We serve Northland and Auckland area.

0800 101 232

What to Do – and What NOT to Do – in Fire Emergencies

What to Do and What NOT to Do in a Fire Emergency – Fireco Explains the Fire Safety Essentials You Need to Know

When faced with a fire emergency, it’s crucial to remain calm and composed. Panic often leads to poor decision-making, and only increases the danger to yourself and others. Here are some essential tips on what to do, and more importantly. what not to do, during a fire emergency – especially when using a fire extinguisher.

What NOT To Do During a Fire Emergency:

  1. Don’t Ignore the Fire Extinguisher’s Label:

This is a common mistake, but using the wrong type of extinguisher can worsen the situation, especially with grease or electrical fires. Using water-based extinguishers on electrical fires, for instance, can actually do far more harm than good, due to the conductivity of the water, potentially causing dangerous electric shocks to the operator of the extinguisher.

  1. Don’t Try to Act Like an Action-Movie Hero:

Rushing towards a fire without caution can endanger your life. Maintain a safe distance and extinguish fires with caution and preplanning.

  1. Don’t Overestimate Your Fire Extinguisher:

A portable fire extinguisher isn’t meant for large fires. If the fire is spreading rapidly or has already grown significantly, just evacuate as quickly as possible. Do not attempt to fight a fire that is beyond the early stages – just get out and call the emergency services immediately.

  1. Don’t Underestimate Smoke Inhalation:

Smoke inhalation can be just as deadly as flames. Take smoke seriously and prioritise escaping low to the ground where the air is clearer.

  1. Don’t Back Yourself into a Corner:

Fire spreads rapidly and if you can’t extinguish it, you need to be able to exit the building quickly and safely, which is why you should always have an escape route in mind. Never position yourself where the fire can trap you.

  1. And, Don’t Forget to Call for Help:

Even if you manage to extinguish the fire, call emergency services to ensure the fire is completely out and to prevent reignition.

What You Should Do During a Fire Emergency:

1. Stay Calm and Assess the Situation:

As with any emergency, the first step is to keep your cool. Take a moment to assess the situation and understand the type of fire, and consider any emergency equipment you have on hand, like fire extinguishers and fire blankets.

2. Alert Others and Evacuate:

If there are others in the building, immediately shout and alert them to the danger – simply yelling “fire!” is ideal! Every second counts in a fire emergency, so make sure everyone is aware and can evacuate safely.

3. Assess the Fire’s Size:

Evaluate the fire’s size before attempting to extinguish it. If the fire is larger than you or bigger than a small pot on a stove, it is likely too large for a portable extinguisher to handle. Fire extinguishers will only last 10-15 seconds, so if a fire is already large, they won’t be able to bring it under control – in such cases, you need to evacuate immediately and call 111.

4. Call Emergency Services:

Even if you think you can handle the fire, you should always call emergency services. Fires can spread rapidly and become uncontrollable, and firefighters are trained and equipped to deal with such situations effectively and safely.

5. Read the Label Before Using a Fire Extinguisher:

Before attempting to use a fire extinguisher, check the label. Be sure to check for any fire safety signage by the extinguisher explaining the type of fires it can be used on – fire  extinguishers are designed for specific types of fires, classified into different categories:

  • Class A: Ordinary combustibles (wood, paper, cloth)
  • Class B: Flammable liquids (gasoline, oil, grease)
  • Class C: Gas fires
  • Class D: Flammable metals
  • Class E: Electrical
  • Class F: Cooking oils and fats

Using the wrong type of extinguisher can be ineffective or even dangerous, so make sure you’re using the correct extinguisher for the type of fire you are dealing with. Find more information on selecting the right kind of extinguisher here.

6. Maintain a Safe Distance:

During a fire emergency and when using a fire extinguisher, keep a safe distance from the flames – most extinguishers can be operated from 2 or 3 metres away from the fire. Being too close can put you at risk, while being too far can reduce the extinguisher’s effectiveness.

7. Remember PTASS:

This acronym stands for Pull, Test, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep, and is a handy way to remember how to correctly operate an extinguisher: Pull the safety pin, do a small test spray, aim the nozzle at the base of the fire at safe distance, squeeze the handle and sweep the spray from side to side while still aiming at the source of the flames.

8. Get Out and Stay Out:
If the fire is beyond control, get out – your safety is more important than your possessions, so don’t re-enter the building. You should have already called for emergency services; trust the professionals to handle the situation and keep yourself and others safe.

And Don’t Forget: Preparation is Key

Fire emergencies can happen suddenly and turn into disaster incredibly quickly so preparing before any emergency takes place is crucial. Visit NZ Fire Emergency for advice on creating an emergency evacuation plan and other key advice here.

Fire safety is not just about having the right equipment but also about knowing how to use it effectively and safely. Choosing the right fire extinguisher and knowing how to use it is crucial. Fireco offers assessments to help you select the appropriate extinguisher for your home or workplace. Get in touch with the Fireco team for a free, no-obligation quote, as well as fire extinguishers and smoke alarms.  

fireco white logo

We serve Northland and Auckland area.

Mon-Fri 0800 to 1630


Join a respected team of building compliance and fire safety professionals.