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"Fire extinguishers can be an invaluable and perhaps life saving tool for preserving your property. It can stop, or greatly reduce, the fire burning in your home."
The fire extinguisher is one tool that you can use to increase the safety of your home. However, like many tools, they only work in certain circumstances, and you'll need to insure you have the right tool for the job, or in this case, the right extinguisher for the right type and amount of fire.
Classes of Fire and Fire Extinguishers
To understand the labels on fire extinguishers, you must first understand the different classifications of fire. Fire extinguishers refer to these classes on the label affixed to the extinguisher to advise its potency and usability for each type of fire.
Class of Fire
Type of Fire
|A||Wood, Paper, Cloth, Rubber, Plastics, Campfires, Wood-burning Stoves, Trash & other ordinary materials|
|B||Gasoline, Natural Gas, Oil, Pain & other flammable liquids|
|C||Includes energized electrical equipment such as generators, transformers, wiring, circuit breakers, fuse boxes, and electrical appliances. NEVER USE WATER!|
|D||Combustible metals and combustible metal alloys|
|K||Cooking materials, Vegetable or Animal Oils and Fats|
Some fire extinguishers are multi-purpose and may work on all three types of fire. These are labeled ABC or multi-purpose extinguishers.
If an extinguisher is labeled for Class "A" fires only, then it probably contains water, which would be unsuitable and perhaps dangerous for Class "B" or Class "C" fires.
If an extinguisher label shows a class letter marked through with a slash, then it is unusable for that type of fire.
The label may also have numbers next to the class letters. This indicates the relative amount of fire the extinguisher can extinguish in that class. For example, an extinguisher may be labeled 2A:10B:C. In this example, an extinguisher will extinguish Class "A" fires, but will be more efficient on Class "B" fires, and not so efficient but usable on Class "C" fires. Of course, the higher the number, the more fire it is rated to extinguish, as well as the size and weight of the extinguisher.
Choosing the Right Extinguisher
Before buying, you should consider what classes of fire you may encounter. You may consider a multi-purpose ABC extinguisher to cover the three major types of fire. Consider how much fire you may encounter as well in your unique situation. A larger extinguisher or multiple extinguishers may be needed. Consider the weight of the extinguisher and the range of persons who may need to use the extinguisher. Business and industrial occupants may have specific codes that mandate certain types, sizes, and number of extinguishers. You should consider consulting with a private fire extinguisher sales and service company. They should be familiar with the specific codes you may need to follow, and can provide installation and maintenance, as well as refilling service in the event one has to be discharged. They may be able to provide training to your staff for proper use of an extinguisher.
Fire extinguishers should be installed in plain sight, near an exit, and out of the reach of children. They should be kept away from stoves and heating appliances. Read the operator's manual for proper use and maintenance and inspection of the extinguisher. Usually, extinguishers have to be inspected each year to insure proper readiness. Fire extinguishers should be recharged after each use, unless it is a disposable one, which should be discarded and replaced after use.
Stay and Fight the Fire, or Leave the Structure?
Before placing an extinguisher in service to fight a fire, you should consider some things:
Has everyone been advised of the fire and begun evacuating your home or building? The smoke and toxic fumes from the fire may cause harm to a person long before the fire may get to their area. Evacuation should begin soon.
Is the fire confined to one space, or is it rapidly spreading? If it's on one smaller area, then you may be able to stop or confine the fire. If it is rapidly spreading, then you may be risking your life in what may be a futile effort to stop the spread of the fire.
Do not fight the fire if you have to move to an area where you do not have an unobstructed exit to safety.
Insure the extinguisher is the right type for the class of fire. For example: Do not attempt to extinguish a fire in an electrical panel or grease fire with a Class "A" only extinguisher.
If you cannot safely fight the fire with the extinguisher, then leave the area immediately, get to safety, and call the fire department.
Using a Fire Extinguisher
As stated, a fire extinguisher can be an invaluable tool to stop or slow a fire in progress in your home or office. However it must be used properly. Ideally, fire extinguishers should be used by an adult who has been trained how to use an extinguisher. You should insure that while you're using the extinguisher, you have an escape route in the event the fire overwhelms you and the extinguisher. Insure you can have a clear and safe exit outside while using the extinguisher. Keep your back to a safe, clear, unobstructed exit.
Only fight the fire if you are comfortable with your ability to hold the extinguisher and knowledge of how to operate it. It's not complicated, but there are some things to know. Remember the four-step PASS method:
PULL the Pin. The operating lever, or "trigger" for the extinguisher, is locked and not movable when this pin is in place. This is a safety feature to prevent unnecessary (and messy) discharges. Pull this pin to allow the operating lever to move.
AIM Low. Point the fire low at the base of the fire. Do not attempt to extinguish the flames. Spray the extinguisher discharge at the base, or ground level, of the fire.
SQUEEZE the operating lever to discharge the product. Discharge product until the fire is extinguished or until you run out of product. Releasing the lever will stop the flow of product. Most ABC extinguishers use a heavy, dry, fine powder to smother the fire.
SWEEP the product across the base of the fire by moving the extinguisher from side to side.
Even if you feel you have extinguished the fire, you should call the fire department (911 or 318-322-5151) and alert them of the fire so they can confirm the fire is out, offer clean-up advice or assistance, and complete a fire report that may be needed for insurance claim purposes.