Having a portable fire extinguisher and escape route is necessary in any household. Here’s how to successfully use a fire extinguisher and some tips that will help you and your family prepare for a fire.
When to use a portable fire extinguisher
If the fire is confined to a small area and is not spreading, you may decide to stay and fight it with a portable fire extinguisher. Such devices can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives.
However, they are not designed to fight large, spreading fires.
Even when used against small fires, they are useful only under limited conditions.
How to use a fire extinguisher
Know the location of every fire extinguisher, and which type of fire each is good for: There won’t be time to read directions during an emergency, and using the wrong extinguisher can make the fire worse. Use the extinguisher only if it is within easy reach.
Have everyone else leave the building immediately: Have someone call the fire department, even if the fire seems to be easily controllable.
Have an unobstructed escape route: Keep your back to the exit, and if possible keep 1.8 to 2.4 metres (six to eight feet) from the flames.
Follow the four-step PASS procedure: P = Pull the pin; A = Aim the extinguisher at the base of the flame; S = Squeeze the handle; and S = Sweep the nozzle rapidly from left to right to cover the base of the fire.
If the fire does not begin to die immediately, leave the area at once: The working life of most extinguishers is only about eight seconds.
If you do put out the fire, have the fire department inspect the site: Even if there appears to be no danger. Fire can lurk within the walls or re-ignite from hot embers that may not be visible or not producing heat that you can feel.
Clean up carefully: Most household fire extinguishers leave you with a serious cleanup job after you have used them. Wipe away residues as soon as possible, because they may contain caustic substances that damage paint and electronic equipment.
Devise an escape plan beforehand
To increase your family’s chances of surviving a fire, develop an escape plan.
Draw a floor plan of your home and mark all possible escape routes. Every room should have at least two exits (a window large enough for an adult to fit through is fine, but make sure windows are easy to open and that your kids know how to open them).
If you live in an apartment building, don’t count elevators as part of your escape route, because they won’t operate in a fire; use stairs instead.
Decide where everyone will meet outside the house in the event of a fire. That way, you’ll know that everyone is safe.
Practice evacuating your home blindfolded. During a fire, smoke may make it impossible to see.
Practice staying low to the floor when escaping.
Learn to stop, drop to the ground and roll to put out clothing that catches fire.
Purchase approved escape ladders for rooms on upper floors. Practice using them.
Ladders may not be usable by elderly family members or those with handicaps. (A first-floor bedroom is a much better idea for them.)
Fire can be quick and unpredictable. Keep these tips in mind and stay safe by being prepared.