How to use a fire extinguisher safely and effectively

In many occurrences of fire, it s not always safe or practical to try to put it out yourself, so evacuation and calling the fire brigade may be the only option. This is especially the case if the fire is large or spreading, the room is filling with deadly smoke, or there is no fire escape route. But for lesser fires contained in a small space, using a fire extinguisher, if it is safe to do so, can be very effective.

Deploying a fire extinguisher correctly depends on which type it is and on what type of material is on fire. Using the wrong extinguisher is at best ineffective, and at worst could intensify the fire, so ascertain the fuel first and then ensure you have the right type of extinguisher to hand before you tackle the fire. Materials present in the area to be protected from fire in the UK can be divided into six categories of fire involving different substances: Class A , combustible carbon-based solids eg paper, wood or textiles Class B , flammable liquids eg paraffin, petrol, diesel or oil (but not cooking oil) Class C , flammable gases, eg butane, propane or methane Class D , burning metals, eg aluminium, lithium or magnesium Fires caused by electrical equipment (indicated by an electric spark symbol and not the letter E) Class F , fats and cooking oils. The following types of extinguishers can be used to quench the various types of fire: Class A water, water mist, foam, dry powder, wet chemical Class B water mist, foam, dry powder, CO2, some wet chemical Class C water mist, dry powder Class D specialist dry powder Electrical some water mist, some foam, CO2 Class F water mist, wet chemical. General safety principles Familiarise yourself with the extinguisher and how to use it before there is a fire. Most extinguishers include a handle or lever, a hose with a horn or nozzle, a safety pin and seal, a pressure gauge, and the relevant fluid, powder or gas Evacuate everyone else from the building Ascertain the location of your fire exit or escape route Make sure the flames are shorter than you and the fire is contained, eg in a wastepaper basket. Don t stay near the fire or use the extinguisher unless you feel safe to do so Inspect the extinguisher and read the instructions before using it Check it is fully charged or it won t work (the pressure gauge on top should be in the green area. If it s red, the extinguisher has expired) Check the safety pin is not bent or the nozzle clogged or damaged and remove the safety pin to break the tamper seal Use the PASS protocol Pull the pin to unlock the mechanism, Aim the hose at the base of the fire, Squeeze the lever slowly, Sweep the hose from side to side Stand so that your back is towards the nearest exit or escape route never turn your back on a fire Stand between 6 and 8 feet away from the fire, moving closer as it is gradually extinguished. Always aim at the base of the fire Always ensure all areas of the fire are completely out Leave the scene immediately once the extinguisher is discharged and call 999 if the fire isn t completely out Replace or recharge the extinguisher.

Water extinguishers (Class A) First, it is essential to check that there is no live electrical equipment in the area. Then point the hose at the base of the flames and squeeze the lever slowly to discharge the extinguisher. Keep it moving across the area of the fire or move it slowly upwards if the fire is spreading vertically. Make sure that all areas of the fire are out completely. If not, repeat the process or get help. Water mist extinguishers (Classes A, B, C, F and some electrical) The instructions are the same as for water extinguishers, except that some water mist models can be used on electrical equipment up to 1,000 Volts, such as computers and printers. Foam extinguishers (Classes A, B and some electrical) For fires involving solids (A), point the jet at the base of the flames and keep it moving across the area of the fire. For fires involving liquids (B), aim the jet at a vertical surface near the fire, not straight into the liquid, eg in a container, point the jet at the inside edge of the container or a nearby surface above the burning liquid. Allow the foam to build up and flow across the liquid to break the interaction between the flames and the fuel surface.

Dry powder extinguishers (Classes A, B, C, and some D if specialist powder) Point the jet or discharge horn at the base of the flames, driving the fire towards the far edge with a rapid sweeping motion until extinguished. Make sure the fire does not flare up again, as this type of extinguisher does not cool the fire very effectively. Also, make sure you don t inhale the toxic powder, so do not use in an enclosed space. The use of specialist powder extinguishers to tackle burning metals (D) requires a different technique from standard extinguishers. Potential users should be trained in their use. CO2 extinguishers (Class B and electrical) Switch off the power if an electrical fire, if safe to do so. Direct the discharge horn at the base of the flames. Keep the jet moving across the area of the fire until it is suffocated. Be careful your fingers do not freeze to the horn.

Watch for re-ignition of the fire. CO2 extinguishers have a very short discharge time. Wet chemical extinguishers (Class A, F, and some B) These are mainly used to extinguish chip pan fires using animal or vegetable fats. Turn off the heat source if safe to do so. Apply the wet chemical evenly at arm s length above the fire, at least one metre away from the fire, using the extended long applicator or lance in slow, gentle, circular movements, so that the burning fat or oil does not splash out. Spray until its surface changes into a foamy, soapy substance, which acts as a blanket. Use the entire extinguisher to prevent reignition. Potential users should be trained in how to use these extinguishers properly. Other extinction methods Fire blankets.

Turn off the heat source if safe to do so. Pull the tapes to release the blanket from its container. Carefully place the blanket over the fire keeping hands out of the way. Leave to cool. If a person is on fire, wrap the blanket around them. To use hose reels effectively, point the jet at the base of the flames and keep it moving across the area of the fire. Ensure that all areas of the fire are out.

The water or sand in fire buckets should be thrown at the base of the flames, ensuring that all areas of the fire are out.

Finally, if there is no fire extinguisher to hand, and the fire is very small, you could try using a wet cloth or towel or shovelling sand or dirt, if available, onto the fire.

How to develop a fire-risk management strategy

Where fire is concerned, honesty is the best policy, strategy and procedure. That was the message in an article I authored last year which focused on the importance of fire policy. What amounts to fire policy, fire risk management strategy and procedure is not thoroughly understood and many people responsible for fire safety within organisations or individual buildings struggle to get it right.

Following the release of BS 9999: 2017, which contains a revised section 4 entitled Designing for the management of fire risk , I thought it might be worthwhile sharing some thoughts on how to craft fire risk management strategy. In this article I ll answer the following questions: What is a fire risk management strategy? Why it is useful to have one? Who might be tasked with developing one? When might one be required? How should it be structured? What is a fire risk management strategy? As the title would suggest a fire risk management strategy is focused towards the management of fire risk. There are some subtle differences between a fire strategy and a fire risk management strategy.

A fire strategy report describes the fire safety issues and how they are addressed. It acts as a guide for the design team, by identifying standards or setting performance criteria eg for the capacity of a smoke extract system and/or the fire resistance of elements of structure. It is the basis of the submission to the approving authorities ie building control body and fire authority. A concept fire strategy report will evolve through the design process being refined and expanded as the project progresses with a view to becoming an as-built fire strategy for use throughout the building s life cycle. The term fire-risk management strategy was defined in PAS 7: 2013 as a document which defines an organisations fire risk management system and method of implementing the overarching policy . A fire risk management strategy can be developed for an organisation responsible for a single building or an organisation with responsibility for a multi-site portfolio. Why it is useful to have one? When designing fire risk management into buildings there is great benefit in providing building occupiers and/or their person designated with fire safety responsibilities ie fire, health and safety managers with the opportunity to become involved with the design and construction process thus ensuring improved operational performance and better working environments. There are also ongoing business benefits.

The maintenance and operational costs of a building during its lifecycle far outweigh the original capital cost of construction, and these could potentially be explored and relayed by the fire engineer. Benefits of incorporating fire risk management into the building s fire strategy The key benefits can be identified as: Involvement at an early stage of building, managers and end users or their fire safety/health and safety managers allowing for early challenges of the practical implications of design concepts in terms of how they may impact upon on-going day to day practicalities, maintenance and operational costs pertaining to the fire strategy. Ensuring that full training, commissioning and handover is provided at an early stage, which reduces the cost of a protracted handover and means the building will reach optimal performance sooner. Allowing for post occupancy evaluation, which monitors the project outcomes post completion against performance and cost criteria, and ensures lessons are learned for future projects. When might one be required? A fire risk management strategy may be developed by someone designing new buildings or it may be developed as part of organisations fire risk management system documentation. At the design stage, a fire strategy report will usually contain some commentary on management, for example; where it has been necessary to make assumptions regarding the management of the building in the development of the fire strategy these should be stated in the fire strategy report. The fire strategy report may incorporate more comprehensive commentary on fire risk management, for example; if variations from the national guidance are proposed and justified with the use of fire engineering analysis or simply as the fire strategy report evolves through the design process into an as built fire strategy and more information on the use and management of the building comes to light. A fire risk management strategy for a single building may remain incorporated within the fire strategy report or become a separate document.

If a fire risk management strategy is drafted for an organisation operating a portfolio of buildings it is preferable for it to be a separate document. A fire-risk management strategy can also be developed post occupation. The standard Scope of Works for the Fire Engineer produced by the Fire Industry Association and Fire Engineering Council sets out the following services at RIBA Stage 7 Use and aftercare (previously RIBA stage L). These services are to produce, or assist in the production, of organisational fire risk management policy, strategy and procedure. Moreover, organisations seeking to achieve a high level of assurance and management system level 1, as defined in BS 9999: 2017 can demonstrate this by conformity to PAS 7. In order to demonstrate attainment of a level 1 management system some organisations may decide to have their management system certificated. Who might have cause to develop or review one? There may be a number of professionals with interest in the development of a fire risk management strategy. The interested parties could range from fire safety professionals i.e.

designers, fire engineers and fire safety managers, or owners, tenants, occupants, facility managers, health and safety managers and security staff. There may be a number of professionals with an interest in reviewing a fire risk management strategy and these could include: regulators and enforcers, including building control bodies, fire authorities, health and safety inspectors, environmental health officers, and environmental agencies. There may also be third party certification bodies with an interest in certificating a fire risk management system may wish to assess any claim of conformity against PAS 7. A claim of conformity can be made on the basis of: a) a first ‘party conformity assessment performed by the organization itself (self ‘assessment); b) a second ‘party conformity assessment performed by, for example; a trade association; or c) a third ‘party conformity assessment performed by an organization, such as a certification body, that is independent of both the organization responsible for the fire risk management system and, for example; a trade association. Guidelines for auditing management systems are given in BS EN ISO 19011. Requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of management systems are given in BS EN ISO/IEC 17021-1. How should it be structured? PAS 7 imposes a requirement that the organisation shall define and document its fire risk management strategy in order to implement and maintain procedures that identify the aspects of its activities, products and services relevant to the scope. By considering the context of the organisation it is possible to evaluate the risks to the organizsation by determining and recording those aspects that can have a significant impact on life safety, property protection, business continuity and the environment, as dictated by the organisation s policy.

The fire risk management strategy shall address the following seven factors of strategic fire risk management: Fire risk assessment Resources and authority Fire safety training Control of work on site Maintenance and testing Communication Emergency planning Michael Porter once said: Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it s about deliberately choosing to be different . In many ways this is true of a fire risk management strategy. A strategic fire risk management approach can be defined as an integrated or holistic approach to understanding and managing risks posed by the threat of fire that enables an organisation to optimise its underlying processes and achieve more efficient results. In our experience, no two organisations have the same strategy even if they are in the same sector. The benefits of establishing effective fire risk management strategy are clearly demonstrable, being able to align the nuances of fire risk management into the broader auspices of safety/quality management. This is particularly useful for organisations standardising approaches within other disciplines such as: health and safety, environmental protection, business continuity, security and quality systems. BB7 is offering a free gap analysis against the requirements of PAS 7: 2013 Fire Risk Management System Specification.

They are particularly interested in hearing from organisations with complex fire risk management challenges.