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Fire Extinguisher Procedures for Business

When a fire occurs time is critical. Managers and staff must be ready to make appropriate decisions on whether to attempt to extinguish the fire, or to take measures to contain it until the Fire Department arrives. In any fire situation, immediate evacuation of the building is the first priority.

As fuel burns, fires produce dangerous heat, smoke, and gas. As these elements interact, they rise to the upper portion of the rooms.  As heat, smoke, and gas continue to feed back into the fire, its growth increases. As the fire progresses, everything in the room will eventually reach ignition temperature. This stage is called "flash over." At this point, everything in the room is burning.

It only takes about three to five minutes for a fire to travel through a typical home, even less in an apartment. The average temperature at the ceiling can be 1200 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The dangerous heat, smoke, and gas can quickly travel throughout a building, well away from the actual fire. It is crucial to take immediate action in the initial stages of a fire.

In order to have fire, four elements must be present: oxygen, fuel, heat, and a chemical chain reaction. If any of these elements are removed, or the chain reaction is interrupted, the fire ceases. This is the premise upon which fire extinguishers are designed.

There are four classes of fire, the first three of which are found in homes. These classes are comprised of combustibles like wood, paper, and natural fibers (type A); flammable liquids, oils, greases, and gases (type B); energized electrical equipment (type C); and combustible metals (type D). Fire extinguishers are designed to extinguish the different classes of fire.

There are many types of fire extinguishers. The most common types are water, carbon dioxide, and dry chemical. Water extinguishers (chrome-plated canisters) only put out "A" type fires. Carbon Dioxide fire extinguishers are used to extinguish energized electrical equipment.  These extinguishers are commonly found in electrical and mechanical rooms. Lastly, dry chemical extinguishers are multi-purpose and can extinguish A, B and C type fires. These are the most commonly used fire extinguishers.

Instructions for dry chemical extinguishers are as follows:

The label includes usage instructions and information on the type and rating of the fire extinguisher.

The rating refers to the size of the extinguisher. The minimum size fire extinguisher for businesses/basic occupancies is 2A:10BC (approximately five pounds). Larger extinguishers may be required in certain situations.  Moreover, the larger the numbers, the larger the extinguisher is.

The location refers to where accessible extinguishers are located in a building. Common locations include hallways, laundry rooms, and meeting rooms. Extinguishers should also be located in or near mechanical/electrical rooms. Generally, one extinguisher is required for every 3,000 square feet, with a maximum travel distance of 75 feet to an extinguisher from any location.

Accessibility instructions require fire extinguishers to be mounted on a wall or in special cabinets. The mounting height from the ground for 2A:10BC fire extinguishers is five feet or less (measured from the top of the fire extinguisher). Larger fire extinguishers should be mounted at lower heights.

The gauge on the top of the extinguisher should be pointed in the green area. If it is not, the extinguisher needs to be serviced.

Fire extinguishers need to be serviced annually. The tag on the extinguisher will indicate the date and month the extinguisher was serviced by a fire extinguisher company. Any time a fire extinguisher is discharged it needs to be recharged and serviced.

Instructions for what to do if a fire occurs:

  • Evacuate the building. Initiate evacuation procedures by pulling the alarm and alerting occupants. Send someone to call 9-1-1, even if the alarm is monitored.
  • Contain the fire by shutting doors to keep the heat, smoke and gas from spreading.
  • Only use a fire extinguisher if you are trained and feel confident in using one.  Also, only attempt to extinguish a fire if the fire is small. For example, trash can, stove fires, and electrical appliances.
  • Have more than one way out!  Make sure the fire will not block an escape path if it gets too big.

Instructions for fire extinguisher use:

  •  Use the PASS acronym. P - A - S - S is an easy way to help you remember how to use a fire extinguisher.
    • P - Pull the pin
    • A - Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire
    • S - Squeeze the handle
    • S - Sweep the nozzle back and forth, walking towards the fire
  • When using a dry chemical A:B:C fire extinguisher, start 12 to 20 feet away and move towards the fire. The extinguishing agent will last eight to 25 seconds.
  • After the fire is extinguished, monitor the fire for flare-ups. Try to relay the status of the situation to 9-1-1 or the Fire Department.
  • When extinguishing fires outside, watch for wind. Aim the extinguisher so the extinguishing agent travels in the direction of the wind, away from the user.
  • Do not attempt to extinguish vehicle fires unless someone is trapped inside.
  • Use the buddy system when extinguishing a fire. Have two extinguishers ready to go, so a second one can takeover when the first runs out.  Or work as a team, approaching the fire in a pie slice formation, extinguishing the fire simultaneously.
  • If a fire cannot be extinguished, crawl low under the smoke.