Fireproof your business

Stay fire-safe at your office

Think for a moment about the unthinkable. You smell smoke and realize that there’s a fire in your business’ offices. What do you do? How will you ensure that you, your coworkers, and customers are safe? 

The answer is more complicated than “know where the nearest fire extinguisher and fire alarm box are.” While that’s important information to have top-of-mind, it’s not enough.

You can’t battle all fires the same way

The most basic thing of all to know is this: the very first thing to do in case of fire is pull the fire alarm and/or call 911. You should also know that there are five “classes” of fires and special extinguishers labeled with corresponding letters for each: A, B, C, D, and K. There are also multi-use extinguishers labeled A-B-C that are appropriate for any of those three classes of fires.

  • Class A fires are fed by ordinary combustibles including wood, paper, trash, or anything else that leaves ash. These fires are best put out with water.
  • Class B fires are fueled by flammable or combustible liquids such as oil or gasoline. Fire extinguishers formulated for these fires contain smothering agents that starve these fires of their oxygen supply.
  • Class C fires are caused by energized electrical equipment and fighting them always involves de-energizing the faulty circuit, then using a non-conductive extinguishing agent like carbon dioxide.
  • Class D fires are caused by combustible metals such as magnesium and titanium and can’t be extinguished with water. Dry powder extinguishing agents work with these fires by smothering and heat absorption.
  • Class K fires involve cooking oils, grease, or animal fat and can be put out using Purple K, the extinguishing agent typically found in kitchen or galley extinguishers.

No matter what type of fire you might be confronting, there are times that trying to fight it is exactly the wrong thing to do. Fire can move incredibly quickly, and what looks manageable can turn deadly in seconds.

If you take the wrong approach to fighting a fire — trying to smother an electrical fire using a foam extinguisher, for instance — you might end up making things worse. This is where training is vital. Fire extinguishers are built to put out one or more of the different classes of fires, and you should use the proper kind for the type of fire you’re facing. Just as all fires are different, so is the method for using different fire extinguisher types. When using the fire extinguisher use the PASS method:

“P” – PULL the pin.

“A” – AIM the extinguisher nozzle at the base of the flames.

“S” – SQUEEZE the trigger while holding the extinguisher upright.

“S” – SWEEP from side to side, covering the base of the fire with the extinguishing agent.

Educate yourself

If a blaze has already taken hold in your workspace, it’s the wrong time to look up an online tutorial on fire extinguisher use. Make sure you and your coworkers have the proper training now, while everyone is safe.

If you’ve already pulled the alarm or called 911, you have the right kind of fire extinguisher immediately at hand, and you have a clear line of retreat in case things get out of control, then your intervention could make a positive difference. But if you’re unsure about what kind of fire it is, or how to use the extinguisher, get out of the building.

Remember, your first action should ALWAYS be to pull the alarm and/or dial 911.

Fire prevention = fire safety

Of course, the most effective means of fighting a fire in your office is making sure fire doesn’t happen in the first place. There are steps you and your colleagues can take to create a fire-safe workplace. For instance:

  • Don’t allow trash to pile up. Keep your work site, including offices, dock areas, and storage rooms, neat and clean.
  • Make sure everyone knows where fire alarm boxes and extinguishers are located.
  • Inspect your office’s fire extinguishers annually.
  • Make sure your facility’s wiring is inspected regularly. It should feature good connections and effective grounds. If the inspection turns up any defective electrical equipment or wiring in poor condition, have it repaired at once.
  • Keep exits free from obstructions.
  • Smoke only where permitted.
  • Store hazardous material in designated areas and handle flammable liquids with caution.
  • Finally, make sure everyone knows what to do in case of fire. If your office doesn’t have an emergency plan ready, it’s time to make one. And make sure you practice it regularly.


The information included here was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and its employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with any training, materials, suggestions, or information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state, or federal regulations. Information obtained from or via Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company should not be used as the basis for legal advice and should be confirmed with alternative sources.

Sources:; University of Texas at Austin Fire Prevention Services