In 2017, approximately 120,000 non-residential fires in the U.S. caused $2.8 billion worth of property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). National Fire Prevention Week™ is Oct. 6-12, and Cintas Corporation is helping raise awareness of the importance of knowing the basics about your fire extinguishers, where they are located for quick access and how to use them if a fire emergency occurs.
“Fire prevention is always the goal, but businesses need to be prepared if those efforts fall short,” said Taylor Brummel, Director of Marketing – Fire Protection, Cintas Corporation. “Through the month of October, our Find Your Fire Extinguisher (FYFE) campaign is focused on helping facility managers and building owners educate their employees, customers and others on the location of extinguishers and how to use them.”
Facility managers should consider the following best practices for their business:
- Select the right extinguisher type(s). Fire extinguishers are classified A, B, C, D, or K based on which types of fire they suppress most effectively. The surroundings and environment are key factors for a facility manager to consider when deciding which units should be in place and how many are needed. Consult the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) for more information on the fire code or other requirements in your area to make this determination.
Keep in mind that extinguishers can also differ by their contents – water, dry chemical, foam or carbon dioxide (CO2) – and by their vessel; there are pressurized cylinders, cartridge operated units and wheeled units. The ABC multipurpose fire extinguisher is the most common variety but may not be the best choice for all areas of your facility.
- Regularly inspect fire extinguishers. Extinguishers are often the first line of defense against a fire, so it is important that facility managers have a plan in place to inspect each unit monthly and have the required maintenance performed on an annual basis per applicable codes and standards. These efforts are designed to provide confidence that each unit will function properly if a fire emergency occurs.
- Conduct training. It’s likely that many building occupants have never used a fire extinguisher or even practiced using one. In fact, a survey found 74% of American adults have never used a fire extinguisher.1 Conduct training with employees so they are familiar with the location of each extinguisher and understand when and how to use it during an emergency. For hands-on demonstrations with professionals, consider partnering with local fire protection service providers or fire departments.
- Use the PASS Method. In the event of a fire, use this acronym to remember how to use most common, portable fire extinguishers:
• P – Pull the pin.
• A – Aim at base of fire.
• S – Squeeze the handle.
• S – Sweep side to side.
Know when to abandon extinguishing efforts. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), fire extinguishers should be used to control or extinguish small fires and to protect evacuation routes that may be directly or indirectly blocked by a fire. If a fire is already sizable, or is not diminishing in size with the assistance of an extinguisher, evacuate and leave it to professional firefighters.
“Building owners and managers have a responsibility to be prepared if fire prevention falls short,” added Brummel. “With occupant well-being at stake, prioritizing fire extinguisher education is a positive step toward improved fire safety.”