How to Properly Use a Fire Extinguisher

To comply with OSHA standards, and to maintain safety at all times, your workplace should be equipped with several fire extinguishers (1). While this is an excellent first step, knowing how to properly use a fire extinguisher is also essential. Why? When a fire occurs, you’ll likely not have enough time to read the instructions on the canister. Without knowing exactly how to use the extinguisher beforehand, valuable seconds could be wasted, which may lead to property damage or even loss of life.

While there are different designs, an ABC fire extinguisher is the most common portable type in use today (2). According to the NFPA, these should be operated using the PASS Method (3). Fortunately, this is a simple and straightforward process, which is easy to follow in an emergency situation.

To fight a fire using the PASS Method:

  1. Pull up on the pin at the top of the extinguisher. This releases the locking mechanism, allowing the lever to be pressed and the extinguishing agent to be released.
  2. Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire. You may be tempted to aim at the middle of the blaze and near the top of the flames, but this is counterproductive. Your main goal should be to douse the fuel that is feeding the fire.
  3. Squeeze the lever to release the extinguishing agent toward the base of the flames.
  4. Sweep the unit in a side-to-side motion, to direct the extinguishing agent in an efficient manner. Keep this up until the fire is completely extinguished. As it diminishes, move closer to direct more force at the base of the fire, but make sure to maintain a safe distance at all times.

properly use a fire extinguisher

For optimal workplace safety, all fire extinguishers need to be visible and easily accessible for employees. OSHA recommends that all employees go through fire extinguisher training so they feel confident in their ability to use a fire extinguisher (4). Most importantly, fire extinguishers should be inspected and tested on a regular basis by a certified professional. Malfunctioning or defective extinguishers should be replaced immediately.

In addition to maintain a safe workplace, also be sure your home is equipped with high-quality fire extinguishers and that every member of your household knows where they are located and how to use them.

You can ensure that the extinguishers you use are of the utmost quality, by turning to the experts at Koorsen Fire & Security.  Click here to request fire extinguishers or fire extinguisher training today.


Thanks for posting this! My wife recently decided to get a fire extinguisher to have around the house in case of a fire. We want to teach our kids to use one properly, so this seems like a good guide to reference while we’re teaching them how to use one in a fire. PASS seems like a great acronym to help them remember to pull the pin, aim at the fire, squeeze the lever, and sweep the fire extinguisher until the fire is out.

I have never used a fire extinguisher before, so I thought I should learn how they work. Aiming for the base of the fire and keeping a safe distance are good tips. Now if there is ever a fire, I will be able to help put it out.

It’s important to know how to use a fire extinguisher properly. They are useless if no one knows how to use the extinguisher. It’s best to give everyone a little training, so they know how to do it when the time comes.

My wife and I just put a fire extinguisher in our kitchen, and we want to make sure we know how to use it in case of an emergency. That being said, I really appreciate you letting me know the steps we needs to take in order to work it properly. I never would have thought about sweeping the fire in a side-to-side motion. I’ll definitely remember that if a fire ever happens. Thanks for the help.

Brandon, Thank you for your comments. We are happy you found this post informative. Let us know if you have an additional questions or concerns. We are always happy to help.

Great article on fire safety, and straight to the point. It’s always good to know how to properly use your safety equipment in an emergency situation when tensions can rise. Remembering PASS makes it easy for anyone.

I love your use of the PASS acronym! My sister had a kitchen fire a few weeks ago, and ever since then I’ve been trying to do all I can to make sure that my family is prepared for anything fire-related that might happen to us. Of course, that means that I’ll have to get some fire extinguishers to put around the house, but what’s the point of those if you don’t know how to use them? I might create a mock-up fire extinguisher to practice PASS with my kids so we are accustomed to using one!

Tara – We are so glad that enjoyed the post, and hope that your sister and her home are okay. The PASS acronym is a great way for anyone, but especially children, to remember how to use fire extinguishers. That is a great idea to ensure your family is prepared and knows how to use an extinguisher if an emergency does arise.

Thanks for the post. It is good to know that an ABC fire extinguisher is the more common type. I really appreciate that you posted how to use an extinguisher. The PASS acronym is really easy to understand and remember. I think it would also be helpful to print it off and stick it with the extinguisher.

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