According to the National Fire Protection Association, every 23 seconds a fire department responded to a fire in the US in 2015. Equipping your home with portable fire extinguishers can assist in minimizing fire damage from small, self-contained fires before much-needed help arrives.
You may be unsure of which fire extinguishers are best for your home, where they should be located, or even how to use them. Let’s take a look at the different types of fire extinguishers and review some tips for buying, maintaining and using a fire extinguisher in your home.
Types of Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are labeled with a letter system that indicates which types of materials the fire extinguisher is effective on. It is important to use the correct type of fire extinguisher for the materials involved in a fire.
Type A: Used on fires involving combustible materials (cloth, paper, wood)
Type B: Used on flammable liquid fires (gas, oil, grease, kerosene)
Type C: Used on fire involving live electricity (appliances, computers)
Type ABC: For use on all types of fires listed above
Tips for Purchase, Installation and Maintenance
Type: Choose an ABC multi-purpose extinguisher for your home that has been rated by an inspection agency like Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Since the ABC extinguisher covers all types of materials, you will not need to worry about which type of fire extinguisher is correct for a particular fire.
Size: Purchase 10 lb. or larger extinguishers in order to have a longer discharge rate and greater spray depth.
Location: Wall mount your fire extinguisher near an exit doorway on each level of the home, including the basement and garage, making sure nothing is limiting your ability to reach it. At a minimum, there should be one fire extinguisher on each level of your home. Consider locating fire extinguishers in high-risk areas such as kitchens, garages and utility rooms.
Care: Check the pressure indicator monthly. If the pressure needle falls in the green area, it is functional. If the needle falls anywhere else, it’s unreliable and should be serviced or replaced.
Lifespan: A typical fire extinguisher should be replaced every 10 years. If used, the fire extinguisher will need to be replaced or recharged, because the pressure will be minimized.
How to Use: Remember PASS
Don’t wait until you are faced with a fire to learn how to correctly use your extinguisher. Remember the acronym PASS:
Pull the pin on your extinguisher
Aim the nozzle at the base of the flames
Squeeze the levers of the release handle
Sweep the nozzle from side to side until the fire is out
All family members should be aware of fire extinguisher locations and how to use them. You can even practice operating one of your fire extinguishers outdoors so it can be used most effectively in the event of a fire. Remember to recharge or replace the practice fire extinguisher.
Finally, all family members should know and practice an emergency fire plan. Remember, protecting your safety should come before protecting property. Getting your home’s occupants to safety and calling 911 are always the first steps in a fire. After safety is addressed, you can consider whether the fire is small enough to attempt to suppress it with a fire extinguisher. Always be aware of whether conditions have become too dangerous to remain at the location of the fire.
Lydia Nelson is a Senior Risk Consultant for Chubb Personal Risk Services’ Risk Consulting Group.