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Fire Safety: A Guide to Fire Extinguishers

schedule 14th July 2017 by Emma Brook in Health and Safety

A guide to fire extinguishers

Fires can cause a huge amount of danger and irreversible damage to people and buildings. People need to be vigilant about fire safety in order to prevent a fire from happening, and also know the correct actions to take when a fire occurs.

Employees should receive fire safety training in order to understand how to minimise the risk of a fire in their workplace environment. The key parts of fire safety include: recognising fire hazards, how to safely escape from a building and understanding how to use fire extinguishers.

We have created a guide to fire extinguishers and how they should be used correctly to control different fire types.

Types of fire

There are six different classifications of fire, it is important to understand each one of these to know which fire extinguisher is most appropriate:

  • Class A – fires containing solid materials, e.g. wood, straw, paper or textiles
  • Class B – fires involving flammable liquids, e.g. petrol, diesel or paint
  • Class C – fires including flammable gases, e.g. methane and propane
  • Class D – fires which include flammable metals, e.g. magnesium and titanium
  • Class E – fires involving electrical equipment, e.g. computers and fuse boxes
  • Class F – fires usually occurring in a commercial kitchen and involving cooking oils, e.g. deep fat fryers

Which fire extinguisher to use

In the UK, fire extinguishers are designed for use on different types of fires. It is useful to know each type of fire extinguisher and their uses.

  • Powder fire extinguisher – powder fire extinguishers are versatile, as they can be used on class A, B, C and electrical fires. Powder fire extinguishers have a blue label. Aim the jet at the base of the fire until the flames are out. If there is a hand control, you can use this to let the air clear until you tackle the fire again.
  • Water fire extinguisher – water fire extinguishers are for use on Class A fires, which involve solid materials. This type of extinguisher should not be used on fires containing flammable liquids, flammable gases and cooking or electrical fires. Water fire extinguishers have a red label. Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire and use a sweeping motion until all of the fire is out.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) fire extinguisher – carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are to be used on Class B (flammable liquid) fires and fires involving a lot of electrical equipment. This type of fire extinguisher has a black label. The horn of the fire extinguisher should be aimed at the base of the fire and the jet should be used across the area on fire. You should never hold the horn of the extinguisher as it can freeze your skin.
  • Foam (AFFF) fire extinguisher – foam extinguishers should be used on Class A (solid materials) and Class B (flammable liquid) fires. Foam extinguishers have a cream label. For Class A fires, you should point the extinguisher at the base of the flames and use a sweeping motion. For Class B fires, you should point the extinguisher at the inside of the container and above the burning liquid, where possible.
  • Wet chemical fire extinguisher– wet chemical fire extinguishers have a yellow label. They are primarily designed for use on Class F fires, although they can also be used on Class A and B fires. Usually, this type of fire extinguisher is used to tackle a fire in a commercial kitchen setting. If you are using this extinguisher on a kitchen oil fire, you should apply in slow circular motions as this is the most effective technique. Make sure you use all of the contents of the extinguisher on the fire.
  • Dry powder fire extinguisher – dry powder fire extinguishers are best used to tackle Class D fires involving flammable metals. Dry powder extinguishers have a blue label. This type of fire extinguisher is used in a different way to most extinguishers and requires user training.
  • Water mist (dry water mist) fire extinguisher – water mist fire extinguishers can be used on Class A, B, C and F fire types. Water mist fire extinguishers have a white label with red writing and should be used in a sweeping motion aimed at the base of a fire.

Other fire safety equipment

As well as fire extinguishers, there’s also other fire safety equipment designed to help in the event of a fire.

  • Fire blanket – fire blankets are often used to tackle hot oil fires, e.g. from a frying pan or used on clothing that has caught fire.
  • Fire bucket – a fire bucket is a bucket which is filled with water or sand and can be used to help extinguish some fires.
  • Fire hose – a fire hose contains water or foam and can be used to extinguish fires. It should not be used on fires containing electrical equipment or flammable liquids.

Want to learn more about fire safety? Virtual College offer an online Fire Safety course which covers key training on the subject for employees and anyone else who is interested in learning more. The course teaches learners how to prevent the risk of a fire and effective ways of tackling a fire if necessary.

Related resources

Emma Brook - Virtual College

Author: Emma Brook

Emma works in the marketing design team at Virtual College and works on a variety of print and digital design projects. In her spare time she enjoys going to gigs and the theatre.

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