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How to Use Fire Hose Reels and Fire Extinguishers

As fire engineers, we’re no stranger to the accusation that we have no experience in handling fire equipment or operating Fire Indicator Panels (FIPs) as we sit behind desks all day eating doughnuts.

The fact that there is some truth in the above statement poses a serious concern (and it’s not related to the waistline!). Professionals and even the general public should have an understanding and some basic training as to how first aid firefighting equipment works because the last thing you’d want to be struck with in a fire scenario is having to learn how to operate the equipment in those critical seconds before a situation takes a turn for the worse.

This type of life skill should be right up there with learning about how to maximise your tax deductions which, surprise surprise is also not taught under any school curriculum in Australia.

Fire Hose Reels

Most hose reels in commercial buildings use water as the extinguishing medium and are suitable for most fires not involving energised electrical equipment. The main components of a standard fire hose reel assembly are shown below.

fire engineer hose

To use a fire hose reel, you:

  1. Open the main stop valve which also releases the hose nozzle from its seat allowing you to drag it from the reel and to the fire location.

  2. You will have noticed no water has left the end of the hose since opening the main stop valve. That’s because there’s one additional valve to open and it‘s conveniently on the end of the hose! Turn it and water will start to discharge.

  3. You can fine tune the desired spray pattern from jet to fan spray by continuing to turn the nozzle valve.

Video for those who learn by watching not reading:

The secondary function of a fire hose reel to occupants lies in the hose itself. Let’s say you’ve tried to fight the fire and you’ve realised it cannot be extinguished so you decide to evacuate but the room is becoming quite difficult to see with smoke becoming thicker. You can follow the hose length all the way back to the hose reel assembly and most of the time, the reel is located adjacent a building exit (within 4 metres).

Portable Fire Extinguishers

Extinguishers come in a variety of different extinguishing mediums. A few common ones mentioned below:

  • Dry chemical powder (ABE)

  • Carbon dioxide

  • Water

There are fires where one extinguishing medium may be more suited than the others. Refer below.

fire engineers extinguishers
Image courtesy of Standards Australia

Using an extinguisher is much simpler than a fire hose reel and it‘s much more likely that you’ve used one of these before. Main components of an extinguisher shown below.

fire engineering extinguisher


  1. Point the extinguisher nozzle at the seat of the fire (not the flames!)

  2. Pull the pin

  3. Squeeze the trigger lever

As the extinguishers are of limited capacity compared to a fire hose reel, you may want to modulate your trigger pressure to efficiently disperse the the extinguishing medium across the seat of the fire in lieu of a huge dump.


Please bookmark this page, share on socials or hell, even print it and stick it up in the office as public education is seriously lacking in this department and it could save a life one day!

We also do on-site education for those who need it. Please reach out if you’d like to learn more.


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