A fire extinguisher can be a life-saving tool. You can use it to put out small fires or to suppress larger fires while you get out of harm’s way. However, you might not know which type is best for your home or even know how to use one. Fortunately, it’s easy to learn.
Types of Fire Extinguishers
A fire extinguisher can be one of two types: disposable or rechargeable. There are a few differences, but they both function the same. First of all, you can reuse a rechargeable extinguisher after you use it. If you get a disposable extinguisher, you have to replace it after you use it. A rechargeable one also has metal valves, and a disposable one has plastic valves. Lastly, the rechargeable type costs more upfront. However, it’s cheaper to refill it than to replace a disposable extinguisher.
Fire Extinguisher Classes
When you’re looking for a fire extinguisher, you’ll notice the letters A, B or C on the labels. These are the different classes, and extinguishers can have a combination of these letters too. Each one shows you the types of fires that you can use them for:
A-class extinguishers are for cloth, paper and wood.
B-class extinguishers are for flammable and combustible liquids such as gasoline, grease, oil-based paint and oil.
C-extinguishers are for electrical devices such as appliances, tools and other plugged-in equipment.
When a fire extinguisher has a combination of these letters, you can use it to fight all of those fire types. If one has an A and a C, for example, then you can use it for cloth, paper, wood and electrical devices. Most stores sell multipurpose extinguishers that you can use for all three fire classes.
Along with these classes, are D and K classes. D-class extinguishers are for flammable metals. They’re more for factory use. K-class extinguishers are for animal oils, fats and vegetable oils in cooking appliances. They’re more for commercial kitchen use.
Choosing the Right Type and Size
If you’re getting a fire extinguisher for your home or business, you should get one that you can use on any type of fire. It’s the best way to be prepared. Fire agencies even recommend that you have an extinguisher on every floor of your home or business.
The next decision that you have to make is the size. You can find fire extinguishers that are two, five and 10 pounds. The best option is to get a size that your family feels comfortable lifting and using.
The two-pounder is a better fit for a car than a home or business. Just make sure that you get mounting hardware to keep it from moving around. The five-pounder works best in laundry rooms and kitchens, and the 10-pounder is great for garages and workshops.
You can even buy a stove-top extinguisher for your kitchen. These have magnetic pressurized cans inside that open and spray baking soda onto your stove when it catches on fire. However, you can’t use them over a deep fryer because the spray can splash the oil and spread the flames.
Fire Extinguisher Installation and Maintenance Tips
Once you have your new fire extinguisher, make sure that you install it near an exit. Don’t mount or store it in a place that restricts your ability to grab it quickly.
Before you can use it, you need to learn how to keep it working properly. Most extinguishers have pressure gauges with green or full indicators to show that the pressure is good. You have to check your extinguisher every month to make sure that the pressure is right.
You should read the instructions on your extinguisher because you need to shake some models each month. Also, you need to keep the outside can clean from dust, grease or oil. It’s important that you check for damage, dents or rust on the can, hose or nozzle as well. When your extinguisher has these issues, it might not work correctly when you need it the most.
Using a Fire Extinguisher
When you read the instructions that come with your fire extinguisher, you’ll see the directions for how to use it. However, you might mount or store your extinguisher and forget how to use it by time a fire breaks out. The trick is to remember to PASS:
P – Pull the pin while pointing the nozzle away from your body to release the lock.
A – Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire rather than the top of the flames.
S – Squeeze the lever with slow and even pressure.
S – Sweep the nozzle from left to right.
While you’re using the fire extinguisher, make sure that your back faces the exit. This will give you a clear escape if the flames are too wild for you to control. You should also leave your home or business if the room is full of smoke. If you want hands-on experience, you might be able to get training at your local fire department. Some fire equipment distributors also offer training.