What, Why, When and How: Fire Extinguishers 101

alarm-316542_640At Brenneco Fire Protection, we know fire and we know fire protection. Often overlooked and forgotten, fire extinguishers are an important component of fire protection for the commercial sector.

If someone mentioned that having fully functioning, regularly inspected fire extinguishers strategically positioned in your commercial business could minimize damages, reduce loss, and avoid fines–would you be interested in knowing more?

You definitely should.

We at Brenneco believe in the importance of fire extinguishers so we wanted to dedicate an entire blog post to discussing the basics of fire extinguishers. This post will discuss what is a fire extinguisher, why they are needed, when they are needed, and how to use one properly.

Fire Extinguishers 101: What?

Basically, fire extinguishers are portable, pressurized canisters filled with water, chemicals, or a combination of both. When activated, the contents within a fire extinguisher do one of three things:

  1. Remove heat from the source of the fire
  2. Remove oxygen from the source of the fire
  3. Remove fuel from the source of the fire

To remove heat from the source of a fire, a fire extinguisher cools the fuel below the ignition threshold, interrupting the combustion cycle. In order to remove oxygen from the source of the fire, a fire extinguisher smothers the fire, eliminating the fire’s exposure to air and essentially creating a blanket above the fire. Lastly, removing fuel from the source of the fire is the most difficult of these three. All potentially flammable objects, structures, materials, etc. are considered fuel for a fire and the only way to remove this fuel from the source is if all fuel is consumed.

Fire Extinguishers 101: Why?

Fire extinguishers are an essential safety tool for every building. As the first line of defense, fire extinguishers provide quick, portable protection in the event of a small fire outbreak. You should know where all fire extinguishers are located within your workplace in the case of an emergency.

Fire extinguishers were first patented in 1723 as a way to help stop fires. However, the modern extinguisher we’re familiar with today was developed in 1818 by Captain William Manby. Over the years different chemical combinations have been utilized in an effort to find the best chemical suppressant for different fire outbreaks. Fire extinguishers are a portable, effective defense against small, contained fire outbreaks.

Fire Extinguishers 101: When?

1280px-US_Navy_040701-N-4374S-001_Fireman_Alex_Abreu_performs_a_Planned_Maintenance_System_(PMS)_check_on_a_CO2_fire_extinguisherAny time you witness a small fire outbreak, a fire extinguisher is your portable protection. Take a moment right now to find your nearest fire extinguisher. It’s okay, we can wait. The nearest one should be within 75 feet. You should locate the nearest fire extinguisher and act swiftly. With quick action, portable fire protection and proper use, a fire extinguisher can save the lives of employees and customers, marginalize damage to a facility, and reduce loss.

Use a fire extinguisher when:

  • You feel confident you can handle the extinguisher accurately and effectively.
  • A fire immediately starts in a contained area, such as a trashcan. Action within the first minute is crucial to help prevent the fire from spreading.
  • All other employees have been alerted to the fire and are in the process of evacuating.
  • After the fire department has been called and they are in route to your location.


Fire Extinguishers 101: How?

Proper use of a fire extinguisher starts and ends with the acronym PASS. Remember those fun acronyms you made in grade school to help you remember things? PASS is one of these.

To properly use a fire extinguisher in the time of need:

“P” is for Pull

Pull the pin on the fire extinguisher around the handle and trigger; pulling this pin allows you to operate the trigger.

“A” is for Aim

Aim the fire extinguisher at the base of the fire. Remember to hold the fire extinguisher firmly with both hands; one hand around the handle on the canister and the other hand operating the fire extinguisher hose.

“S” is for Squeeze

Squeeze the trigger using the hand holding the hose on the fire extinguisher; squeezing the trigger activates the extinguisher.

“S” is for Sweep

Sweep the base of the fire from side to side after squeezing the trigger and activating the fire extinguisher. Start at the side of the side closest to you and then push the fire away from you until the fire is extinguished.

Properly using a fire extinguisher could reduce the risk of damage to your business and reduce injuries to your employees and customers. When it comes down to it, fire extinguishers are vital components of fire protection and can save lives–hence the importance of fire extinguisher maintenance.


Fire Extinguisher Maintenance

Annual inspections and regular maintenance are key to keeping portable fire extinguishers functioning, so that you can continue to keep your facilities, employees and customers safe. In fact, regular inspections and maintenance are necessary for avoiding fines for fire code noncompliance.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the authority on fire, electrical and building safety, publishes and enforces codes to ensure that fire extinguishers will work as intended when needed. These codes call for regular fire inspection and maintenance by trained professionals once per year.

Although you should allow trained fire protection professionals to inspect and maintain your fire extinguishers, this quick, easy checklist can help keep your fire extinguishers up to code in between inspections.

  • Each fire extinguisher is visible, unobstructed, and in its designated location
  • Each locking pin on each fire extinguisher is intact with the tamper seal unbroken
  • Each fire extinguisher is free of physical damage, corrosion, leakage, and/or clogged nozzles
  • Operating instructions on each fire extinguisher are legible and facing outward
  • All expired service tags have been reported immediately
  • All missing, damaged or used fire extinguishers have been reported immediately


Do you have fire extinguisher or fire protection needs? Our professionals at Brenneco evaluate and strategically place fire extinguishers, replace old fire extinguishers, inspect, test and maintain current fire extinguishers.

Fire extinguishers are the first line of defense for keeping your facilities, employees, and customers safe in the case of a small fire outbreak.



Brenneco Fire Protection provides fire inspection and protection services throughout Central Indiana including the Greater Lafayette and Indianapolis areas. We partner with many different industries to ensure your fire safety through installation and inspection of various emergency systems.

We make it our top priority to answer your call for assistance and show up on time when you need us. Our expertise helps you eliminate downtime and keeps you employees and facilities protected.

 Visit our website here, or follow us on Facebook or LinkedIn for more information.