Using Fire Extinguishers

A fire­ extinguisher is an undeniable necessity in any home, building or office. While there’s a good chance that the extinguisher will sit on the wall for years, collecting dust, it could end up saving your property and even your life. But how do fire extinguishers work and how do you operate them?

What is a fire extinguisher?

There are three essential elements involved in the process of creating a fire: extreme heat, oxygen and fuel. Fire extinguishers are designed to remove at least one of these elements so that a fire will die out, and there are several different ways of achieving this. Fire extinguishers are sturdy metal cylinders filled with water or some other form of smothering material. When you release a lever at the top of the cylinder, the material is discharged at an extremely high pressure, similar to the way material is forced out of an aerosol can.

Types of fire extinguishers

There are various types of fire extinguishers which are only appropriate for certain types of fire situations.

Water is the most common extinguishing material, and it is one of the most effective. But if used in the wrong situation, can actually be dangerous and make a fire worse. A water extinguisher can put out things like burning wood, paper or cardboard, but it does not work well on electrical fires or fires involving inflammable liquids. In an electrical fire, the water may conduct the current, which can electrocute you.

Another popular extinguisher material is pure carbon dioxide. In a carbon dioxide extinguisher, the carbon dioxide is kept in pressurized liquid form in the cylinder. When the container is opened, the carbon dioxide expands to form a gas in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide gas is heavier than oxygen, so it displaces the oxygen surrounding the burning fuel. This sort of fire extinguisher is common in restaurants because it won’t contaminate the cooking equipment or food.

The most popular extinguisher material is dry chemical foam or powder, typically made of sodium bicarbonate (normal baking soda), potassium bicarbonate (nearly identical to baking soda), or monoammonium phosphate. When the baking soda decomposes, it releases carbon dioxide, which along with the insulation of the foam can work to smother the fire.

It is important to note that fire extinguishers are relatively small in size and as such, only contain a minimal amount of material to suppress a fire. Furthermore, fire extinguishers can only be used on smaller and more contained fires. If you are facing a bigger fire, you must contact professional firefighters to handle the situation.

Using a fire extinguisher

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to use a fire extinguisher, it is vital that you know how to operate it. While there are different types of extinguishers, they generally function in the same way:
1. Pull: Pull the pin, in order to break the tamper seal.
2. Aim: Aim low, pointing the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire. (Be careful not touch the horn on a CO2 extinguisher)
3. Squeeze: Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
4. Sweep: Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire, the fuel source, until the fire is out.

If you cannot put out the fire or if the extinguisher becomes empty, evacuate yourself and everyone in the building immediately, closing all doors behind you as you go and ensure the fire brigade has been called.

While fire extinguishers are an important precaution, there are other ways you can ensure fire safety in buildings and offices. FSE Special Purpose Doors work with many clients to design, manufacture and install fire safety doors for office buildings.

We supply a wide range of fire doors to meet the needs of any building. These can be built using a variety of materials and configured and fitted to meet most aesthetic and functional requirements.

FSE Special Purpose Doors manufactures Automatic Doors for numerous industries throughout Australia.

If you have any questions about Fire Extinguishers, or about Special Purpose Fire Doors in general, you can find our products here. To book a quote, phone 1300 4 DOORS, or contact us.