Fire Safety

How to use a Fire Extinguisher

Legislation requires that all employees receive appropriate safety instruction. Therefore anyone likely to have to use extinguishers should be trained in their use and receive basic instrution in fire fighting.

Delays due to hesitation or unsuccessful attempts to operate equipment can then be avoided.

This leaflet outlines suitable fire fighting techniques.

It also shows how color coding is changing. The new types of extinguishers comply with European Standard BS EN 3, have all-red bodies and optional zones of colour, up to 5% of the total surface area, to indicate extinguisher contents. Extinguishers which comply with the previous standard, BS 5423, are depicted in the old illustrations in this leaflet. Ether type is suitable for use, as long as it is serviceable.

Fire spreads quickly; a speedy attack is essential. If anyone is near, tell them to report the outbreak and then to give assistance. Extinguishers are only fir dealing with small fires.

Do not continue to fight a fire if:

  • it is dangerous to do so,
  • there is a possibility that your escape route may be cut off by the fire or smoke,
  • the fire continues to grow in spite of your efforts,
  • there are gas cylinders threatened by a fire.

If you have to withdraw, close windows and doors behind you whenever possible.

Do not use fire extinguisher to put out a fire involving burning gas. Turn off the gas supply if it is safe to do so or leave such fires to the fire brigade.

  • Before starting to fight even the smallest fire ensure that the alarm has been raised and the fire procedure activated.
  • Take up a position where access to the fire is unrestricted but where a quick and safe retreat is possible. For example on the side of the fire nearest an exit or, when outside a building, up wind of the fire.
  • Crouching will help the operator to keep clear of smoke, avoid heat and allow a closer approach to the fire.
  • Always ensure that a fire is completely extinguished and not liable to re-ignite or continue smouldering.


Suitable for most fires except those involving flammable liquids or live electrical apparatus.


  • Direct the jet at the base of the flame and keep it moving across the area of the fire.
  • Seek out any hot spots after the main fire is extinguished.
  • A fire spreading vertically should be attacked at its lowest point and followed upwards.

Carbon Dioxide

Suitable for fires involving flammable liquids or electrical apparatus.


Method and operating instructions as for dry powder.

  • Carbon dioxide extinguishers should not be used in confined spaces where there is a danger that fumes may be inhaled.
  • Do not hold the horn since it becomes extremely cold during use.


Suitable for most fires involving flammable liquids.


  • Where the liquid on fire is in a container, direct the jet at the inside edge of the container or at an adjoining vertical surface above the level of the burning liquid. This breaks the jet and allows the foam to build up and flow across the surface of the liquid to smother the fire.
  • Where this is not possible stand well back, direct the jet with a gentle sweeping movement, allow the foam to drop down and lie on the surface of the liquid.
  • Do not aim the jet directly into the liquid as this will drive the foam beneath the surface and render it ineffective. In addition, it may splash the fire onto the surroundings.

Dry Powder

Suitable for fires involving flammable liquids or electrical apparatus.


  • On fires involving either liquids in containers or spilled liquids, direct the jet or discharge horn towards the near edge of the fire. With a rapid sweeping motion drive towards the far edge until all flames are extinguished.
  • On fires involving flow3ing liquids, direct the jet or horn at the base of the flames and sweep upwards.
  • On fires in electrical equipment, switch off the current and then direct the jet or horn straight at the fire.
  • Where the equipment is enclosed, direct the jet or horn into any opening with the object of penetrating the interior.
  • When the fire appears to be extinguish shut off the discharge and wait until the atmosphere clears. If any flame is then still visible, discharge again.