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Community Focus
by Tom Kiurski

Lessons in Fire Extinguisher Use

By Tom Kiurski

Home fire extinguishers have been around for a number of years, and still make good sense to have on hand. While not intended to fight a fire like "The Towering Inferno," they can enable people to control small fires when they are still just that — small! Fire extinguishers need very little care, can last for years and are simple to purchase and use. But for your citizens to use them correctly during an emergency, you must take time and teach them the proper procedure when there is no emergency present.

You should start by teaching them about the types of fire extinguishers out there, which are rated by the class or classes of fire they can effectively put out. The most common rating for home fire extinguishers are:

  • Class A — for ordinary combustibles, such as paper, wood, plastics and home furnishings.
  • Class B — for flammable liquids such as gasoline, oils, paints, thinners, stains and cooking oils and sprays.
  • Class C — for energized electrical equipment, which is anything that would be plugged into an outlet such as televisions, stereos, toasters and computers and accessories.

When choosing a home fire extinguisher, residents should choose an "ABC"-rated fire extinguisher, so that no matter how the fire breaks out, or what is involved in flames, they have an extinguisher on hand that can handle small fires of all kinds.

I never get more involved in ratings when I work with groups as the Class D and Class K are very specialized, but you can certainly show them examples of relevant fires from clips on YouTube.

When it comes to location, you should tell civilians that their fire extinguisher should be kept inside their home where all adults know where it is. Playing the odds, keeping one near the kitchen area makes good sense. If they are going to have more than one fire extinguisher, a basement or garage is an excellent place for them. Suggest that they use the mounting bracket and install the fire extinguisher, so that it is less likely to be moved.

Almost all fire extinguishers operate according to the PASS method, an acronym for Pull, Aim, Squeeze and Sweep. The Pull part of the acronym is for pulling the pin or tape out of the way. Then they should Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the flames, at the burning fuel.

The first "S" stands for Squeeze, where the handles are squeezed together and then they should Sweep the extinguishing agent from side to side at the base of the flames. Home fire extinguishers are designed for small fires, limited to an object or two, and last about 10 seconds. Remind citizens to always keep a clear exit to their back so they can leave the burning building if the fire doesn't go out.

You should encourage that citizens call their firefighters in case of any unwanted fire in their home by dialing 911. If they put the fire out with a home fire extinguisher, then they should tell the dispatcher on the phone that they believe the fire is out. They will usually send less fire apparatus to investigate and collect insurance information.

Consider having a small fire for your audience to extinguish for the real effect. There are also less messy trainers out there today that make this a much simpler undertaking.

Remind citizens that they should take the time to research fire extinguishers and purchase the right one and that how once it is used, it needs to be replaced or recharged.

About the author

Tom Kiurski has been in the fire service since 1981. He is the Training Coordinator and Director of Fire Safety Education for Livonia, Mich., Fire & Rescue. He has served as a firefighter/paramedic, engineer and lieutenant prior to his appointment as the training coordinator. He has earned an Associates Degree in Fire Science from Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., a Bachelors Degree in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology from the University of Cincinnati and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Eastern Michigan University. Tom teaches fire service-related courses at local colleges and fire academies. He has presented at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis seven times, as well as numerous state and local conferences. He has written more than 300 articles on fire safety education and training that have appeared in various fire service publications. Contact Tom at Tom.Kiurski@firerescue1.com.


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