Be Prepared with Fire Extinguisher Basics
By Daryl Conner
There you are, grooming a tail–wagging, face–kissing dog and shuffling through the day’s plan in your head when you smell smoke. You put the dog in a crate and investigate. And, sure enough, you see smoke and sparks—or worse—flames, coming from a clipper. What do you do next?
If you are prepared, hopefully you have a fire extinguisher on-hand, easily accessible and ready to use.
Fire extinguishers are designed to use on small, contained fires. In my example of a clipper starting an electrical fire, if caught quickly, using the appropriate fire extinguisher could save the day.
Here is where I must make a confession. I do not have a fire extinguisher in my grooming studio. But I am planning on buying one this weekend. As I started thinking about this topic, I realized that I don’t know much about fire extinguishers and had no idea what type would be best to buy.
A little research on the internet soon informed me that there are four common types of fire extinguishers, rated by class; A,B,C and D. Class A are designed to extinguish flames from wood and paper. Class B are for flammable liquids such as oil and grease. Class C are only for electrical fires, and Class D are designed for flammable metals.
Luckily you don’t have to have an extinguisher for each type of fire, because you can purchase one unit that is multipurpose. These units will be labeled AB, BC or ABC. This type of extinguisher contains dry chemicals and works by creating a barrier between the fuel and the surrounding oxygen. Extinguishers labeled ABC are recommended for general household use. It is important to use the right extinguisher for the fire; using the wrong type can do more harm than good.
I still had questions, so I called a company that sells and services fire extinguishers and had a nice chat with a helpful man named Brian Grondon (AAA Fire Extinguishers, Auburn, ME.) I asked him what type of extinguisher would be best in a grooming setting. I explained to him that it seemed reasonable to me that electrical fires would be a concern in our industry.
He agreed and said, “I would recommend a good, multi–purpose extinguisher. One that is rated ABC would work on gas, paper and wood, as well as electrical fires.”
He went on to recommend, “A five–pound extinguisher is good for most small businesses. They weigh about nine pounds. Ten–pound units are harder to handle because they are heavier.”
This confused me, so I did a little research. The five– or ten–pound designation refers to the capacity of the extinguisher, not the weight of the entire tool. A five–pound unit will hold five pounds of the extinguishing chemical.
My next question was about storing and maintaining fire extinguishers.
Grondon explained, “NFPA code requires that fire extinguishers be inspected annually if you are a commercial business. OSHA requires monthly inspections. Every six years extinguishers should be torn apart and rebuilt.”
When it comes to storing them, he said, “I would recommend keeping one near every exit.”
Many fire extinguishers come with a hanging bracket so they can be installed in an easily accessible space. This is a good plan, because when you are dealing with a fire, there is no time to be digging through a closet to find your extinguisher!
Armed with a little more knowledge, I wondered how much I’ll be spending this weekend when I go to buy my new fire extinguisher. Some additional research on the internet showed me that prices vary but are very reasonable. Single use/disposable five–pound extinguishers are the least expensive to purchase. I found several for under $30. Rechargeable units tend to be more slightly more expensive.
Grondon explained that if extinguishers are purchased through a company such as his, they can perform the annual inspections and provide loaner units if they need to keep yours to service.
Once you have purchased and installed your fire extinguishers, it’s time for you and any staff you have to learn how to use them. Most fire extinguishers are built to be used with a standardized technique known as “P.A.S.S.”
(P) Pull the pin, (A) Aim low towards the base of the fire, (S) Squeeze the handle to allow the chemicals to spray out and (S) Sweep from side to side, maintaining your aim at the base of the flames.
If the fire reignites, repeat the last three steps.
Most people have never had the opportunity to use a fire extinguisher. Your local fire department may offer training and will certainly be able to answer any specific questions you might have.
This would also be a good time to review your emergency plan in case of fire. Where will people and pets be evacuated to if the fire cannot be quickly controlled? Having a plan of action in place that is understood by all staff members can mean the difference between life and death in the case of a fire emergency.
In an ideal world, nothing will distract you from grooming that tail–wagging, face–kissing dog, but won’t you feel better knowing you have a proper fire extinguisher at your fingertips in case disaster strikes? I know I will. ✂️