Fire Extinguisher Selection & Use

There are many fire extinguisher manufacturers and many styles and types of fire extinguishers. Here, we will discuss the classifications of fire and how to choose the proper extinguisher for your home. For more information, please contact your local extinguisher sales company.

Fire is classified into several classes. Each class of fire has characteristics different to the other and, in turn, different methods of extinguishing.

Class A fires are any fires that produce ash when burned. Products like paper, wood, and leaves make up this class.

Class B fires include oil and petroleum products, such as, gasoline and engine oil. These fires produce heavy black smoke while burning.

Class C fires include all electrical fires

Class D fires consist of burning metals like magnesium.

Class K fires are new in the classifications and consist of burning cooking products, e.g. cooking grease. This classification is used most in resturant type settings.

Every extinguisher is rated by classification and size. They come in sizes ranging from 2 1/2 pound to 20 pound. Choosing the proper size and classification are very important. You don't want a fire extinguisher that you can't lift or one that doesn't have enough fire suppression agent. Try to reach a good middle of the road when it comes to size. You need an extinguisher that is large enough to put out the fire but small enough to easily control. Fire extinguishers should also be used only in the very early stages of fire. If there is any doubt in your mind about needing the fire department for help, leave your home and call immediately.

When choosing a fire extinguisher, keep in mind the type of hazards around the area to be protected. For example, don't choose a class "c" extinguisher for an area filled with gas cans and oil drums. Likewise, don't choose "a" class a extinguisher for an electrical room. Match the extinguisher to the area. Most people choose an all-purpose class a,b,c, extinguisher for their home. This offers limited extinguishing abilities for the majority of classes of fires. If you aren't sure which extinguisher to purchase, contact your local fire extinguisher sales representative.

After purchasing the proper extinguisher for your home, you need to install the extinguisher in the proper place. You should never have to go very far to get to the extinguisher. You should be able to easily see and reach the extinguisher. This means placing the extinguisher about eye level. Placing the extinguisher under the cabinet next to the oven is not the place to have an extinguisher. If a fire were to start on the stove, there would be no way to reach the extinguisher safely. Make sure to place the extinguisher in an area that would allow escape from the home if the fire were to get out of control. Never let the fire get between you and your exit.

Now that you have the basics of fire extinguishers, you need to know how to properly use them. To help you remember the proper sequence for using your extinguisher, use the acronym P.A.S.S. for Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle, Squeeze the handle and Sweep at the base of the flames. The instructions are also printed on the front of every fire extinguisher, but you hardly have time to study in a fire situation. You also need to test the extinguisher before actually trying to combat the blaze. When the fire starts, after you pull the pin, squeeze the handle with the nozzle pointed in a safe direction to ensure the extinguisher works properly.

To ensure your fire extinguisher works when it is needed, it must be visually inspected at least monthly. You can perform this inspection in about 10 minutes. Check to see that the guage is in the green. Check the hose to ensure it is not clogged. Simply unscrew the hose from the extinguisher and blow through it to ensure it is clear. Ensure the safety pin is in place and the plastic seal is in place. Finally, invert the extinguisher and listen to the cylinder as the powder falls. If you hear the powder smoothly flowing down, the extinguisher is probably in good working condition. If the powder sounds like tiny rocks falling in the cylinder, the extinguisher should be checked by a qualified serviceperson. Every six years, the extinguisher should be disassembled by a qualified service person and have all internal seals replaced. This will ensure long and dependable operation of the extinguisher. As the extinguisher reaches twelve years of age, it needs to be hydro-statically tested and all internal seals replaced once again. This again must be done by a qualified service person. If you prefer not to have these maintenance tasks done, the extinguisher should be discarded and new ones purchased. These tips will ensure your extinguisher will work properly if needed. After the fire starts is not the time to wonder if your extinguisher will work. Be prepared.

This is just a basic guideline for choosing the proper fire extinguisher. Every home is unique and all have different fire hazards. More information can be obtained from your local fire department, local extinguisher companies, and the world wide web. Please purchase and install fire extinguishers for your home. Remember, extinguishers are great protection if used and maintained correctly. Know the limitations of your equipment, as well as, your personal limitations. Practice fire safety every day and maybe there will never be a need to use your knowledge of fire extinguishers.