Choosing The Right Fire Extinguisher and How To Use Them

Fire extinguisher signOf course, we are always promoting the need for residents and business owners to have a contents inventory completed and kept up to date. Your inventory will still be an essential document, even if you are able to contain a fire to one room. Knowing how to use a fire extinguisher is helpful for immediate use on small fires. It’s important to understand that with proper training and education, fire extinguishers can save lives and property. Below you will read about how to choose the proper fire extinguisher, how to use it, and how to keep it maintained. Remember, though, to always call 911 before you use a fire extinguisher.


Types – Or Classes – Of Fire Extinguishers


There are five primary types of fire extinguishers; each designed to put out different kinds of fires.


  • Class A: For use with ordinary materials like cloth, wood and paper. Often found in homes and businesses.
  • Class B: For use with combustible and flammable liquids like grease, gasoline, oil and oil-based paints. Often found in homes and businesses.
  • Class C: For use with electrical equipment like appliances, tools, or other equipment that is plugged in. Often found in homes and businesses.
  • Class D: For use with flammable metals. Often found in factories.
  • Class K: For use with vegetable oils, animal oils and fats in cooking appliances. Often found in commercial kitchens (restaurants, cafeterias, catering businesses).


Questions To Ask Before Using A Fire Extinguisher


  • Have I alerted others in the building that there’s a fire?
  • Has someone called the fire department?
  • Am I physically able to use a fire extinguisher?
  • Is the fire small and contained in a single object (like a pan or a wastebasket)?
  • Am I safe from the fire’s toxic smoke?
  • Do I have a clear escape route?


Use a fire extinguisher ONLY when all of these questions are answered “yes.” If you’re unsure about whether or not it’s safe to use a fire extinguisher, and for all other situations, alert others, leave the building, and call 911 from a mobile or neighbor’s phone. It is not recommended that children use fire extinguishers.


How To Safely Operate A Fire Extinguisher


When operating a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:


  • Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you and release the locking mechanism.
  • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.


Fire Extinguisher Maintenance


The importance of fire extinguisher maintenance. Check fire extinguishers for the following:


  • Easy access in an emergency: be sure nothing is blocking or limiting your ability to reach it.
  • The recommended pressure level: many extinguishers have gauges that show when pressure is too high or too low.
  • Working parts: make sure the can, hoses and nozzles aren’t damaged, dented, or rusted.
  • Cleanliness: remove any dust, oil, or grease that might be on the outside of the extinguisher.
  • Guidelines and Maintenance: Extinguishers can be shaken monthly to reduce the risk of the powder inside from hardening, and should be serviced once a year.


Servicing Your Fire Extinguisher


Where do I get my extinguisher serviced? If you only need to service or recharge a single extinguisher, it would likely be cheaper to just buy a new one. In fact, some fire extinguishers can’t be serviced, so keep that in mind as well.


If you have a couple of extinguishers, and assuming they can be serviced, just type “Fire Extinguisher service near me” into a search engine, and choose one of the companies listed. Just make sure they are licensed for such work. That information is required to be on their webpage.


Used with permission from Tricia Hokewater, author of the UniquelyYoursDigitalSolutions blog.