fire extinguishers

Fire extinguishers too often a workplace enigma

Thursday, October 3, 2019

A quick and confident response can be the difference between fire suppression and conflagration. An awareness campaign timed for Fire Prevention Week is aimed at spreading workplace information that could help halt the spread of fire.

“Our Find Your Fire Extinguisher (FYFE) campaign is focused on helping facility managers and building owners educate their employees, customers and others on the location of extinguishers and how to use them,” says Taylor Brummel, director of fire protection marketing with Cintas Corporation.

Surveys in the United States have revealed that nearly three-quarters of adult respondents had never used a fire extinguisher. So the campaign is starting with the basics. Facilities managers or other trainers can use the acronym PASS to highlight the four steps of deploying common, portable fire extinguishers:

  • Pull the pin
  • Aim at the base of the fire
  • Squeeze the handle
  • Sweep side to side

Fire extinguishers are classified A, B, C, D or K based on the types of fire they suppress most effectively. The surroundings and environment are key factors for a facility manager to consider when deciding which units should be in place and how many are needed. Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) should be consulted for more information on the fire code or other requirements.

Extinguishers can contain different kinds of contents: water; dry chemical; foam; or carbon dioxide. The vessels can also be different: pressurized cylinders; cartridge operated units; or wheeled units.

Facility managers should have a plan in place to inspect each unit monthly and have the required maintenance performed on an annual basis as per applicable codes and standards. These efforts are designed to provide confidence that each unit will function properly if a fire emergency occurs.

Conduct training with employees so they are familiar with the location of each extinguisher and understand when and how to use it during an emergency. Equally important, they should know when to abandon extinguishing efforts.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advises fire extinguishers can be used to control or extinguish small fires and to protect evacuation routes that may be directly or indirectly blocked by a fire. If a fire is already sizable, or is not diminishing in size with the assistance of an extinguisher, all occupants should evacuate and leave it to professional firefighters.

“With occupant well-being at stake, prioritizing fire extinguisher education is a positive step toward improved fire safety,” Brummel says.

This year, Fire Prevention Week is October 6 to 12 in both Canada and the United States.

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