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Decision to Fight or Evacuate: Risk Assessment

Prior to fighting any fire with a portable fire extinguisher, the individual who has been properly trained on the use of the extinguisher must perform a risk assessment that evaluates the fire size, the fire fighters evacuation path, and the atmosphere in the vicinity of the fire. The risk assessment shown below can be found on the OSHA website, and is available at: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/portable_relation.html#Assessment. Accessed August 19, 2019.

Risk Assessment QuestionFight
(If all are true)
Evacuate Immediately
(If any are true)
Is the fire too big?
  • The fire is limited to the original material ignited.
  • It is contained (eg, in a waste basket).
  • It has not spread to other materials.
  • The flames are no higher than the firefighter's head.
  • The fire involves flammable solvents.
  • It has spread over more than 60 square feet.
  • It is partially hidden behind a wall or ceiling
  • It cannot be reached from a standing position.
Is the air safe to breathe?
  • The fire has not depleted the oxygen in the room.
  • Only small quantities of toxic gas are being produced.
  • No respiratory protection equipment is needed.
  • Respiratory protection equipment is needed due to smoke and products of combustion.
Is the environment too hot or smoky
  • Heat is being generated but the room temperature is only slightly elevated.
  • Smoke may be accumulating on the ceiling but visibility is good.
  • No special personal protective equipment is needed.
  • The radiated heat is easily felt on exposed skin, making it difficult to approach within 10-15 feet of the fire (or the effective range of the extinguisher).
  • One must crawl on the floor due to heat or smoke.
  • Smoke is quickly filling the room, decreasing visibility.
Is there a safe evacuation path?
  • There is a safe evacuation path that is behind you as you fight the fire.
  • The fire is not contained and fire, heat. or smoke may block the evacuation path.