

There are several different types of fire extinguishers. It’s crucial to know the different types and their uses:

  • Class A: For ordinary combustibles like wood, paper, and cloth.
  • Class B: For flammable liquids (e.g., oil, grease).
  • Class C: For electrical fires (do not use water-based extinguishers).
  • Class D: For combustible metals (e.g., magnesium, titanium).
  • Class K: Specifically for kitchen fires involving cooking oils and fats.

Before Using an Extinguisher, Assess the Situation…

When you encounter a fire, follow these initial steps:

  • Stay Calm: Panic can worsen the situation.
  • Evaluate the Fire: Ensure it’s safe to use an extinguisher. If the fire is spreading rapidly or too large, evacuate immediately and call emergency services.

We never encourage people to tackle fires. It is possible that tackling a fire could make it worse and cost you valuable time to escape the building. We instead, advise that you need to know how to use an extinguisher in case you are unable to escape without tackling the fire.

If you have to tackle a fire, keep your fire escape route behind you so you can quickly leave if needed. 

Remember the PASS Technique


The PASS technique simplifies fire extinguisher use and helps you to know what to do to use an extinguisher:

  • Pull: Pull the pin to break the tamper seal.
  • Aim: Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze: Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
  • Sweep: Sweep from side to side, covering the fire area.

Using the Fire Extinguisher

Now let’s break down the steps:

  • Position: Stand about 6 to 8 feet away from the fire.
  • Pull: Pull the pin from the handle.
  • Aim: Aim low, directing the nozzle at the fire’s base.
  • Squeeze: Squeeze the handle to discharge the extinguishing agent.
  • Sweep: Sweep side to side, covering the flames entirely.

Maintain Safe Distance

  • Keep a safe distance from the fire.
  • Move closer as the fire diminishes.
  • Remember fires can spread rapidly so protect your escape route.

Know When to Stop

If the fire doesn’t subside after using the entire extinguisher, evacuate immediately. Do not look for another extinguisher to tackle the fire. Evacuate as soon as possible. Remember that smoke and fumes could very easily lead you to pass out. Never turn your back on a fire. Fires grow quickly. It is better to escape than risk your life. 

Post-Extinguisher Steps

  • Monitor: Watch for re-ignition.
  • Call for Help: Even if the fire is out, call the fire service to ensure the building is in a safe condition.
  • Recharge or Replace:  Arrange for a suitable contractor to refill or replace the extinguisher promptly.

Don’t Forget The Need For Regular Inspections

Making sure your extinguishers are kept in good functioning condition is vital. Check the pressure gauge regularly, and that they are correctly positioned with suitable signage.  Ensure the extinguisher is accessible and unobstructed. Do not let people use them as a doorstop! Keep the extinguisher in good condition, clean and available. Ensure they are serviced annually. 

Carry Out Regular Fire Safety Training 

JCH Safety provides a range of online fire safety training courses which includes detailed information on how to use fire extinguishers. We advise that you check out these courses to learn more about how to use fire extinguishers. It is good practice to carry out fire safety training each year.

Make Sure To Have An Up To Date Fire Risk Assessment and DSEAR Assessment

Your fire risk assessment should be reviewed annually. If you do not have a fire risk assessment in place, we can help.

Concluding Thoughts…..

Being familiar with fire extinguisher usage can save lives. Remember the PASS technique, stay calm, and act swiftly. Always prioritise safety and evacuate if necessary. Never take risks.