Incident or Accident Handling Procedures – Part III

Welcome back to our in-depth look at how a professional truck driver should handle an incident or accident. In the first two Parts of this series we dove into first aid and fire prevention.

Today we will round out fire prevention by looking at the fire extinguisher itself, and how to use it. Although the use of these ubiquitous devices may seem obvious, they require special care and knowledge to operate properly.

Modern Fire Extinguishers

If you are going to use a fire extinguisher, you need to first know a few things about it ahead of time.

  • Where is it located?
  • What types of fires is it intended to be used on?
  • What is its rating?

Modern extinguishers also have color coded symbols and “pictograms” indicating what type of fire they are intended to put out.

  • A green triangle with an “A” in it and/or a pictogram showing burning wood in a garbage can indicates that fire extinguisher is made to be used on common combustibles, such as wood, plastics or paper.
  • A red square with a “B” in it and/or a pictogram showing a gas can on fire indicates that fire extinguisher should be used on burning liquids.
  • A blue circle with a “C” in it and/or a pictogram showing an electrical plug and receptacle indicates the fire extinguisher can be used on energized electrical equipment.

Always remember that a fire extinguisher may still be effective against a fire it is not clearly intended to be used on, so don’t not try to put out a fire with it just because you’re afraid it won’t work. The one mismatch you do want to avoid, however, is trying to fight an energized electrical fire with anything other than a “C” rated fire extinguisher.

How To Use It

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to use the fire extinguisher, always remember the “Pass” rule:

  • Pull: There is a safety pin. Pull it. There may be a seal in place holding the pin. You will have to pull hard enough to break the seal.
  • Aim: Always aim the extinguisher towards the base of the fire. You want to hit whatever is actually burning. Do not aim at the flames.
  • Squeeze: Give the handle a good squeeze to activate the extinguisher.
  • Sweep: Sweep the extinguisher back and forth across the burning material.

While the PASS system should be at the front of your mind, there are some other considerations, as well.

  • Don’t breathe the smoke. Smoke from vehicle fires is especially toxic. Stay back from the smoke and hold your breath whenever it heads your way.
  • Be at the range of the extinguisher when you are using it. Never get right on top of the fire to fight it. For most fire extinguishers the range is somewhere between 5 and 8 feet.
  • Test the extinguisher before you approach the fire. Do this by giving off a couple short bursts in the direction of the fire as you approach it. If the extinguisher is not functioning, do not continue approaching the fire.

If the fire is in the engine compartment try to extinguish it through normal openings first. If it is safe to do so, open the compartment upon reduction of the fire.

If you are not able to completely put out the fire using the extinguisher, immediately evacuate the area. If it is safe to do so, you may consider disconnecting the trailer to minimize the damage.

If you do manage to put a fire out using the extinguisher, do not immediately walk away. You, or someone else, will have to observe the area for several minutes to verify that the fire is not “rekindling.” This is especially important if it was a tire that was burning.

Once the fire is out, contact your company. Do not operate the vehicle again until it has been checked for damage and properly repaired.

We hope you found Part III of our series informative. Join us next time in Part IIII where we cover spill prevention and suppression.