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Safe Operating of Fire Extinguishers

Fact

Poor maintenance and incorrect usage of fire extinguishers in the home are two key reasons small house fires can spread endangering lives and causing considerable damage to property. House fires can be brought under control within the first few minutes of ignition if attended to correctly with an extinguisher that is well maintained, which can buy valuable time before the Fire Brigade arrives.

How to operate a fire extinguisher

There are a number of different types of portable fire extinguishers, each can be identified by the colour coding and labelling. Check that the extinguisher you intend to use is suitable for the type of fire encountered eg a water extinguisher must never be used on any fire involving electrical equipment.

There are four (4) basic steps for using modern portable fire extinguishers.

The acronym PASS is used to describe these four basic steps.

  1. Pull (Pin)
    Pull pin at the top of the extinguisher, breaking the seal. When in place, the pin keeps the handle from being pressed and accidentally operating the extinguisher. Immediately test the extinguisher. (Aiming away from the operator) This is to ensure the extinguisher works and also shows the operator how far the stream travels
  2. Aim
    Approach the fire standing at a safe distance. Aim the nozzle or outlet towards the base of the fire.
  3. Squeeze
    Squeeze the handles together to discharge the extinguishing agent inside. To stop discharge, release the handles.
  4. Sweep
    Sweep the nozzle from side to side as you approach the fire, directing the extinguishing agent at the base of the flames. After an A Class fire is extinguished, probe for smouldering hot spots that could reignite the fuel.

Extinguisher tips

  • The Australian Standard 2444 (AS 2444) Portable Fire Extinguishers and Fire Blankets selection and location will provide comprehensive information.
  • Ensure everyone in the home/office knows the location of all extinguishers and how to use them.
  • Only ever operate an extinguisher if safe to do so. If in doubt, get out.
  • Remove the safety pin by pulling it sharply (this also breaks the plastic seal). Test to ensure that the extinguisher is operable immediately after removing from the mounting bracket.
  • Always try to work in pairs for safety.
  • Carry or drag extinguisher to the scene of the fire.

In an Emergency Call Triple Zero (000)

A collaboration of Fire & Rescue NSW, NSW Rural Fire Service, ACT Fire Brigade and ACT Rural Fire Service