Fire Extinguisher Safety
In late fall and winter, we snuggle inside against the cold and use our fireplaces and candles more often. There is just something irresistible about lit candles on a cold night – but with that power comes great responsibility!
Yes, it’s that time of year, time to brush up on our fire extinguisher safety procedures.
Location, Location, Location! Where Do You Need a Fire Extinguisher?
We have a fire extinguisher on each level of our home and they are in plain sight and at an accessible height– sorry no closets, or behind curtains, or tucked in a kitchen cabinet.
Kitchen: According to U.S. Fire Administration statistics, the kitchen is the place where fires most often start. If you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, most grease fires can be contained. Do not put the fire extinguisher near the stove as it will be out of your reach if the fire is on the stovetop.
You should not have to risk burns just to reach your extinguisher. Therefore, the best place to put the fire extinguisher is by the door of the kitchen so you have easy access to it.
Garage: It is a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher here because in most homes, this is the place we use as storage. Often, leftover paints, solvents, and building materials will be piled up without a second thought. Again, the best location to mount the fire extinguisher is by the door.
Get the Right Kind of Fire Extinguisher for the Job
According to FEMA.gov different types of fires require different types of extinguishers. For example, a grease fire and an electrical fire require the use of different extinguishing agents to be effective and safely put the fire out.
Basically, there are five different types of extinguishing agents. Most fire extinguishers display symbols to show the kind of fire on which they are to be used. There are also multi-purpose fire extinguishers – such as those labeled “B-C” or “A-B-C” – that can be used on two or more of the above type fires.
Types of Fire Extinguishers
|Class A extinguishers||put out fires fueled by ordinary combustible materials such as cloth, wood, rubber, paper, and many plastics.|
|Class B extinguishers||are used on fires involving flammable liquids, such as grease, gasoline, oil, and oil-based paints.|
|Class C extinguishers||are suitable for use on fires involving appliances, tools, or other equipment that is electrically energized or plugged in.|
|Class D extinguishers||are designed for use on flammable metals and are often specific for the type of metal in question. These are typically found only in factories working with these metals.|
|Class K fire extinguishers||are intended for use on fires that involve vegetable oils, animal oils, or fats in cooking appliances. These extinguishers are generally found in commercial kitchens, such as those found in restaurants, cafeterias, and caterers. Class K extinguishers are now finding their way into the residential market for use in kitchens.|
ABC Fire Extinguishers are multipurpose tools that can put out class A, B, and C fires. They’re the most common types of fire extinguishers in offices, private homes, and schools. They might leave white residue behind that needs to be scrapped after the blaze is put out.
CO2 Fire Extinguishers are best used against electrical fires (class C) as they contain no water and use CO2 as fire extinguishing agent. While older CO2 fire extinguishers were not safe for indoor use as they displaced oxygen, the newest models pose no safety risk (read the product’s description first).
This type of fire extinguishers leave no residue behind and are extremely gentle on electronic equipment. They’re best used in spaces with lots of electronic equipment like office buildings, server rooms, breaker rooms and so on.
Class K Fire Extinguishers are best used in commercial kitchens and against fires started by cooking oils, animal fats, and greases. They use special fire extinguishing agents such as potassium acetate or potassium citrate that prevents from splashing the grease and reigniting the fire. They can be used against class A fires as well.
Portable Fire Extinguishers/ Sprays are valuable for immediate use on small fires. They contain a limited amount of extinguishing material (10-15 seconds) and need to be properly used so that this material is not wasted. For example, when a pan initially catches fire, it may be safe to turn off the burner, place a lid on the pan, and use an extinguisher.
By the time the fire has spread, however, these actions will not be adequate. Only trained firefighters can safely extinguish large fires, call 911 if in doubt.
Teach your children fire safety and how to know when a fire is too big to be contained. FEMA has a kid’s fire safety page with lessons to teach about home fire safety, smoke alarms and escaping from a fire. The fun and games section has crosswords, coloring pages, word searches and more. Become a Jr. Fire Marshal, take the quiz and download an official certificate.
You can find out more resources on teaching kids fire safety at home in my related post: Teaching Children Fire Safety
Remember to P.A.S.S. and practice it
Watch the video above from Washington State Emergency Management for a refresher on how to safely use P.A.S.S.
Pull the Pin at the top of the extinguisher. The pin releases a locking mechanism and will allow you to discharge the extinguisher.
Aim at the base of the fire, not the flames. This is important – in order to put out the fire, you must extinguish the fuel.
Squeeze the lever slowly. This will release the extinguishing agent in the extinguisher. If the handle is released, the discharge will stop.
Sweep from side to side. Using a sweeping motion, move the fire extinguisher back and forth until the fire is completely out. Operate the extinguisher from a safe distance, several feet away, and then move towards the fire once it starts to diminish.
Be sure to read the instructions on your fire extinguisher – different fire extinguishers recommend operating them from different distances. Remember: Aim at the base of the fire, not at the flames!!!!
According to Dummies.com, act fast to keep the fire from getting out of control. In their article How to Put Out Kitchen Fires they suggest:
- Never use water to put out grease fires! Water repels grease and can spread the fire by splattering the grease. Instead, try one of these methods:
- If the fire is small, cover the pan with a lid and turn off the burner.
- Throw lots of baking soda or salt on it. Never use flour, which can explode or make the fire worse.
- Smother the fire with a wet towel or other large wet cloth.
- Use fire extinguisher.
- If the fire starts in your oven, shut off the heat source and let the flames go out on themselves by keeping the door shut. Do not open the door.
- If the fire starts in a microwave, quickly turn it off and unplug it from the power source. Leave the door closed until the flames go out. If things seem to get out of hand call 911.
We encourage you to take a few minutes this week and brush up on your fire extinguisher safety procedures by reading Holiday Fire Safety reminders, following the links in this post and making sure your family is fire safety ready for the upcoming winter’s cozy nights.
Other articles of interest:
Hurricane Sandy’s Terrifying Firefight – An interesting story about Firefighter heroism in the midst of Hurricane Sandy.
http://www.kxxv.com/story/20002832/two-temple-fires-started-by Two weekend fires in Texas started by cooking negligence.