use and maintain a fire extinguisher
In order for an operator to use a fire extinguisher, they
must be well versed in the following:
•Parts of a Fire Extinguisher
•Proper Location of an Extinguisher
Parts of a Fire Extinguisher
As afore mentioned in the previous article; there are
different types of fire extinguishers, which are used to
control various types of fires. Regardless of the class of fire
and type of extinguisher used, there are two categories of
The following diagrams will encompass these categories.
Stored Pressure (Diagram
Cartridge Operated (Diagram B)
Stored Pressure - the extinguishing agent and expellant gas are
Cartridge Operated- the agent only is stored.
Used to grip and carry the extinguisher. Handle designs will
vary depending on the make, model and weight of the
extinguisher. An extinguisher with a weight of more than 3lbs
is required to be equipped with a handle.
A small lever mounted above the handle. When forced down, the
extinguishing agent is released through the nozzle
Found at the top of the extinguisher, the agent is expelled
through a small nozzle or cone. In other models, the nozzle may
be attached to a short hose.
Found on the stored pressure type. The indicator shows the
amount of pressure in the cylinder. Over time, pressure can
dissipate. If the pressure is not properly maintained and
becomes too low; then the extinguisher will not operate
correctly. It is important to do a quick inspection of this
Located on the cylinder, it displays:
•Class of Fire Extinguisher (A, B, C, D, K);
Found clipped to the neck of the cylinder, the tag keeps a
record of the date of inspection and the name and signature of
the inspector or fire inspection company. With the exception of
home extinguishers, all businesses are required to have their
fire extinguishers inspected annually.
Safety pin/Locking Mechanism
All extinguishers are equipped with some form of locking
mechanism to prevent accidental discharge of the agent. In most
portable extinguishers, this is a pin; that must be pulled out
before the trigger can be squeezed.
Located on the Cartridge Operated extinguishers only; it is
attached to the main cylinder. The cartridge contains the
expellant, usually a gas, that must be punctured prior to
Fire extinguisher operation
As mentioned, the label on each fire extinguisher is filled
with pertinent information. The most important being the class
of fire with which the extinguisher can be used. This is a
crucial piece of information because if the extinguisher is
used on a class of fire not specified by the label, there can
be serious repercussions. For example, if the flame is a Class
C fire (caused by electrical equipment) and a water type
extinguisher is used; the user may experience a jolt of
Also, present on the label are the operating instructions.
All personnel need to be trained and made aware of the proper
procedure for each fire extinguisher on the premise.
There is a standard procedure outlined in Figure 1, however,
it is still important to read and know the label’s operating
Figure 1- Standard PASS acronym
Fire extinguisher maintenance
In accordance with the US Department of Labour, fire
extinguishers must be inspected yearly for:
•Correct pressure within the cylinder
Moreover, a fire extinguisher must be hydrostatically tested
every 5 to 12 years, depending of the type of extinguisher.
Hydrostatic testing is a process by which the components of the
extinguisher are pressure tested for leaks and structural
Location of fire extinguishers
The location of a fire extinguisher is arguably the most
crucial element in fighting a fire. It is important that the
extinguisher is within reach of the user and is located in an
area that is easily visible.
The following is a list of criteria to adhere to when
locating a fire extinguisher:
•Make sure the extinguisher is in a central location;
•It is located where most fires happen (ie. kitchen, mechanical
•It is not placed in an area that you will get burned if
reaching for it;
•It is not located higher than 5ft high;
•Nothing is around to impede one`s view of the
•It should be located close to all exits;
•In businesses, signs should be placed above or beside the