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Importance of Training Before Using a Fire Extinguisher

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Fire extinguishers are a vital part of your fire safety plan and it’s important that you know how to use them. So before you pick one up and get yourself into a pickle trying to figure out how it works, make sure that you know how to operate it. Importance of fire extinguisher trainingWhat’s needed is a good training programme. Without comprehensive training for your staff, you could end up using the wrong fire extinguisher or using it in the wrong way, which can cause you injury when you’re using it, or could make the fire spiral out of control. For example, if you don’t have it right, a CO2 fire extinguisher can cause your fingers to freeze or burn. Or a water fire extinguisher used on the wrong fire, like an electrical fire, could have some shocking results. The training you choose should be very in-depth, not just a case of sitting your staff down and playing a DVD, or showing them a dull presentation. Of course, you can use fire safety films as part of the training but don’t use it as a substitute for a proper training session by a fire extinguisher expert. If you’re looking for a fire extinguisher training video, don’t use an amateur video or find something from YouTube – make sure that you use an authoritative video. There are lots of good training videos available. Also, make sure that it’s an up-to-date video, with all the latest information – don’t use one of those 1970s fire safety videos from the back of the cupboard! You can find a range of fire safety DVDs and publications at the Fire Protection Association. Remember that in a fire, people are under pressure so they’re more likely to remember their training if they’ve had hands-on experience. In a panic, it’s easy to forget everything you’ve learned and that’s where a good training programme comes into its own. And don’t just let anybody provide the training, you’ll need a fire extinguisher specialist to explain how things work. Training on how to use a fire extinguisher should be specific to the environment in which it could be required. So if it’s a warehouse or somewhere with flammable gases such as a lab, then the fire training should be adapted. A good training programme will account for any eventuality but will focus on the kind of fire you’re most likely to experience in your environment. It’s important to make sure that all the members of the team receive training, so make sure that new employees undergo training at the earliest opportunity. Once you’ve fully trained your staff on your fire safety action plan and how to use a fire extinguisher, don’t just forget about it. Repeat the training every so often, so that the information goes in and stays there!

Fire Wardens

Where there are lots of employees, you should have designated fire wardens who can take decisive action if a fire starts. They will need extra training to do this, so that they can organise the other staff in the event of a fire. Having a fire warden will help ensure that your fire action plan is carried out properly. The designated person will be able to supervise the fire safety plan. They’ll help people to leave the building safely, communicate effectively with the fire and rescue service, shut down any dangerous equipment and ensure that fire safety equipment is used correctly. They should be trained to be aware of any potential issues, such as people who need help to exit the building. When you’re choosing a fire warden make sure that you pick the right candidate, one who can react quickly, with composure. This is very important – you don’t want a fire warden who is likely to go to pieces under pressure, because they’re the very people that you’ll be relying on in an emergency situation.

Know Your Fire Extinguishers

Preparation is the first step to using a fire extinguisher. Once a fire has started, it’s too late to start learning how to use it. Most fire extinguishers operate in a similar way. Each one usually contains around 10 seconds of power, so they must only be used to extinguish small fires. If it has a gauge, check it to see if the extinguisher is charged before you attempt to use it. There’s usually a safety pin, so pull that out so that you can discharge the fire extinguisher. Before you use it, check to see that you’re using the right kind of fire extinguisher for the fire. In other words, don’t use a water extinguisher to douse an electrical fire! Different fires require different extinguishers. If you use the wrong one, you could make the fire worse or it could spread. Fires are classed differently. there are solid fuels such as woods, cloth, rubber and other materials that could be fuelling the fire. There are also flammable liquid fires and gases. There are fire extinguishers for each of these different classifications and every extinguisher should be clearly marked to tell you which is which.

When to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Remember that a fire extinguisher should only be used to put out small fires. Don’t try to tackle a blaze that’s already well established. Before you fly into action trying to put out the fire, try to call the fire brigade so that they can take over if needed.

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

A good system to help you remember how to use a fire extinguisher is the PASS technique. PASS stands for Pull, Aim, Squeeze and Sweep. This is the easiest way to remember how to use a fire extinguisher. 1. First, pull out the safety pin. This will free the lever so that the extinguisher is ready for action. 2. Next aim it at the fire. Don’t just aim anywhere, make sure you’re targeting the base of the fire rather than the flames. By tackling the base, you’re extinguishing the source of the fire. Remember to stand well back too, as the flames could temporarily grow as you’re putting the fire out. Try to stand about eight feet away from the fire. 3. Squeeze the handle to work the fire extinguisher. 4. Use a sweeping motion with the nozzle or hose, aiming at the base of the fire until it is fully extinguished. As the fire subsides, you can begin to get closer if it’s safe for you to do so. Remember that each fire extinguisher may be slightly different, so make sure that you read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully!

If in Doubt, Get Out!

Before you even attempt to tackle a fire, make sure that there’s a safe route out of the building so that you can retreat quickly if the fire extinguisher doesn’t work. You should have figured out your escape route beforehand. Businesses must have fire safety training and a fire action plan in place so that you know how to respond in a fire. Before you do anything, assess the situation so that you know what type of fire it is. This is no time for heroics, ask yourself whether you can realistically tackle it on your own. The rule of thumb is that if you’re in any doubt about your safety then you must get out, stay out and call the fire brigade out!

Staying Safe

If you have successfully put out the fire, don’t just leave it. Check for several minutes to ensure that it doesn’t re-ignite. A fire fighter will be able to double-check it for safety and tell you when the building is safe for your staff to re-enter. Finally, don’t forget to recharge or replace the extinguisher when you’ve used it. Keep it ready for action at all times! Photo credit: J.Ota via photopin cc
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