How to Use a Fire Extinguisher: It Might Save Your Life

How Many of the Tools in Your House Are You Comfortable Using?

It’s a safe bet you’re pretty good with kitchen appliances, and you might even crack open the toolbox for a screwdriver once in awhile. But there’s one tool few people understand how to use, and it could just save your life.

The fire extinguisher has become a ubiquitous fixture in both the home and workplaces, as the first line of defense against a more serious fire. There are several types of extinguishers, designated by classes.

Class A extinguishers are for normal combustibles like wood and paper. Class B deals with flammable liquids and gasses, whereas Class C is meant for electrical fires. There are even more specialized classes for dealing with hazards like flammable metals, but most in-home or in-office extinguishers will be a combination Class ABC.

However, while it’s all well and good knowing the types of extinguishers available, this isn’t going to help you in the event of a fire — you need to actually know how to use a fire extinguisher.

Prepare to Face the Fire

Before you go in guns blazing, it’s important to first ensure your safety and make sure your fire extinguisher is in working shape.

Some fires are simply too dangerous to tackle by yourself, and should be left to the professionals. The rule of thumb is if a fire is taller than you, it’s out of your control. The best thing to do is call emergency services right away and get to safety.

Is the fire shorter than you? In that case you can more safely attempt to extinguish it, but first you have to check to make sure your equipment is up to snuff. Fire extinguishers all have a colour coded pressure meter which you must check before using it.

If the meter is in the green, you’re good to go. But if the needle registers lower, you may have insufficient pressure to adequately extinguish the fire you’ll be facing, causing a potentially dangerous situation.

After you have used your extinguisher, it’s important to replace it immediately with a full and pressurized one to be used in the event of a future fire emergency.

Remember the PASS Acronym When Using a Fire Extinguisher

There’s a relatively straightforward four-step process for using a fire extinguisher, and you can remember it by thinking of “PASS.”

Fire Extinguisher

P: Pull the pin, which guards against accidental discharge. Once pulled, the fire extinguisher is ready to use.

A: Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire. Like a weed, you need to kill the fire at it’s roots, and that means putting it out from the bottom up.

S: Squeeze the trigger. This should be relatively self explanatory, but while some fire extinguishers have an obvious trigger, others opt for buttons. Regardless, they should be well marked and intuitive.

S: Sweep back and forth. Make sure the the base of the fire has been adequately smothered, and then address individual hotspots that may remain. Back away from the fire slowly, but don’t turn around — some spots may burst into flame again and you may need to be prepared to put them out.


Knowing how to use a blender will help you make a smoothie, but knowing how to use a fire extinguisher could save your life.

By making sure your extinguisher is the right class for the fire you’re fighting, ensuring it has adequate pressure, knowing the size of fire you can safely fight, and remembering the PASS acronym, you’ll have the knowledge you need to protect yourself and your belongings from fire.


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