The ABCs of Fire Extinguishers
The fact is that a monitored home fire alarm system is the best defense in the event of a fire. However, having portable fire extinguishers in your home can also help save lives and property by enabling you to put out a small fire or at least contain it until the fire department arrives.
It’s important to remember, though, that because fires grow and spread so rapidly, the number one priority is for you and your family to get out of the house safely.
Fire experts recommend installing fire extinguishers on every level of your home including the kitchen, basement and garage. Fire extinguishers come in various sizes so you should select the size that’s right for you based on your family situation and who you think is most likely to be using it.
You should ensure that you choose the right kind of fire extinguisher because there are different models for different kinds of fires. The different classes of fires are:
- Class A – Common combustibles, including wood, paper, cloth, rubber, plastics, trash – items typically found in the home. Extinguishers for Class A fires are identified by a green triangle containing the letter “A.”
- Class B – Flammable liquids, solvents, oil, gasoline, paints, lacquers and other oil-based products. Class B fires often spread rapidly. They can re-flash after the flames have been extinguished if they weren’t properly suppressed. Extinguishers for Class B fires are identified by a red square containing the letter “B.”
- Class C – Electrical equipment such as wiring, controls, motors, machinery or appliances. These fires can be started by a spark, a power surge, or a short circuit. You should never use water to put out a Class C fire. Extinguishers for Class C fires are identified by a blue circle containing the letter “C.”
- Class K – Cooking oils and grease in cooking appliances. These fire extinguishers are typically found in restaurant and cafeteria kitchens. These extinguishers are identified by the letter “K.”
- Some fires may involve a combination of these classifications so a typical home fire extinguisher should have an ABC rating on it.
The National Fire Protection Associations offers some fire extinguisher safety tips:
- Only use a portable fire extinguisher if the fire is confined to a small area, like a wastebasket, and it’s not growing; everyone has safely left your home; the fire department has been called or is being called; and the room isn’t filled with smoke.
- To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:
o Pull the pin. Point the nozzle of the extinguisher away from you and release the locking mechanism.
o Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
o Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
o Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
- Read the instructions and familiarize yourself with its parts and operation before there’s a fire. Ask your local fire department if it offers hands-on fire extinguisher training.
- Install fire extinguishers near exits, when you use the extinguisher keep your back to a clear exit, so you can make an easy escape if you can’t control the fire.
- If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.
When it comes to fire, preparation is key. In addition to equipping your home with the proper fire extinguishers, having a home fire alarm system in place can help ensure the safety of your loved ones and prevent the loss of your home and your valuables.
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