General Knowledge

    How to Operate a Fire Extinguisher

    how to operate

    Pull the pin on the fire extinguisher.

    Hold the extinguisher with both hands; one on the discharge handle while the other supporting the base of the extinguisher.

    Stand several feet from the fire, aim at the base of the fire and depress the handle. Sweep back and forth to extinguisher the fire until it is completely out.

    Wait for any signs of re-ignition. Should the fire re-ignites, extinguish it immediately.

    Should you have any doubt on your control of the situation, leave the area immediately and if possible, close the door to prevent fire from spreading and call for help.

    ALWAYS REFILL THE FIRE EXTINGUISHER AFTER USE. It does not matter how much of the content has been used to extinguish a fire. As long as it has been used even a tiny bit, you must get the extinguisher checked and refilled. This is to ensure the extinguisher is on ready condition to fight the fire should such accidents occur.

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    Design of Fire Extinguishers

    Fire extinguishers are designed in many forms and shapes. It is important to choose an extinguisher that comes with a Pressure Indicator or a Pressure Gauge as it provides a means to check the pressure that is currently inside the extinguisher. The pressure inside the extinguisher acts as a propellant to push out the extinguishing agent.

    In Singapore, all commercial buildings and offices are required to have regular Service Maintenance contractors to do the checking and certifying of the serviceability of the extinguishers.

    In private homes, there are no such regulatory requirement but are strongly recommended to perform occasional self-checks to ensure their effectiveness in times of emergency. You would not want to end up with an extinguisher that may malfunction.

    The extinguishers should also be refillable as this is not only more cost effective in the long run, but also more environmentally friendly.

    Prevention is Better than Cure – Always have a Fire Extinguisher handy and ready for use.

    Accidents do happen. Prevention should be taken to minimize effects of fire. It is strongly recommended that each household should have at least one extinguisher stored in a prominent and easily accessible place, at locations where a fire outbreak is likely.

    You must always remember that you are not required to fight a fire. It is important to remember that a fire extinguisher is meant for small fires, at the point it initially break out. The whole idea is to stop the fire from spreading. Should you have any doubts about your control of the situation DO NOT FIGHT THE FIRE. LEAVE THE AREA AND CALL FOR HELP.

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    Purpose of Use

    Users must choose the correct type of extinguisher appropriate to its usage to avoid disastrous situations. Do not use a water extinguishers on electrical fires! To avoid unknowing personnel from such situations, the best choice would be to get a general purpose extinguisher eg: an ABC Dry Powder type or a Halotron l fire extinguisher so that most probable fires that occurs in the household or in office is covered.

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    How to Choose a Good Fire Extinguisher

    There are by far many types and design of fire extinguishers in the market. A good fire extinguisher that can serve in times of emergency should have the following properties.



    You must make sure the fire extinguisher was certified by the relevant authority on its product quality and usability. In Singapore, Singapore Productivity Board carries out the tests and certification on all commercial fire extinguishers. Extinguishers that are certified will be endorsed by a PLS sticker as follows:

    Fire Rating

    Fire Ratings for fire extinguishers must be clearly stated such as “5A/34B.” The higher the numbers indicate the higher the fire fighting power. The letter indicated refers to Class A & B fires respectively.

    Class A:

    Each test fire is designated by a number followed by the letter A. The designating number of the test fire represents:

    • The length of the test fire in decimetres i.e. the length of the wooden sticks arranged in the longitudinal direction of the test fire.
    • The number of 500mm wooden sticks for each layer arranged in the transverse direction of the test fire.

    Class B:

    Each test fire is designated by a number followed by the letter B. The designating number of the test fire represents:

    • The volume of liquid in litres contained in welded sheet steel cylindrical trays.
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    Typical Usage for Common Fire Extinguishers

    Water – Extinguishers are only suitable for Class A fires only and not for Class B, C, or D fires such as burning liquids, electrical fires, or metal fires as it will cause the fire to spread and aggravate the situation.

    Foam – Extinguishers are suitable for most fires caused by Class A fires (burning paper) and Class B fires (burning liquid). However, as it essentially a water based mixture, it cannot be used for electrical fires.

    CO2 – Extinguisher are meant for Class B and C fires but does not work well with Class A fires because the material usually re-ignites. Although it leaves no harmful residue, it is however a green house gas that contributes heavily to global warming. In addition, it is much heavier compared to the other extinguishers that may not be easily handled.

    ABC Dry Chemical – Extinguishers are meant for Class A, B and C fires. They can handle most fires that occur in the household or in a normal office environment. Upon discharge, it will leave a blanket of non-flammable material on the extinguished material that reduces re-ignition. A main disadvantage for this type is that it is corrosive and leaves a sticky residue that must be cleaned up immediately to prevent damage to equipment.

    D Powder – Extinguishers are meant for Class D or combustible metal fires only. They are ineffective on all other classes of fires.

    Halotron – Extinguishers are meant for Class A, B, and C fires. They are effective and clean that leave no residue upon application, and consequently inflicts little to no collateral damage on equipment in the vicinity of the fire. By far, this is the best choice extinguisher for general usage in the house or in an office.

    Wet Chemical – Extinguishers are meant for Class F fires. They are effective against fires involving cooking oils and fats, employing an agent that reacts with burning cooking oil or fat to form a suds-like blanket across the fuel surface, cutting off the fire’s air supply and preventing the release of flammable vapours.

    On the different types of fire extinguishers listed above, a good fire extinguisher must indicate clearly the ABC ratings on them. The rating look like “SA/34B.” The higher the number higher the fire fighting power.

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    Fire Classifications (A, B, C, D, F, Electrical)

    fire classification class a

    Class A Fires: Ordinary combustible materials such as Wood, Paper, Straw, Textiles, Coal etc.

    fire classification class b

    Class B Fires: Flammable liquids such as Petrol, Diesel, Oils, Paraffin etc.

    Class C Fires: Flammable gases such as Methane, Propane, Hydrogen, Natural Gas etc.

    Class D Fires: Combustible metals such as Magnesium, Aluminium, Lithium etc.

    Class F Fires: Cooking media such as Cooking Oil, Fats, Grease etc.

    Electrical Fires: Electrical Appliances such as Computers, Stereos, Fuse boxes etc.

    To make it easier to illustrate which extinguisher should be used on which class of fire, labels will be displayed in two ways.

    1. A letter designation which corresponds to the type of fire it will extinguish.
    2. An illustrated symbol which represents the type of combustible materials it will extinguish.
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    General Knowledge

    This serves only as a guideline and is not meant to be a comprehensive reference.

    Fire is the most beautiful gift from nature. It provides us warmth and is a very useful tool in daily life. It is important yet very dangerous if not properly handled. The majority of the population would claim that fire accidents do not happen to them and thus do not take the slightest care to equip oneself with the necessary means to tackle the fire should such a need occurs. However, accidental fire do occur when you least expect it. Many people have already lived to regret the situation and many more died with regrets. It is thus essential for us to know and prepare for such a situation.

    It is common belief that all causes of fires could be extinguished using water alone, thus it is not required to equip oneself with a proper fire extinguisher to keep the premises safe. This misconception could lead to grave consequences. It is therefore very important for everybody to understand the different nature and causes of fires and be equipped with the proper means to extinguish them. Through this section on general knowledge, we would like to provide some basic information on the more common types of fire normally encountered in a household or office environment.

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