Fire Extinguisher Information
How a fire extinguisher works
Fire extinguishers are an integral part of dealing with fires, and an understanding of how a fire extinguisher works will enable you to be able to better use this equipment in case of an emergency. Before going into the details of how a fire extinguisher works, it is important to understand that there are a number of types of fire extinguishers and each one works in a different way. However, the basic working principle can be learnt for a fire extinguisher.
For a fire to sustain, it needs the following:
> Heat to sustain itself and propagate
> Fuel to keep burning and spread to new areas
> Oxygen that is central to combustion of fuel
Even if one of these is taken away, the fire cannot sustain and will die off. This is the basic principle on which fire extinguishers are built that help to extinguish a fire. Different types of fire extinguishers remove different components that require the fire to sustain, thereby extinguishing it.
The following are the three main types of fire extinguishers in use today, and their method of fire extinguishing is as follows –
1) Water extinguishers: Water is one of the most commonly used fire extinguishing agent. Water fire extinguishers work by removing heat from the surface, thereby killing the fire. In water extinguishers, compressed air pushes water to come out of the tank to be sprayed on fire.
2) Gas extinguishers (mainly carbon dioxide extinguishers): Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers contain high pressure carbon dioxide in the liquid form. When this gas is suddenly released on a fire, the gas expands by a huge amount, thereby reducing its temperature. In addition, carbon dioxide is heavier than air, so it settles down. This means that carbon dioxide fire extinguishers work by removing heat and also oxygen supply to the fire, and thus they are effective in extinguishing fires.
3) Dry chemical extinguishers: These work by cutting off the fuel supply to the fire. When dry chemical powder is sprinkled around the fire, the powder tends to form a layer on top of the fuel and thus cuts it off from the fire. The powder being non-flammable, the fire doesn't get the fuel to sustain itself and thus extinguishers.
There are several types of fire extinguishers and understanding how a fire extinguisher works will only help you use it more efficiently. For example, certain types of fire extinguishers should not be used in certain types of fires, and an understanding of the principle of working of different fire extinguishers will help you make the right decisions.
How to use a fire extinguisher
Fire emergencies can occur without warning and can be deadly. It is thus very essential to be prepared for a fire emergency. One of the primary things that all individuals should know is how to use a fire extinguisher. A fire extinguisher is a great tool that will help you to fight small fires and limit their reach before they become too big and engulf the whole area. In addition, fire extinguishers are like the first line of defence and can be very efficient too. Therefore it is very important that you know exactly how to use a fire extinguisher.
There are several different types of fire extinguishers in the market today that work on a variety of principles. However, all of them essentially work in the same way. This is good news because otherwise you would have to learn about how to use a hundred types of fire extinguishers! You need to be proficient in using a fire extinguisher as you may need to use it on a very short notice in a quick manner during an emergency.
The first thing to do is to read the instructions. Obviously you will not have the time to read the fine print when you most need it in an emergency, so it is important that you are prepared beforehand. Essentially, you may like to follow the PASS principle, which is simple to remember and should be kept in mind while using a fire extinguisher. This is explained below –
> Pull: The pin at the top of the fire extinguisher should be pulled to release the locking mechanism and make the fire extinguisher ready for use.
> Aim: The fire extinguishing action should be aimed at the base where the fire is present and not at the flames, which are merely manifestations of the underlying cause.
> Squeeze: The lever needs to be squeezed slowly to release the extinguishing agent. Without this, the extinguishing action will simply stop.
> Sweep: The extinguisher should be moved in a sideways manner or front to back in a sweeping motion.
These should be kept in mind before using a fire extinguisher. It is also important that you be careful while using a fire extinguisher and maintain a safe distance from the fire. You should also be able to assess the fire and the type of fire extinguisher to make sure the fire extinguisher will provide the reduction needed. Using this understanding of how to use a fire extinguisher, you can now be in a much better position to fight fires in case of an emergency.
Fire Protection Inspection
Fire protection inspection should be completed on a regular basis to ensure that you are fully prepared to meet any emergency. Fire protection maintenance is different from inspection in that inspection is a quick check up to ensure that everything is in perfect order. On the other hand, maintenance is a more detailed operation that needs to be completed much less frequently than inspection. Fire protection inspection should be taken up typically once a month.
The problem is, there are a very vast number of fire protection systems being offered by a number of businesses, and therefore it can become difficult to monitor them all. However, some general guidelines need to be followed irrespective of the type of fire extinguisher you are using and irrespective of the manufacturer. It should be remembered that fire protection entails a lot more than simply the presence of a fire extinguisher. Complete fire protection means you are fully prepared to meet any fire emergencies.
Make sure all the equipment is in order and if there are any refill parts, they should be filled during an inspection. Also, any damaged parts should be replaced. Then you should look for any possible leaks, dents or other such visible and physical signs of damage.
Apart from the inspection of the equipment itself, you should also make sure everything else is accounted for. For example, everyone in the family must be able to operate the fire extinguisher. It should be kept in such a place where everyone can reach it with ease even during emergencies. The fire exits should be easy to reach and easy to open and operate. There might also be a fire drill in the building, and in such a case, make sure you practice with complete dedication since this will be essential during an actual emergency.
Fire Extinguisher Certification
You would have put a fire extinguisher in all places that you think you should. You would have undergone preliminary training how to act in these situations of emergencies. But if your fire extinguisher itself is not up to the mark, then there is little you can do. Thus it is very important to make sure that your fire extinguisher is certified.
Fire extinguisher certification is usually done by state licensed inspectors, but depending on where you live, you can find federal license inspectors as well. In addition, in many places there are third party companies that have the right of fire extinguisher certification. You will have to check with your local fire department if you want to be absolutely sure how this is done at your place.
Fire extinguisher certification consists of certifying that your fire extinguisher is up to the mark, that it has the required capability to fight a fire and other technical aspects such as checking for the pressure, the fire extinguishing material etc. It may be necessary to have your fire extinguisher certified by law, again depending on where you live. Also, many insurance companies will insist on fire extinguisher certification. Therefore it is always advisable to be on the safe side and always have your fire extinguisher certified to avoid