If you aren’t familiar with your fire extinguisher, use this opportunity to learn how and when (and when not) to fight a small fire
We all have that moment of panic when the smoke alarm blares its warning, telling us we forgot the oven was on. As light smoke fills the kitchen, our first hope is that it’s just a burning casserole and there isn’t a real fire happening. And it’s always a small relief to find that, even though dinner may not be salvageable, at least you didn’t have to resort to using your fire extinguisher.
The fact is that a fire, even a small one, can be scary. Some fires don’t require very much intervention, some necessitate fire extinguisher use, and in some cases, your best and only option is to get out. There are also some things you should NOT do. For instance, throwing water on a grease fire results in an inferno.
Along with safe and proper fire extinguisher use, however, your comprehensive fire safety plan should include an evacuation procedure, as well as preventative measures, like candle safety, changing batteries in your smoke detectors, and being smart with things like extension cords and portable heaters. As a part of that plan, there are a few things everyone needs to know about fire extinguishers.
Fire Extinguisher Use:
How to Stay Safe at Home
Fire extinguishers are divided into five types to use on different classes of fires:
A for combustible materials like wood or fabric
B for flammable liquids like gas or kerosene
C for electrical fires
D for flammable metals
K for vegetable oils or animal fats, usually as in a commercial deep fryer
There are also combination fire extinguishers, many of which you can use on Class A, B, and C fires. These combination fire extinguishers are especially suitable for home use because they eliminate the need to think about what is burning and you can focus on putting the fire out.
Before you pick up a fire extinguisher, however, there are a few steps and considerations.
Alert other people in your home.
Safety comes first, and you want to make sure everyone is out of harm’s way.
A home can become engulfed in smoke and flames in as little as two minutes. Before fighting a fire on your own, contact the fire department. Those few minutes can minimize damage and could save a life.
Check your escape route.
Don’t even think about fire extinguisher use unless you have a way out if you need to leave.
Remember that smoke is deadly.
According to Ready.gov, “asphyxiation is the leading cause of fire deaths, exceeding burns by a three-to-one ratio.”
Never try to put out a large fire.
Home fire extinguishers are for small, contained fires, such as a fire in a trash can or possibly a stovetop fire. If highly flammable material is on fire, such as your curtains, bed linens, or the walls of your home, get out.
When it doubt, get out.
If you have any concerns about the fire spreading or don’t feel 100% comfortable that you can quickly extinguish the flames, leave. Firefighters have the equipment and training to handle these emergencies.
Using and Maintaining Your Fire Extinguisher
The U.S. Fire Administration has a four-step guide to fire extinguisher use called PASS.
Pull the pin. Point the extinguisher away from you and pull the locking pin.
Aim. Point the extinguisher toward the base of the fire.
Squeeze. Squeeze the lever to activate the fire extinguisher.
Sweep. Spray the extinguisher in a side-to-side motion to cover the base of the fire.
Of course, a fire extinguisher is only effective if it’s in good working order and easily accessible. The back of a closet is not the ideal location; keep at least one fire extinguisher on each floor of your home somewhere you can reach it quickly.
To maintain your fire extinguisher, first determine if you have a single-use or rechargeable extinguisher. A rechargeable model will need to be serviced professionally. Basic do-it-yourself maintenance for any fire extinguisher includes:
- Monthly pressure checks: The pressure indicator should be in the green or “full” section. If it isn’t, replace or service your fire extinguisher.
- Visual inspection: Make sure there is no damage, denting, or rust.
- Keep it clean: Dirty equipment could be difficult to operate in an emergency situation.
- Replace as needed: As long as they are in good condition, a fire extinguisher can last, unused, around 8-10 years. Check your owner’s manual for the specifics, though, as some models may need to be replaced more frequently.
- Don’t discharge to check pressure. Discharging a fire extinguisher will result in a pressure loss, meaning it won’t work properly if you need it.
We hope you never experience a fire in your home, but if you do, Pekin Insurance is here for you. Get in touch with your local Pekin Insurance agent today to learn about your options for home insurance.