What You Need to Know About Fire Extinguishers

Submitted by Jon McCreath, NPI Franchise Owner, Emerson, Georgia

Fire Ext 1The vast majority of today’s modern homes have smoke alarms, whether they are hard-wired and battery-operated or simply battery-operated. Current guidelines require smoke detectors in all bedrooms, in central halls outside bedrooms, and a minimum of one on each floor, including basements.

But what about fire suppression, i.e., fire extinguishers? While fire suppression systems may be required in certain types of buildings or in some new construction, there really isn’t any current standard for placement of fire extinguishers in homes. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) does recommend having a fire extinguisher on each floor of your home, as well as having a fire plan, which would include making sure that the family knows escape routes, where to meet outside and how to call 911.

Fire extinguishers can provide for emergency situations by allowing you to extinguish small fires, or suppress the flames prior to arrival of fire department. So, what information should you know before purchasing a fire extinguisher(s) for your home?

  1. Is bigger better? Not necessarily. In most cases a bigger extinguisher will be heavier and could make it more difficult to maneuver. Generally, a 2- to 5-lb. extinguisher is adequate for most homes. Remember, the weight on the extinguisher refers to the amount of chemical inside, and the canister may add several pounds.
  2. Rechargeable vs. Disposable. Rechargeable extinguishers have metal valves and cost more. Disposable extinguishers have plastic valves and are less expensive. However, refilling a rechargeable extinguisher once the contents are low may still be less expensive than replacing with a disposable extinguisher.
  3. What do the numbers and letters mean? The letters indicate what type of fire the extinguisher is rated for. Class A extinguishers are designed for ordinary combustibles, such as wood, paper, cloth and plastics. Class B extinguishers are designed for flammable liquids, such as gasoline, oil and grease. Class C extinguishers are designed for electrical fires.Fire Ext 2The numbers that may precede a letter indicate the extinguisher’s effectiveness against each type of fire, regardless of its weight or the chemical it uses. Higher numbers mean more effectiveness, although you won’t see a number preceding the letter C — the C simply means that the extinguishers chemicals won’t conduct electricity. A 4A rating means that it will put out twice as much fire as a 2A. You should look for an extinguisher that has an ABC rating. Lastly, make sure that the extinguisher has a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) listing.
  4. Where should I keep the fire extinguishers? It is generally recommended that that you keep one on each floor of your home, plus one in the garage. They should be easily accessible and not buried behind other household items. You may also want to consider keeping one in your vehicle. Make sure that you have an extinguisher with a BC rating in the kitchen.
  5. How often should I check my extinguishers? It is recommended that you examine your extinguishers on an annual basis. Extinguishers can lose pressure over time, which may render them useless in the event of an emergency. Rechargeable extinguishers should be serviced annually by the manufacturer. Once an extinguisher has been used, it should be discarded or refilled.
  6. How do I use a fire extinguisher? Remember this acronym: PASS. Pull the safety pin. Aim toward the source of the flame. Squeeze the trigger continuously. Sweeping motion over the flame source.
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