Fire Prevention And Response

A quick and appropriate response to a fire emergency can mean the difference between life and death. Every job site should be equipped with a fire extinguisher and employees should be notified of its location and trained in its use. Employees on the scene can extinguish most construction-related fires; others will require the assistance of trained firefighting personnel. The information below will be useful in training employees in fire prevention and for a fire emergency.

It’s much easier to prevent fires than it is to put them out. Employees should be encouraged to be on the lookout for conditions that might create a fire hazard.
  • If engaged in fighting a fire, make sure uninvolved personnel leave the area.
  • Plan an escape route and keep it clear.
  • Do not attempt to fight any fire that is too large or spreading too rapidly.
  • Evacuate the area and call for assistance.
  • Plan for a fire. Discuss location of firefighting equipment and what to do in a fire emergency.
  • Have emergency response telephone numbers available.
  • Store flammable materials in appropriate containers and away from sources of heat and flames.
  • Use torches and welding equipment cautiously.
  • Separate welding operations with appropriate shields or drapes.
  • Control smoking in proximity to flammable materials. Designate a safe “Smoking Area”.
  • Practice good housekeeping to minimize collection of flammable trash or used materials, especially highly combustible materials such as paper, saw dust, and oily rags.
  • Train employees in the use of fire extinguishers.
  • Furnish each job site with an adequate number of extinguishers.



Fire safety experts divide fires into four types, according to the fuel source (see chart). Knowing the source of the fire will help employees determine how it should be extinguished. Only the first three are likely to be encountered on a typical construction job site. Types of Fires Chart:
  • TYPE A -Wood, paper, cloth, plastic
  • TYPE B - Flammable liquids/gases (gasoline, oil, grease, paint, etc.)
  • TYPE C - Electrical
  • TYPE D - Combustible metals


Portable fire extinguishers are classified according to the type of fires they are designed to put out. The classifications are the same as the classifications for types of fires. So, a Class A extinguisher is appropriate to use for a Type A fire, that is, a fire fueled by wood, paper, cloth, etc. Fire extinguishers should be prominently labeled to identify the types of fire on which they can be used. Using the wrong type of extinguisher can actually make a fire worse. Many local fire departments offer free training in the use of fire extinguishers.

For most construction sites, an “ABC” type of extinguisher will be appropriate. The ABC label indicates the extinguisher is effective against Type A, B, and C fires; you’re not very likely to encounter a Type D fire (flammable metals) on a typical residential or commercial building site. Water, from a hose, bucket, or other source, can be used to put out Type A fires but should not be used on B or C fires because of the danger of spreading the fire, electrocution, and electric shock. Although there’s no substitute for training on the specific equipment available, many extinguishers can be effectively operated by following the P.A.S.S. (Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep) method:
  • Pull the releasing lock or latch;
  • Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire;
  • Squeeze the handle;
  • Sweep the extinguisher from side to side, aiming at the base, until the fire is out.
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