In today’s unpredictable world, being prepared for unexpected emergencies is vital. One prevalent safety tool that often comes to mind is a fire extinguisher, a device meant to fight flames and protect lives and property.However, a thought that may cross many minds is: can fire extinguisher be used on a person?
Well, the concept might seem unconventional, but knowing this life-saving device’s capabilities and limitations is crucial for comprehensive emergency preparedness.
A fire extinguisher can be used on a person, but this should be the last resort. Directing this firefighting apparatus at someone can result in health complications and injuries because of the forceful discharge of the extinguishing agent. This is particularly true if the nozzle is aimed at sensitive areas, including the face.
It would be better to consider how the fire extinguisher will affect the individual’s health and what to do after the fire is contained before using it.
Read along for more clarity on the subject of discussion.
What Type of Fire Extinguisher Can You Use On a Person
A fire extinguisher is not the best solution to extinguish a fire on another person. These devices are intended to suppress and extinguish fires by eliminating one or more elements of the fire triangle: heat, oxygen, and fuel. They are not meant to be used on individuals.
However, if this is the only option, you should use the right type of extinguisher to avoid severe health risks. So, what kind of extinguisher can you use on a person?
- Water: Water fire extinguishers are the safest to use on an individual because water is entirely non-toxic, and most materials people wear will hardly react with it when they are on fire.
- Dry Powder: Dry powder is chemically inert, though you should not aim it on someone’s face or other sensitive areas. It would help to spray it uniformly over the burning clothing to extinguish the fire.
Types of Fire Extinguishers
In the hands of a trained person, fire extinguishers are essential devices for protecting people and property from a fire during early stages. These safety devices come in different types, each designed to put out a specific class of fire.
Here are the various types of fire extinguishers:
Water is the main liquid used in these fire extinguishers, though sometimes other additives are incorporated. Water fire extinguishers fall under the Class A category of extinguishers, meaning they are effective against fires involving ordinary materials like paper, cloth, rubber, wood, and most plastics.
Besides water, some water-based fire extinguishers have wetting agents that decrease the surface tension in water molecules to make them more refined at putting out flames.
Although a water fire extinguisher is suitable for flammable solids, it is hazardous to use on other types of fire. For this reason, you should never use water fire extinguishers on Class C fires, as you might be electrocuted.
Also, do not use a water fire extinguisher on combustible liquid fires, as the fire might flare up and spread. Water-based fire extinguishers do not excel in extreme cold because water solidifies in sub-freezing temperatures unless the water contains antifreeze. A water fire extinguisher is best for backyard fire pits, charcoal grills, and other settings in which flammable materials fall under Class A.
Tip: Volume and range are vital when choosing water fire extinguishers. Therefore, go for models that offer plenty of volume and range. One example is a unit with a 2.5-gallon capacity, 55-foot range, and 55-second discharge time.
- Aqueous Film-Forming Foam
AFFF fire extinguishers can extinguish both Class A and Class B fires. That means that besides putting out flammable materials like rubber and clothing, this fire extinguisher will also work on combustible liquids, including solvents and alcohol.
AFFF fire extinguishers discharge foam instead of a liquid, putting out the fire by depriving it of oxygen. This type of fire extinguisher has numerous benefits, one being the foam’s ability to float on the liquid’s surface, allowing it to put out a combustible liquid and deter it from reigniting.
- Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers employ a gas cloud to smother a fire by eliminating the oxygen in the surrounding air, unlike other models that use foam, water, or dry substances. As such, it doesn’t leave any residue, making it best for situations where other extinguishing agents can damage sensitive electrical equipment.
One major setback of carbon dioxide fire extinguishers is that they have a concise range of between 3 and 8 feet, depending on the unit’s size. Additionally, they’re not suitable for indoor or outdoor locations with high airflow because they are gas-based. Windy conditions may dissipate the unit’s reagent, limiting its ability to extinguish a fire.
- ABC Powder
This is the only dry chemical agent rated as a Class A fire extinguisher. ABC Powder fire extinguisher uses mono ammonium phosphate, a yellow powder that melts into a viscous molten substance when it approaches a temperature of nearly 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
The solid is propelled out of the extinguisher using nitrogen gas at a range of approximately 15 feet. This substance clings to burning embers, holding back oxygen and extinguishing them.
ABC powder fire extinguishers excel in combating Class A, B, and C fires because they interrupt the chemical reaction that triggers a fire. Because of this, they find wide applications in labs and industrial settings. The only downside of ABC powder fire extinguishers is they leave a huge mess behind.
- Deionized Water Mist
This type of extinguisher releases deionized water in a fine mist that emits small water droplets that can rob the fire of oxygen while leaving the area dry. For that reason, deionized water fire extinguishers are suitable for areas with valuable items and sensitive electronics that a water-based extinguisher could damage.
The best part is that this unit is effective against Class A and Class C fires because the water is deionized, so it can’t conduct electricity.
- Wet Chemical
Wet chemical fire extinguishers combat flames by eliminating two of the three parts of a fire triangle: heat and oxygen. This type of extinguisher uses wet potassium acetate to develop a cooling effect while choking the fire.
This attribute makes wet chemical fire extinguishers effective at dousing high-temperature grease fires that sometimes happen in commercial kitchens. Wet chemical fire extinguishers last for 35 to 40 seconds before running out.
How Can Someone Catch Fire?
There are many ways an individual can catch on fire, including the following:
- Flammable Clothing: Some types of clothing, particularly those made from combustible materials like synthetic fabrics, can catch fire easily. When subjected to an open flame or a heat source, these clothes can ignite rapidly, endangering the life of the person wearing them.
- Lighting a Cigarette Around Flammable Vapors: Smoking in areas with combustible vapors, like those emitted by some fuels, poses a significant risk. Lighting a cigarette in such environments is dangerous as the flame may ignite the surrounding vapors, causing an individual to catch fire. You can avoid this by complying with no-smoking policies in environments with flammable substances.
- Spraying Lighter Fluid on an Already Smoldering Fire: To revive a dwindling fire, someone may spray lighter fluid over the smoldering embers. However, the mixture of flammable liquid and existing embers can lead to a sudden flare-up, harming the person handling the lighter fluid.
- Working with Gasoline: Dealing with combustible liquids, like gasoline, requires extreme caution. Any accidental spillage onto clothing can result in an individual catching fire when subjected to an ignition source. It would help to prioritize safety measures, like wearing protective clothing, when engaging in tasks involving combustible liquids.
- A Loose Sleeve Catching a Spark from a Gas Stove: Imagine preparing food on a gas stove, and unknown to you, your shirt’s loose sleeve brushes against the open flame. Loose sleeves can quickly ignite, escalating to a dangerous situation. For this reason, you should be mindful of clothing choices in the kitchen.
How to Use a Fire Extinguisher to Put Out a Fire on a Person
First, it must be noted that a fire extinguisher should be used on an individual if it is the only option that may save their life. It is advisable to begin with other tactics before using a fire extinguisher to put out a fire on a person because this tool is primarily designed to extinguish fires on objects, land, etc.
Before using the fire extinguisher, let the person know they are on fire. This allows them to brush off the flames, saving you from using the fire extinguisher if they cannot, ask them to cover their face, including eyes, nose, and mouth, to avoid inhaling the extinguisher’s contents and reduce health hazards.
Pull the pin at the top of the fire extinguisher to break the seal. Aim the nozzle towards the edges of the flames and squeeze the handles together to discharge the extinguishing agent. After that, release the handles to stop the discharge.
After extinguishing the fire, attend to the person’s health immediately, which includes taking the person to fresh air, contacting medical professionals, and treating the victim’s burns.
Speaking of victim burns, here’s how to treat burns to prevent infection, blood poisoning, and toxic shock.
- First Degree Burns
These are mainly red, with minor inflammation, swelling, and pain. First-degree burns often heal within 6 to 10 days without scarring. They are the easiest to treat and may be treated with basic home remedies, such as:
- Soaking the wound in water
- Applying aloe vera to the skin to soothe the burn
- Using an antibiotic ointment, assuming the burn is more severe
- Consuming pain relief medications like ibuprofen.
Avoid using ice when treating the burn because this can worsen the damage. Also, do not use cotton; the tiny fibers will stick to the wound and cause infection.
- Second Degree Burns
These burns extend beyond the skin’s top layer, making the skin blister and extremely red and sore. Some blisters may pop out, making the skin appear wet. In this case, the most crucial thing is to clean the wound because the popping blisters can be susceptible to infection.
Second degree burns can take approximately three weeks to heal, though the following treatments can help to expedite the process:
- Running the affected area under cold water for fifteen minutes
- Taking over-the-counter medication
- Applying antibiotic cream to blisters
Seek professional medical attention if the burns are in a broad area.
- Third Degree Burns
Third degree burns are the most severe because they extend through every skin layer. However, they are not too painful as the damage is so intense, which harms the nerve, preventing the victim from feeling anything. Third degree burns can have a leathery texture and blisters that do not develop.
As a general rule, you should never treat third degree burns yourself. Instead, contact emergency services for help.
Note: Fire Extinguisher extinguishers should be used as a last resort to put out a fire on an individual. If someone is on fire, ask them to stop, drop, and roll. You stop in your immediate spot, lay on the ground, and roll back and forth to suffocate the fire.
Is Breathing In Fire Extinguisher Dangerous?
A fire extinguisher might not be the most attractive addition to your home, but it could save your life during a fire outbreak. However, with it comes the risk of health issues if its contents are inhaled.
Inhaling the contents of a fire extinguisher can have serious health consequences. The specific risks depend on the extinguishing agent used, but common effects are kidney damage, skin problems, coughing, shortness of breath, respiratory irritation, and heart problems.
If you accidentally inhale a fire extinguisher’s contents, seek fresh air immediately. Always use fire extinguishers as the user manual directs, and avoid inhaling the contents.
- How Dangerous Is Fire Extinguisher Powder?
Fire extinguishers are generally perceived as safety devices, so most people don’t think about the potential dangers they hold. Though fire extinguisher powder is non-toxic, it is not completely safe, especially if inhaled.
The powder can irritate skin, so it is advisable to use gloves when cleaning up the residue left by a fire extinguisher after a fire. Also, use a dust mask to avoid inhaling the powder.
Consuming the powder of a fire extinguisher can cause a sore throat and stomach ache while inhaling can irritate your mucous membranes and cause shortness of breath if inhaled in large amounts.
What Are the Health Risks of Using a Fire Extinguisher On Someone
It’s hard to imagine that the very safety device meant to extinguish fires can pose health risks if used on someone. That said, here are various health risks of using a fire extinguisher to put out a fire on an individual:
- Eye Irritation: The contents of a fire extinguisher can lead to eye irritation. Direct exposure to the discharge from a fire extinguisher can cause discomfort, redness, and eye damage. As such, you should avoid spraying the discharge from an extinguisher directly on someone’s face. If you must put out the fire on someone with an extinguisher, ask the person to cover their face.
- Skin Irritation: Some extinguishing agents can trigger irritation upon skin contact. This may manifest as redness, dryness, or more severe reactions based on the chemical composition of the extinguishing agents.
- Injury: Apart from chemical exposure, the forceful discharge of a fire extinguisher can harm a person. The high pressure from the extinguishing agent can result in injuries, even more so if the nozzle is aimed at sensitive areas of the body.
- Heart Problems: Inhaling the contents of a fire extinguisher can affect your heart. The extinguishing agents may cause inflammation of your blood vessels, leading to clogged arteries and heart attacks.
- Kidney Damage: The discharge from a fire extinguisher can cause kidney damage if a person inhales it. Chemicals can infiltrate the bloodstream and travel through the kidneys.
- Lung Problems: Inhaling toxic fumes from a fire extinguisher can irritate your respiratory tract as they enter your lungs. Immediate medical intervention is required if someone inhales a fire extinguisher’s contents.
- Complications in Pre-existing Conditions: Those with pre-existing health conditions, like respiratory disorders, might experience exacerbated symptoms when exposed to the contents of a fire extinguisher. The chemicals can worsen existing health issues, demanding immediate medical attention.
Can Fire Extinguisher Be Used On a Person?
You can use a fire extinguisher to put out a fire on someone, but it should be the last resort as it poses significant health risks. Fire extinguishers are purpose-built devices intended to suppress and extinguish fires by eliminating one or more fire triangle elements.
Aiming a fire extinguisher at a person can result in skin irritation, eye irritation, lung problems, heart attack, shortness of breath, and kidney problems, among other risks.
If someone catches fire, ask them to stop, drop, and roll back and forth to see if the fire will diminish. If not, use the fire extinguisher to smother the fire, but don’t spray them directly on the face.