How to use a fire extinguisher

Knowing how to use a fire extinguisher is a critical piece of knowledge in the event of an emergency. They are one of the most common and readily available pieces of fire fighting equipment. They can be found in most public and workplaces to use in the event of a fire breakout.

In the event of a breakout, they can be the difference between safety and catastrophe. When used safely they can completely put out or reduce the blaze and limit its effects.

But how do you use one safely? When should they be used and who should use them? 

When should you use a fire extinguisher? 

Before using an extinguisher to tackle a fire it is important that a fire alarm has been sounded and an evacuation procedure and safe evacuation route is in place. Small fires can be put out quite easily with extinguishers. However, fires should only be tackled in their early stages. Furthermore, it is important to assess whether you are capable of extinguishing the fire without further risk to the safety of yourself and those in the building. 

Who should use a fire extinguisher? 

An extinguisher should only be used by someone who is trained in its use. It is important that someone in each workplace has undertaken a fire safety training course and has experience of how to use one. 

Individuals who have not been trained should not attempt to operate them. 

1st Attendance provides a range of Fire Safety Training Courses which teach correct use. 

Using the right type

When using one, It is important to ensure that you are using the right type of extinguisher. Each type is designed for fighting different classes of fire and use of the wrong extinguisher can result in making the fire worse. For example, using a water extinguisher on an electrical fire can result in electrocution due to water conducting the electrical current. 

Read our guide on types of extinguishers for more information

How to use a fire extinguisher

When you are sure you have selected the correct one and it is safe to tackle the fire, it is time to use the extinguisher. Again, they should only be used by individuals who are trained in using them. 

The PASS Method

Safe use of a fire extinguisher can be remembered using the 4 step PASS method: 

  1. PULL – Within a safe distance of the fire, Pull the pin to break the seal
  2. AIM – Point the nozzle towards the base of the fire, aiming low. (if you are using a CO2 extinguisher make sure to avoid touching the nozzle as this become cold and cause damage to the skin)
  3. SQUEEZE – Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent
  4. SWEEP – Sweep the extinguisher sideways back and forth at the base of the fire until it is empty and/or the fire is fully extinguished with no possibility of reignition.

How to use a fire extinguisher infographic

What if the fire hasn’t been extinguished? 

If, after use of an extinguisher, the fire is still not out it is time to evacuate the area and allow emergency services to take over in tackling the fire. 

Evacuate the premises using your planned evacuation route. Also ensure that all doors are closed to prevent the fire from spreading further.