You pass them all the time as you walk the hallways at work or school,
and hopefully at home too.
But no matter
how many times youíve seen them in your day-to-day life, youíve
probably given little thought as to how you actually use one. Maybe
it never crossed your mind, or maybe you assume itís so simple itís
not something you need to learn.
true that using a fire extinguisher isnít rocket science by any
stretch, but there are a few basics you need to be aware of Ė and
probably arenít. According to FEMA, the majority of Americans donít
know how to use an extinguisher, even if they have one in their
home. This is a dangerous knowledge gap. Fires double in size every
60 seconds, so you donít want to be fumbling around in an emergency
situation, reading over the instruction manual as a small flame
on the stove grows into an inferno.
talk about some guidelines for choosing an extinguisher and storing
it in your house, and then discuss how to use it.
Fire Extinguisher for the Right Fire
come in a wide variety of types — each one designed to put
out a different kind of fire. Classification systems have been developed
to help users know what sort of extinguisher they’re working
with. Because the majority of our readers are based stateside, I’ll
be focusing on the system used to classify extinguishers in the
A – Ordinary solid combustibles like wood, cloth,
and paper products.
B - Flammable liquids and gases.
C - Electrical fires. (Do not use water to put out this
kind of fire Ė you could get electrocuted!)
D - Flammable metals.
K - Oils and grease fires. (Never use water on a grease
fire Ė it will cause the flames to explode and spread.)
Most fire extinguishers
for homes and public spaces are classified as Class ABC extinguishers,
meaning they’re suitable for putting out wood and paper fires,
flammable liquid fires, and electrical fires. ABC extinguishers
use the dry chemical monoammonium phosphate as the extinguishing
agent. You can buy an ABC extinguisher for about $30
-$60 on Amazon or at your nearest hardware store. Get the biggest
one you can comfortably handle to maximize its discharge pressure,
time, and range.
worked in a commercial kitchen, you’ve probably seen
Class K extinguishers. The extinguishing agent in the Class
K variety is a wet potassium acetate. (Interesting fact: Before
the introduction of potassium acetate, sodium bicarbonate powder
was the extinguishing agent of choice for grease and oil fires Ė
thatís why baking soda can work in a pinch).
Class K extinguishers
are used in commercial kitchens because they’re more powerful
for dealing with grease fires and the chemicals are less likely
to damage the cooking appliance when used. But for small grease
fires in a home kitchen, an ABC extinguisher will likely get the
job done. An ABC is still going to damage your stove though, so
if it’s a very small fire, try to smother it with a pot lid
or wool blanket first, before you resort to the extinguisher.
Put a Fire Extinguisher in Your House
or school very likely already has fire extinguishers in place. But
itís up to you to get ones for your own home. Some states require
that you do so by law, but even if yours doesnít, theyíre an essential
safety item Ė your second line of fire defense after smoke detectors.
A fire extinguisher can keep a small incident from turning into
a dangerous emergency.
at minimum, have one ABC extinguisher per level of your house. Itís
best to have one near each of the rooms where fires are most likely
to break out Ė the garage and especially the kitchen.
where your kids canít get to them, but theyíre still easy to access
Ė you donít want to be looking around and digging through a closet
when every second is crucial. Donít place them near stoves and heating
appliances, or behind curtains and drapes Ė places where fires may
start and quickly spread; if you canít reach the extinguisher because
the thing thatís on fire is right by it, youíre in trouble. The
best location for your fire extinguisher is mounted near a door
Ė your escape routes.
gotten an extinguisher or two to protect your castle, try to check
it periodically to see if its pressure is still in the green zone,
the seals havenít been broken, the hoses are intact, and it hasnít
been damaged by things like dents, leaks, or rust.