By definition, a portable fire extinguisher is “an item of equipment for the purpose of extinguishing a fire”. Forming part of the “First Attack” response, it can be used by anyone to combat a fire in its initial stages. Safety Dave is the trusted Australian-owned supplier of high-quality safety equipment including reversing cameras, TPMS, workplace defibrillators, fire equipment and more. Here we will look at portable fire extinguishers – the different types, how they work, where to find them and how to use them.
Understanding a Fire
A fire (also known as combustion) is a sequence of chemical reactions between a fuel and an oxidant accompanied by the by-products of combustion (heat, smoke & light). The four elements that combine to provide the correct environment for a fire to start and be sustained are fuel, heat, oxidant, and the chemical reaction (oxidation). For a fire to be extinguished, any one of these elements must be removed. This is where a fire extinguisher comes into play – it aims to eliminate one or more of these four elements.
Classification of Fires
Fires are classified according to the type of fuel. The classification of a fire is important, as it determines the correct extinguisher required. The six classes of fire are:
- Class A – Ordinary Combustibles (such as paper, wood, plastics, etc.)
- Class B – Flammable and combustible liquids
- Class C – Flammable gases
- Class D – Combustible metals
- Class E – Electrically energised equipment
- Class F – Cooking oils and fats
There Are 5 Main Types of Portable Fire Extinguishers
- Dry Chemical – Class ABE or BE
- Wet Chemical – Class AF
- Foam – Class AB
- Water – Class A
- Carbon Dioxide (Co2) – Class BE
Each type of extinguisher is best for extinguishing a different class of fire. For example, for an electrical fire (Class E) you would not use a water extinguisher, you would use a dry chemical extinguisher. Fire extinguishers are colour coded according to their type for easy identification. It’s important to note, that there is no one type of fire extinguisher that is universally acceptable for all classes of fire.
The most common type of extinguishers in workplaces are ABE Extinguishers (Dry Chemical Extinguishers). These are effective for a wide range of different applications and particularly appropriate for office spaces and electrical switchboards.
Where to Find a Fire Extinguisher?
The Building Code of Australia as well as various State and Territory legislation establishes the selection, location and distribution of fire extinguishers used in the community. Fire extinguishers will typically be found in a conspicuous and readily accessible location, mounted not more than 1.2 metres above the floor and clearly signed. Usually, they will be located along normal paths of travel and near exits.
Using A Fire Extinguisher
In the event that you need to operate a fire extinguisher, it’s important to carefully select the correct type for the class of fire. You should then:
- Make sure the area is safe to access – the fire should not be too large or too hot, and there should be no other immediate hazards to safety.
- Ring 000 and request the fire brigade.
Follow the acronym PASS – Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep.
- PULL the pin of the fire extinguisher
- AIM the extinguisher at the base of the fire
- SQUEEZE the handle
- SWEEP it back and forth
A fire may reignite after it has been extinguished. If safe, find another fire extinguisher and observe the scene until the fire brigade arrives.
Portable fire extinguishers provide occupants of a building with the equipment to respond to a fire in its early stages. Whilst mandatory within workplaces, public and private buildings, commercial, industrial, and retail spaces, portable fire extinguishers are also important in domestic settings. Fires can start for a wide variety of reasons and having the tools to attack while waiting for the fire brigade can mean the difference between minor and major damage.
Safety Dave can help with portable fire extinguishers, fire blankets, smoke alarms and more. Shop online now or contact our team to find out more by calling 1800 072 338 now.