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Fire Extinguishers

By: Matt Schiefferly Vice President Safety Services

Fire in a building or on a truck is a very dangerous situation. Whenever you encounter a fire, make sure that you can get away from the fire and in a safe area. However, many fires can be contained and extinguished prior to them getting out of control if fire extinguishers are available and used properly.

First it is important that extinguishers are checked regularly for the proper charge and all employees are familiar with their locations. extinguishers should be placed in easy to see and reach places and should be distinguished by a sign.

There are four class ratings for fire extinguishers. Class A is for ordinary combustible material, things like furniture, packing materials, and crates. Class B are for fires involving flammable liquids, such as grease, gasoline and oil. Class C are suitable for electrical fires. Class D is used for flammable metals like magnesium. Since it is likely that most moving and storage companies could have a fire from either A, B, or C type fires a Multi Class extinguisher is recommend and required in many fire codes.

There are four main types of extinguishers that are commonly used:
Dry Chemical extinguishers are usually rated for multipurpose use. They contain and extinguishing agent and a compressed gas, they are effective from 7 to 10 feet from the fire.

Halon extinguishers contain a gas that interrupts the chemical reaction when a fire burns. These types of extinguishers are excellent in buildings around computers because they do not leave any residue to clean up after the fire. Most Halon extinguishers have a limited range of 4 to 6 feet.

Water extinguishers contain water and compressed gas and should only be used on class A fires.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) extinguishers are most effective on class B and C fires. Since the gas disperses quickly they are only effective from 3 to 8 feet.

How to Use a Fire Extinguisher:
Even though extinguishers come in a number of shapes and sizes, they all operate in a similar manner.

Here’s an easy acronym for fire extinguisher use P.A.S.S. --- Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep.

Pull, the pin at the top of the extinguisher that keeps the handle from being accidentally pressed.
Aim the nozzle toward the base of the fire.
Stand approximately 8 feet from the fire and squeeze the handle to discharge the extinguisher. If you release the handle the discharge will stop.
Sweep the nozzle back and forth at the base of the fire. After the fire appears to be our, watch it carefully since it may re-ignite!

Always have any fire extinguisher checked after use. Even if the fire extinguisher was only partial used, they needed to be checked and completely recharged after each use. With the proper use of a fire extinguisher many times a small fire can be contained, which will substantial reduce damage and life. Every fire is a risk of personal injury, do not put yourself in danger. If the fire is out of your control do not hesitate to call the fire department immediately.

If you have any questions or need help with your safety and loss control programs please contact Matt Schiefferly @ Paul Hanson Insurance Services (800) 852-1968 or e-mail Matts@Paulhanson.com. Visit our web page for other information vital to the moving and storage industry at www.paulhanson.com.