Fire Extinguishers – Arm Yourself With Knowledge

Every day we are surrounded by potential fire risks, whether driving to work in our cars, sitting in an office, staying in hotel accommodation or doing our weekly shop. Fire has the potential to break out wherever there is mix of oxygen, heat and fuel. We must all take responsibility for our own health and safety and also that of others.

If you discover a fire you should take action to prevent the fire spreading and causing harm to yourself and others. The first three steps you should take are:

o    Raise the alarm! – Shout ‘Fire’ so those in close proximity can take action.
o    Operate the nearest call point – break the glass with your elbow or heel of a shoe
o    Call the fire service – 999 or 112 – give your exact address, location, casualties, hazards and nature of the fire

The next step you take – attempt to fight the fire – depends on whether you consider it would be safe for you to tackle the fire without further risk.

If you encountered a fire in a real situation would you know that the type of fire extinguisher you should use depends on the type of fire you are faced with? You may not have time to read all the labels so it is useful to familiarise yourself with the varieties in use.

Although all modern fire extinguishers are red, they are colour coded so you can see what type of extinguisher it is and what types of fire it can be used on. These are the four most common types:

White label = Water
For use of burning fabric, paper, wood, plastics and textiles.  DO NOT use on flammable liquids or electrical fires. Works by cooling down the burning material.

Cream label = AFFF
For use on flammable liquids (e.g. grease, oil, fat, paint, petrol), fabric, paper, wood, plastics and textiles. DO NOT use on electrical equipment. Point the jet at a surface above the burning substance and allow it to flow over the liquid.

Black label – CO2 (Carbon Dioxide)
For use on flammable liquids (e.g. grease, oil, fat, paint, petrol) and electrical equipment. Make sure you position the black nozzle to face the fire before you squeeze the trigger as the nozzle will freeze with CO2 once activated and may cause freeze burns to your hands if subsequently handled.

Blue label – Dry Powder
For use of burning fabric, paper, wood and textiles and also flammable liquids and electrical equipment.
One of the most common types of fire involve chip pans or deep fat frying pans, in this instance it is important that you DO NOT move the pan but turn off the source of heat immediately if safe for you to do so. NEVER use water on chip pan fires or you can create a fireball.

If your employer organises a fire safety training course it is worth taking the opportunity to experience using the various types of extinguisher in a controlled environment – you never know when circumstances may arise in the future which may need your fire safety knowledge.

Becky Dalton has never had to use her knowledge of fire extinguishers in a real fire situation, here she writes on behalf of

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