by Erin SILVER
Do you know how to use a fire extinguisher? Many of us don’t. But it’s important to educate ourselves, as fire extinguishers can save lives and homes. As too many people know, fires can happen unexpectedly and escalate quickly, becoming out of control if we don’t act fast.
While it’s not possible to cover an entire course in one article, it’s helpful to have some tips in the back of your mind as hurricane season approaches. You never know when you might find yourself needing to put out a small fire. They can be caused by things you have in your home—like candles, cooking oil, home heaters or smokers. They can also be caused by things like malfunctioning electrical outlets or even lightning in a storm.
To begin, make sure you have smoke alarms throughout your house. Check them regularly, every six months, so they can do their job in an emergency. Do you have a fire extinguisher in your home or office? Make sure you have one and that it’s in working order. While this piece of equipment doesn’t work for every type of fire and can be used to put out small fires, it’s still a good idea to have one handy.
Let everyone know where the extinguisher is and how to use it. Keep it near an exit so you can make a fast escape. If you don’t know how it works, schedule some training. Call your fire department for more information. Then you can train others or invite them along for training.
In the event of a fire, make sure everyone in your home or office has an escape route and that the exit is clear. Don’t block it with boxes or doors that are locked. If someone is going to use the extinguisher, are they capable? Children should not be left in charge. Call 911 immediately and alert others to leave the building.
If you need to use a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS. This will help you if you can’t think clearly during an emergency. PASS stands for:
- Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism. Face the fire, staying six to eight feet away from the flames as you prepare to use the extinguisher.
- Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire. Keep your back to the exit so you can leave in a hurry.
- Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
- Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.