Fires are dangerous and can cause fatal injuries, if you do not know how to handle or put out a fire in the proper manner. Fire stoppage or fire fighting is a task that is best left to the experts and professionals; however, you can attempt to put out smaller fires which are limited to a specific area and have not yet developed into a dangerous, major fire. Discussed in this article are some important safety tips and the various types of extinguishers which should be used to put out various kinds of fire. Remember, "safety first" should always be your motto when dealing with a fire.
Safety tips. These tips can be classified into two broad categories - first, before deciding to tackle a fire, and secondly, how to stop the fire safely. Tips to remember before you decide to tackle the fire are:
- Make sure the fire is small and not spreading.
- You have the right kind of fire extinguisher for the type of fire that you are facing.
- In case you are unable to control the fire, ascertain that the fire will not block your exit from the house or other space.
- You are proficient with the use of fire extinguishers of various types well before a fire breaks out.
- Regularly check the state of the fire extinguisher, make sure there is no leakage or damage and the pressure in the cylinder is at the correct reading.
When fighting a fire, the tips to remember are:
- Make sure to stand with the nearest accessible exit at your back, you should be able to get out safely in case you are not able to stop the fire on your own.
- Stand as far away from the fire as possible in the beginning. Move in closer as and when the fire begins to lessen in intensity.
- Know the correct way to hold the fire extinguisher and the right method of directing it over the fire. Always remember to use the extinguisher in a sweeping motion and always aim at the base of the fire.
- Try and ensure to have a back-up in place, who can take over the fighting of the fire in case you feel tired or are choking with the smoke and fumes, or someone who can fight the fire, together with you.
- Once the fire has been put out, continue to keep a watch over the area to preempt the fire from igniting again.
Important don'ts. Never try to put out a fire which is spreading rapidly, in such cases, the best option for you is to evacuate everyone from the area and call the fire department. Don't attempt to fight a fire with the wrong kind of extinguisher, even if it is meant for general use. Also, avoid fighting fires which are extremely smoky and the danger of smoke inhalation is high.
Types of fire extinguishers. It is important to know which type of fire extinguisher fights which kind of fire. Generally, fires are classified into four types:
- Class A fires - These occur from regular combustible materials such as wood, paper, fabric, plastics, etc. These are also referred to as solid fires.
- Class B fires - are fires where the occurrence is due to liquids such as kerosene, gasoline, oil, etc.
- Class C fires - originate from electrical material and equipment such as home appliances, wires, outlets, circuit boards, etc.
- Class D fires - occur when there are combustible chemicals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc.
The different types of fire extinguishers available in the market today are:
- APW (air-pressurized water) extinguishers - to be used in class A fires only.
- Dry chemical fire extinguishers come in different variants. Check the ratings on the cylinder to find out what kind of fires can be put out with such cylinders. The two common ratings are BC and ABC, for B and C class fires, and for A, B and C class of fires, respectively.
- CO2 (carbon dioxide) extinguishers are used only for B and C class fires.
With the safety tips and helpful knowledge about how to put out fires as discussed above, you will be well-prepared and ready to tackle small fires in your home or workplace. Most importantly, if you know you cannot handle the fire, do not make any attempts to stop it. Evacuate the premises and immediately call in the professionals to do their job.