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How To Choose and Use a Fire Extinguisher

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A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives; but portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the number one priority for you and your family is to get out safely.

Fire extinguishers come in three ratings A, B and C depending upon the type of fire you’re trying to extinguish.

Class A rated extinguishers are effective against fires involving paper, wood, textiles, and plastics. The primary chemical used to fight these fires is monoammonium phosphate, because of its ability to smother fires in these types of materials.


Class B rated extinguishers are effective against flammable liquid fires. These can be fires where cooking liquids, oil, gasoline, kerosene, or paint have become ignited.

Two commonly used chemicals are effective in fighting these types of fires. Monoammonium phosphate effectively smothers the fire, while sodium bicarbonate induces a chemical reaction which extinguishes the fire. 


Class C rated extinguishers are suitable for fires in “live” electrical equipment. Both monoammonium phosphate and sodium bicarbonate are commonly used to fight this type of fire because of their non-conductive properties. 

For the home, select an A-B-C Rated Multi-Purpose Fire Extinguisher (it can be used on all types of home fires) that is large enough to put out a small fire, but not so heavy as to be difficult to handle.


Choose a fire extinguisher that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory. U.L. Underwriter’s Laboratory in the U.S., C.S.C. Canadian Safety Council in Canada.


Read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher and become familiar with its parts and operation before a fire breaks out. Local fire departments or fire equipment distributors often offer hands-on fire extinguisher training.


Install fire extinguishers close to an exit and keep your back to a clear exit when you use the device so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled. If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.


Keep A-B-C rated extinguishers in the kitchen and garage; these are places where home fires often start. Inspect your extinguisher once a year to assure it is in proper operating order and fully charged

Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is escaping the fire safely. Follow your home emergency escape plan, your home can be replaced you and your family cannot!


How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and is not growing; after everyone has exited the building, the fire department has been called and the room is not filled with smoke.


To Operate 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.

Remember, homes can be rebuilt, possessions can be replaced, but lives lost are lost forever! Always make sure you and your family are safe before attempting to fight any fire.

Mike, The Home Depot Answer Man

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Posted 2015-12-21T22:52:31+0000  by Mike_HD_OC Mike_HD_OC