Having a properly functioning fire extinguisher in your home is crucial for protecting your loved ones and possessions. In fact, studies have shown that working fire extinguishers are effective at containing or putting out small fires 95% of the time. This means you can stop a fire at its earliest stages before it becomes unmanageable and extremely dangerous. While many may know the importance of fire extinguishers, how to properly use and maintain them may not be common knowledge. Here are six important facts about fire extinguishers to help keep your home safe.
1) There are many different types of fires and fire extinguishers. Fires are defined by different classes based on the cause of the flames and the extinguisher best suited to handle that type up flame receives the same class name.
- Class A: Combustible fires fueled by items like paper and wood. A Class A extinguisher uses a water mist to put out the flame.
- Class B: Fires started by flammable liquids such as gas, oil or grease. Class B extinguishers used CO2 to combat the flame.
- Class C: Electrical fires that are handled with a similar CO2 or other cleaning agent from a Class C extinguisher.
- Class D: These fires are started by combustible metals like titanium or magnesium and are extinguished using a dry powder agent that smothers the flame.
- Class K: Similar to class B, these are more extreme grease or oil fires that require a more industrial wet chemical agent to be extinguished.
Because classes D and K fires are typically found in commercial settings, a homeowner should be prepared for classes A, B and C. Thankfully, there are combination ABC extinguishers designed to handle all three fire types.
2) Where to store your extinguisher. Nearly half of home fires are started in the kitchen, making this the most logical place to store at least one extinguisher. It's best to keep the extinguisher a safe distance from your oven to prevent it from overheating. It is important to also keep your extinguisher out of reach from young children who could harm themselves if given access to it. Under the kitchen sink with child-proof locks on the cabinet doors (when applicable) is a recommended storage place. However, just because kitchens are the most likely location for a fire doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared for other locations. It is recommended to have at least one extinguisher on each floor of your home.
3) Fire extinguishers can expire. To make sure your extinguisher is properly functioning when you need it most, it is recommended that you replace them every 10 years. When purchasing a new extinguisher, write the purchase date somewhere on it so you can keep track of its shelf-life. Obviously, after an extinguisher is used, it should be replaced.
4) Use the PASS method. In the event you need to use your fire extinguisher, remember the acronym PASS. Pull the pin to release the locking mechanism while holding the nozzle away from you. Aim low, pointing the extinguisher towards the base of the fire. Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly. Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
5) Make sure you're in a situation where it is safe to use a fire extinguisher. Even when you're fully prepared to use your extinguisher, it may not be the safest or smartest choice. When you see a fire, first alert everyone in your home and make sure each individual has a clear and safe escape route from the building. Ensure that you are physically able to operate the extinguisher and that you are cleared from any toxic smoke or fumes. Check to see if the fire is contained to one point or if it has spread. If spreading has occurred, your extinguisher may not be able to contain the fire and using it will only waste valuable moments for evacuating your home.
6) Even if you believe you've contained the fire with your extinguisher, call the fire department. You should have someone notify the fire department prior-to or while you are using your extinguisher. Even if it appears the fire has been completely extinguished, having the fire department do a thorough check of the scene is crucial. They can confirm the cause of the fire and ensure another fire won't soon ensue.