Extinguishers part of firefighting safety

FIRE SMART: You probably walk by at least one of these at some point in your day...

You probably walk by at least one of these at some point in your day. All commercial buildings are required to have them. They are generally placed near an exit or close to a possible fire hazard such as in a cooking area.

Do you know what I am talking about? Most people I talk to don’t and when I tell them the answer is a fire extinguisher, I often hear the reply “I was going to say that or I thought that was the answer!” making me wonder what would happen if they ever had to use one.

Perhaps this might be a good time for a few facts about fire extinguishers regarding how and when to use them.

As soon as a fire is discovered:

Sound the alarm and start to evacuate.

Call the fire department.

Even if you feel confident that you can handle the situation by using a fire extinguisher, it is important for the safety of all concerned that you make sure that everyone in the building is aware of the fire and that the fire department is on its way.

Tips for safe extinguisher use:

Test that the extinguisher works before you approach the fire.

Protect yourself at all times.

Take care. Speed is essential but it is more important to be cautious.

Keep your back to the exit at all times and stand 2 to 2.4m (6 to 8 ft.) away from the fire.

Follow the 4-step P-A-S-S procedure:

1. Pull the pin (release the lock latch or press the punch lever).

2. Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.

3. Squeeze or press the trigger.

4. Sweep the extinguisher from side to side.

If the extinguisher appears to be getting empty and the fire shows no sign of going out, leave the area at once. Back out with the lever squeezed and the nozzle pointed at your feet. This will help protect you until you are out of the area.

Fire extinguishers should be properly situated within a structure so that they are easily accessible and insure that the user has an available escape route.

Finally, if you are unsure of your ability to handle a fire extinguisher please do not attempt to use it. You run the risk of injuring yourself, getting caught in the fire or spreading the fire and making things worse.

Make sure the alarm is sounded and evacuate the building with everyone else and let the fire department do the firefighting.

Lawrie Skolrood is deputy fire chief with Vernon Fire Services.