What Type Of Extinguisher do I need?
There are many different types of fire extinguishers on the market. You need to make sure that you choose the correct one to ensure the safety of your home, your possessions and – most importantly – your family. There are a few key characteristics that determine which type of fire extinguisher is best suited for your environment. They include the type of anticipated fire, the occupants of the building, the type of building you’re in, and other characteristics of the building such as size and construction, to name a few.
Inspections of Extinguishers
Extinguishers that aren’t in homes are required by law to be inspected every year by a qualified inspector. In addition, they need to be serviced every six years to ensure they will work when you need them to. Our fire extinguisher division called Atwood Fire & Security can perform these inspection services to keep you compliant.
Classification of Extinguishers
- Class A: Extinguishers are suitable to put out fires on ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber, and many plastics. Extinguishers that are only rated for class A fires are typically filled with water. These extinguishers should ONLY be used for class A fires!
- Class B: Extinguishers are suitable to put out fires involving flammable liquids, combustible liquids, petroleum greases, oils, oil-based paints, solvents, alcohols, and flammable gases.
- Class C: Extinguishers are suitable to put out fires involving energized electrical equipment such as appliances, outlets, breakers, etc. These extinguishers ensure that you do not get shocked when using them. Never use water to put out a class C fire.
- Class D: Extinguishers are suitable to put out fires involving combustible metals such as titanium, magnesium, lithium, zirconium, sodium, etc.
- Class K: Extinguishers are suitable to put out fires involving kitchen appliances such as stoves. These fire extinguishers are best suited for protecting against fires involving vegetable oils and animal fats.
- Mixed: There are many extinguishers that are suitable to put out more than one type of fire. Make sure when using these extinguishers that you know exactly which fires they are suitable to put out.
How do I use Fire Extinguishers?
Knowing how to use a fire extinguisher is just as important as which type to use. One must also keep in mind that there are times when one should not attempt to put out a fire.
Before deciding to fight a fire, be certain that:
- The fire is small and not spreading. A fire can double in size within two or three minutes. Only use a fire extinguisher when the fire is in its early stages. If the fire is already spreading quickly, evacuate and call the fire department.
- You have the proper fire extinguisher for the job. If you don’t know what is burning, you won’t know what type of fire extinguisher to use. Even if you have an ABC extinguisher, there could be something that will explode or produce highly toxic smoke. Using the wrong type of extinguisher can be dangerous or even life-threatening. Seven out of ten fire-related deaths occur from breathing poisonous gases produced by the fire. If there is too much smoke or if you are at risk of inhaling smoke, don’t attempt to fight the fire.
- The fire won’t block your exit if you can’t control it. A good way to ensure this is to keep the exit at your back.
- You know your fire extinguisher works. Inspect extinguishers one a month for dents, leaks or other signs of damage. Assure the pressure is at the recommended level. On extinguishers equipped with a gauge, the needle should be in the green zone, not too high and not too low.
- You know how to use your fire extinguisher. There’s not enough time to read instructions when a fire occurs.
- You have sounded the fire alarm and call the fire department, if appropriate.
If you have decided to fight the fire, be certain that you do it correctly. A helpful acronym can help you to remember proper fire extinguisher use. It is a good idea to have this information posted near your extinguishers for quick reference.
Aim at the base of the fire, not the flames. This is important because 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 extinguishers recommend operating them from different distances. Remember: Aim at the base of the fire, not at the flames!
Remember that a typical fire extinguisher only contains about 10 seconds worth of extinguishing power. This will be less if the extinguisher has been partially discharged before. Evacuate immediately if the extinguisher is empty and the fire is not out. Always read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher beforehand and become familiarized with its parts. It is highly recommended by fire prevention experts that you get hands-on training before operating a fire extinguisher. Most local fire departments offer this service. Once the fire is out, don’t walk away! Watch the area for a few minutes in case it re-ignites. Recharge the extinguisher immediately after use.