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Fire Extinguisher User Information


What is a Fire Extinguisher?
 
Fire extinguishers are special pressurized devices that release chemicals or water to put out a fire.
 
They keep small fires from spreading, assist in fighting fires until the fire department arrives and can help provide an escape route for you and your family.
 
Portable Fire Extinguishers
Portable fire fighting equipment is designed to provide the user with an appliance to attend a small fire during its initial stage. When deciding to attack a fire, always designate another person to raise the alarm and obtain a back-up fire extinguisher. Portable fire extinguishers should be provided in all buildings.
 

Types/Selection of fire extinguishers

There are a number of types of portable fire extinguishers available in Australia. Each type of extinguisher may be rated for one or more classes of fire. In some cases, particular extinguishers are not only considered ineffective against certain classes of fire, they can be dangerous in those circumstances. The Classes of fire are:
 

CLASS A
CLASS B
CLASS E
CLASS F

Paper, Wood, Cardboard
Solvents, Paint, Petroleum, Methylated Spirits.

Electrical fires
Cooking oils and fats


 
There are three essential elements involved in producing fire -- heat, oxygen and fuel. To put a fire out, you need to effectively remove one of these elements.
 

The best way to remove heat is to dump water on the fire. This cools the fuel to below the ignition point, interrupting the combustion cycle.

To remove oxygen, you can smother the fire so it is not exposed to air. One way to smother a small fire is to cover it with a heavy blanket

Removing the fuel is the most difficult approach for most fires. In a house fire, for example, the house itself is potential fuel. The fuel will only be removed once the fire has burned all of it up.
 
Fire extinguishers are sturdy metal cylinders filled with water or a smothering material. When you depress a lever at the top of the cylinder, the material is expelled by high pressure, similar to the way material is forced out of an aerosol can.
 
A siphon tube leads from the bottom of the fire-suppressant reservoir to the top of the extinguisher. A spring-mounted valve blocks the passageway from the siphon to the nozzle. At the top of the cylinder, there is a smaller cylinder filled with a compressed gas -- liquid carbon dioxide, for example. A release valve keeps the compressed gas from escaping. In Australia, we have Stored Pressure Extinguishers.
 
OPERATION
To use the extinguisher, you pull out the safety pin (this metal safety pin prevents the operating lever from closing accidentally) and depress the operating lever. The lever pushes on an actuating rod, which presses the spring-mounted valve down to open up the passage to the nozzle. The bottom of the actuating rod has a sharp point, which pierces the gas cylinder release valve.
 
The proper way to use the extinguisher is to aim it directly at the fuel, rather than the flames themselves, and move the stream with a sweeping motion.
 
Chemistry-Technical Information
 
Water
Water is the most common chemical for Class A Fires and is effective. Most water based extinguishers also contain traces of other chemicals to prevent the extinguisher rusting. Some also contain wetting agents which help the water bore deeply into the burning material and adhere better to surfaces. Water works to extinguish a fire by simply cooling it below the ignition point, although large amounts of water can also exclude oxygen. However, water will merely exacerbate other fire classes. For instance, water sprayed over burning liquid petroleum merely spreads the flames around. Similarly water sprayed on an electrical fire may cause the operator to receive an electric shock. (However, if the power can be safely disconnected and a carbon dioxide or halon extinguisher is not available, clean water will actually cause less damage to electrical equipment than will either foam or dry powders.)
 
Foams
Foams are used on Class F Fires. These are mainly water based, with a foaming agent so that the foam can float on top of the burning liquid to exclude oxygen. Ordinary foams are designed to work on non polar flammable liquids such as petrol (gasoline), but may break down too quickly in polar liquids such as alcohol or glycol. Facilities which handle large amounts of flammable polar liquids use a specialized "alcohol foam" instead. Alcohol foams must be gently "poured" across the burning liquid. If the fire cannot be approached closely enough to do this, they should be sprayed onto an adjacent solid surface so that they run gently onto the burning liquid. Ordinary foams work better if "poured" but it is not critical. Protein foam" was used for fire suppression in aviation crashes until the 1960's when "Aqueous Film-Forming Foam" (or AFFF). Carbon dioxide (later sodium bicarbonate) extinguishers were used to knock down the flames and foam used to prevent re-ignition of the fuel fumes. "Foaming the runway" can reduce friction and sparks in a crash landing, and protein foam continued to be used for that purpose, although FAA regulations prohibited reliance upon its use for suppression.
 
Dry Powder
ABE powder consists of mono ammonium phosphate and/or ammonium phosphate. It is effective on Class A: B & E Fires .As well as suppressing the flame in the air, it also melts at a low temperature to form a layer of slag which excludes oxygen from the fuel. For this reason it is effective against class A fires unlike a Rating B:E only extinguisher. ABE powder is the best agent for fires involving multiple classes.
 
Wet Chemical
Most Class F extinguishers contain a solution of potassium acetate, sometimes with some potassium citrate or potassium bicarbonate. The extinguishers spray the agent out as a fine mist. The mist acts to cool the flame front, while the potassium salts saponify the burning cooking oil, producing a layer of soap over the surface. This solution thus provides a similar blanketing effect to a foam extinguisher, but with a greater cooling effect. The saponification only works on animal fats and vegetable oils, so class F extinguishers cannot be used for class B fires. The misting also helps to prevent splashing the blazing oil.
 
Carbon dioxide 
Carbon dioxide is especially effective on electrical fires, Class E Fires, as being a gas; it does not leave any residues which might further harm the damaged equipment. Carbon dioxide (CO2) also works on Classes B and C Fires by displacing the less dense oxygen. This can be problematic in enclosed occupied spaces as we need oxygen too! Although carbon dioxide is exhaled in our own breath, in the high concentrations required to extinguish deep seated fires it is one of the most toxic extinguishing agents used. (Carbon dioxide can also be used on Class A Fires when it is important to avoid water damage, but in this application the gas concentration must usually be maintained longer than is possible with a hand-held extinguisher.)
 
Know your extinguisher
 
Before you invest in one or more extinguishers, consider where you need them. Where are fires most likely to start? What type of fire would be most likely? Not all extinguishers work on all types of fires.
 
Discuss your needs with your local Dealer. They can help you choose the best type of extinguisher for your home. Make sure you select an extinguisher which can be easily handled by all family members.
 
Keep extinguishers in a handy location. The best location in most situations is just inside a door or entrance, out of the reach of children. Avoid locating an extinguisher right next to where a fire could develop. Smoke, heat or flames from a fire may keep you from reaching the extinguisher. Be sure that everyone in the family knows where extinguishers are located and how to use them.
 
How do fire extinguishers work?
 
Fire is a chemical reaction called combustion. Fire needs fuel, oxygen and heat in order to burn. Fire extinguishers apply an agent that will cool burning fuel or restrict or remove oxygen so the fire cannot continue to burn. Small household fires can be quickly controlled by a fire extinguisher.
 
Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher. But simply owning an extinguisher is not enough.
 
One-third of all people injured by fire are hurt while trying to control or extinguish a fire. You need the right type of extinguisher and you must know how and when to use it.
 
Don't fight a fire unless:
 
  1. You can get out fast if you can't control the fire. Don't get trapped. Make sure the fire is not between you and your exit. 
  2. You have the right extinguisher for what burning!! READ THE LABEL! 
  3. You know what types of extinguisher you have before there is a fire.
  4. Your extinguisher works.  Inspect extinguishers regularly.
A partially discharged extinguisher is an empty one.
 
AND
 
You know how to use your extinguisher.
 
It too late to read the instructions when the fire is burning!!!!!!!
 
 
Before you invest in one or more extinguishers, consider where you need them. Where are fires most likely to start? What type of fire would be most likely? Not all extinguishers work on all types of fires.
 
Discuss your needs with your Dealer. They can help you choose the best type of extinguisher for your home.  Make sure you select an extinguisher which can be easily handled by all family members.
 
Keep extinguishers in a handy location. The best location in most situations is just inside a door or entrance, out of the reach of children.  Avoid locating an extinguisher right next to where a fire could develop.  Smoke, heat or flames from a fire may keep you from reaching the extinguisher.
 
Be sure that everyone in the family knows where extinguishers are located and how to use them. 
 
Extinguishers rated ABE are effective on most types of fire. But consult your Dealer for more extensive information and options.
E.g. Fire Blankets etc
 
DEVELOP AND PRACTICE a home fire escape plan.
 
and
 
NEVER GO BACK into a burning building for any reason.
 

 

"The Higher the Rating the better the Protection"


 
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