We have discussed extensively about fire, types, causes including how it spreads. Fire is the worst enemy of man even though it is a good servant. But our knowledge in firefighting is limited. Imagine for a moment there is fire in your kitchen; what would you do? The sight of very little fire is enough to send some of us paralyzing. I do recall as a child how we used to fight fire using sand or water or both. The fact remains that not many of us have the skill in firefighting let alone having the courage to fight fire even if it is small. The safest way to fighting fire is to use the fire extinguisher for small domestic or workplace fires or fire tender/engine in the case of big fires. And this is what I want us to discuss.
Our knowledge of fire is the first step towards its prevention. And indeed, it is a shared responsibility and ought not to be left to the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS) alone. However, we all need some amount of training in fire safety, response and prevention to reduce the number of fires we witness around us.
The various fires we have talked about in our earlier discussions can be dealt with using specific fire extinguishers. Mind you, every fire begins at a small spot before growing into the inferno apart from fires from explosions that we see on TV screens sometimes. When a fire is small, it can be quenched using the appropriate extinguisher but the very moment it has grown large, fire tender would have to be called in. quite apart from that, some complex buildings have what we call fire hose reels designed to fight growing fires.
Having set that premise, let’s look at the standard labelling of fire extinguishers. This can be seen on the stickers on the extinguisher.
Water fire extinguisher has red background. Water fire extinguishers are used to fight Class ‘A’ fires. That is fires involving solid materials.
Foam fire extinguisher has cream colour background. Foam fire extinguishers are meant for fighting Classes ‘A’ and ‘B’ fires. For example, fires involving fuel, solid and liquids.
Dry chemical powder extinguisher has blue colour background. This is suitable for fighting Classes ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and Electrical fires – that is solid, liquid, gas and electrical fires.
Wet chemical extinguisher has yellow colour background. Wet chemical fire extinguishers are suitable for Classes ‘A’ and ‘F’ fires. That is fires caused by solid and cooking oils.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguisher on black background. CO2 fire extinguisher can be used to fight Classes ‘B’(liquid), ‘C’ and electrical fires.
However, I must make this observation that some of the new fire extinguishers we have in the system today no longer follow this standard colour coding or labelling. Instead, the types of fires each can be used for has been clearly indicated in diagrams.
Water fire extinguisher is never to be used in fighting electrical fires. You will electrocute yourself if you do that. Quite apart from that should you find yourself having to use a fire extinguisher not meant for a particular fire, there is no much danger to you except that it will not be effective.
Now let’s talk about how to operate fire extinguisher. We use the abbreviation PASS code. Pull (P) the pin that is used to lock the extinguisher; Aim (A) at the nozzle at the base of the fire; Squeeze (S) the lever on top of the extinguisher and Sweep (S) that is moving the nozzle from side to side to the fire.
Apart from fire extinguisher, we also use fire blanket to fight fire. Fire blanket are specially designed to fight small fires. Remember that I said in the earlier paragraph that if the fire is small, it is easy to kill using a portable fire extinguisher or fire blanket.
Anything that is made up of more than one component has expiry date, so is fire extinguisher. As soon as fire extinguisher has been used, it must be serviced immediately. Nonetheless, fire extinguishers have servicing date marked on it by the supplier. So, when it is due for servicing, it must be sent for that purpose. Never say it has not been used and therefore there is no need to service it so that it is functional for use. You’re not a prophet to tell when fire will occur.
It is recommended that in the case of storey buildings, each floor has at least one portable fire extinguisher. We are supposed to have portable fire extinguishers in our homes, cars, workplaces and offices where there are no fire fighting installations. Moreover, in the case of high risk companies there must be multiples of fire extinguishers.
Finally, l want us to talk about storage of fire extinguishers. They are supposed to be stationed at locations where there are no obstructions. It makes accessibility very easy.
Employers owe it a duty to train their employees in fire safety and fighting. I know some companies have ire wardens. It is also good you get some basic training in how to use fire extinguisher.