Fire Extinguishers: Standing up to the Flame

Fire Extinguishers: Standing up to the Flame

A small flame can ignite into a major fire in less than thirty seconds and turn deadly in just two minutes—the time it takes to brush your teeth. According to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), there were 352,000 house fires in 2016. Additionally, less than 50% of households have a fire emergency evacuation plan. No one anticipates a fire igniting in their house or business, but we all must be prepared in case one does. Part of this preparation is owning, maintaining, and understanding how to use fire extinguishers.

According to the NFPA, portable fire extinguishers, though crucial in the case of a fire, are only one aspect of a fire evacuation plan. They should only be used to manage small fires or contain fires until professional help arrives. Because fires spread so quickly, the primary objective when encountering a fire is to safely exit the building. You should then call 9-1-1, and wait at a safe location until help arrives.

When crafting a fire evacuation plan, ensure that the building is equipped with the proper class of extinguisher for the type of fire. A multi-purpose ABC fire extinguisher is recommended for most residences. Businesses, however, may need specific extinguishers based on the work being done at a particular location. For example, PLH Group, Inc.— which is comprised of 11 entities performing full service power line construction, pipeline construction and specialty contracting that serves the electric power line, pipeline, oil field electrical and industrial markets— may need an ABC fire extinguisher in an office building, but would want a C extinguisher near electrical equipment. Also, ensure the fire extinguisher is a manageable size. After all, a fire extinguisher cannot do its job if it is too large for the user to handle.

At least one fire extinguisher should be present and easily accessible on every floor. Do not keep a fire extinguisher near a stove or oven, for it may not be accessible if a fire breaks out in these areas. The NFPA recommends that fire extinguishers are kept close to an exit. Additionally, they should be inspected and maintained monthly. When PLH Group identifies an extinguisher that needs replaced, the company prioritizes that it is refilled or replaced as quickly as possible. This example should be replicated throughout all organizations and households. Check to ensure that the device is not blocked or hidden by clutter, the seals and pins have not been tampered with, the nozzle is not blocked, and the pressure gauge is within operable limits.

Suppose the situation calls for you to use a portable fire extinguisher. Do you know how to use it? This ABC News experiment found that most people do not know how to use a fire extinguisher—or at least not effectively. PLH Group understands the importance of proper fire extinguisher training. In fact, all workers are trained on proper usage. Employees are trained upon orientation, and annual refresher courses are offered/mandated for all workers. If you are ever in a position where a fire extinguisher is necessary, be sure to keep your back to the exit and promptly exit the room if it fills with smoke. Use the PASS (Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep) technique, depicted in the infographic above. Remember, the number one goal of a fire extinguisher is to help get everyone out of the building safely—not necessarily to thoroughly extinguish the fire.

Additionally, the NFPA does not recommend teaching portable fire extinguisher techniques to children, because they often do not possess the physical endurance and judgement capabilities needed for safe usage. Instead, use resources— like those from NFPA’s Sparky School House— to teach children how to safely exit a burning building. Additionally, be sure to include children in your family’s Home Fire Safety Survey to teach additional fire safety considerations.

PLH Group wants you to always be safety-minded. Therefore, take time to familiarize yourself with fire extinguisher locations, conditions, and usage at both work and home. Express any concerns or suggestions to your supervisor or household members. After all, no one plans for a building fire to ignite, but we should all be prepared for it.