A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and properties when used properly to put out a small fire. The simple act of buying a fire extinguisher isn’t enough to ensure the safety of your building, as they need to be maintained and kept in excellent condition to work well.
Fire extinguishers are essential in any building or facility. Schools, offices, residential buildings, hospitals and any area where humans are present should have an active extinguisher.
In this article, we are going to be looking at the ways to maintain a fire extinguisher, the key places to keep them in your home, when to use a fire extinguisher, how to choose the right fire extinguisher for your specific needs, and things you should never do with a fire extinguisher.
How to maintain a fire extinguisher
While fire extinguishers should be available in every building and facilities, it is important to note that their use may not be warranted in certain situations. Fire extinguishers should be used only if the flame can be put out or controlled with the equipment.
After buying a fire extinguisher, it is important that you maintain it from time to time to keep it in perfect working condition and actively ready to use at any time. Every commercial and public institution need to have working fire extinguishers and inspect them annually to see if they are working properly. Inspection, as well as testing, are a must and should be done by a trained professional, as they will thoroughly examine the extinguisher for any damage.
The frequency of maintenance of a fire extinguisher depends on the company that manufactured it. Normally, fire extinguishers should be inspected annually. Some fire extinguishers have special tags, which provide information on the last time it was inspected.
In addition to the mandatory annual test and inspection, fire extinguishers also require a five to twelve-year inspection and hydrostatic test. The five-year test usually involves emptying, refilling and pressurizing the extinguisher. On the other hand, the hydrostatic test involves emptying the content of the extinguisher and re-filling it with pressurized water. After this is done, a technician will inspect the cylinder for corrosion issues and leaks. After the inspection, the extinguisher will be dried and pressurized.
Key places to keep them in your home
Do you have a working fire extinguisher in your apartment? Do you know where it is right now? With so much combustible items in the average home, fire can get out of control in a matter of minutes. Having an easily accessible fire extinguisher is the best way to put out a small fire and prevent it from spreading.
According to the NFPA, about 56% of fires stay confined to their object or material of origin. Fires that are allowed to spread are dangerous and deadly. When fires spread beyond the area they start, they cause 4 out of 5 of all home fire-related deaths. Easy access to an active fire extinguisher helps prevent fires from rapidly spreading while protecting your family and properties.
There are some important rules you should follow when placing a fire extinguisher in any room or area in your home. Below are a few of them:
- Ensure that every member of your family knows where the fire extinguishers are kept.
- Keep a comprehensive inventory of the fire extinguishers in your home and the last time you serviced or inspected them.
- Keep them in well lit and visible areas with their label facing forward at all times
- Check your fire extinguisher from time to time to time to see if they are blocked.
Next, we are going to be looking at some 5 areas to keep a fire extinguisher in your home;
Since most residential fires occur at night, it is important that you keep a fire extinguisher close to every bedroom in your home – even the children’s room. There is no age restriction as to the use of fire extinguishers. Kids can be trained to operate and use a fire extinguisher safely. Even if you don’t expect your kids to use the equipment themselves, it is still important to have an easily accessible fire extinguisher.
A Survey that was conducted by the NFPA shows that one-fifth of residential fires are caused by active heating equipment. Whether it is a room heater, a pellet stove, and chimney, be sure to know where the closest working fire extinguisher is to the heating equipment in your home. Don’t keep fire extinguishers close to cooking equipment like gas stoves and other heat sources. Rather, keep them in a safe and reasonable distance away.
Kitchens are one of the common places to find an extinguisher in a home, and it is easy to discern why? Cooking equipment is one of the leading sources of residential fires and fire injuries. Between 2010 and 2014, cooking equipment caused 19% of home-related fire deaths, 46% of home- structure fire, and 44% of home fire injuries.
Do not keep a kitchen fire extinguisher too close to the stove and other heat sources. It should be placed more than 40 feet away. The reason why you should keep it far away is this- to prevent you from inhaling dangerous smoke when taking and using an extinguisher to put out a fire in the stove. If your kitchen is small, you may need to mount your extinguisher to the wall in the room close by- as long as it is accessible from the kitchen.
Home workshops, sheds, and garages are usually loaded with combustible materials like oil, cleaning products, and canisters. If you work with electricity powered appliances or tools in your gadget, be sure to keep a working fire extinguisher like this one very close by to prevent a small fire from spreading. Before using a fire extinguisher in your garage, take a moment to consider the type or the nature of fire you want to put out. For example, if they are caused by electric equipment, water or a foam fire extinguisher won’t be effective. A dry powder extinguisher, on the other hand, will be effective against it.
Keep at least one extinguisher on every floor of your home, including attic and basement. It is common sense to keep a fire extinguisher close to areas with an active heat source. But you need to keep in mind that fires can spring up from anywhere and anytime. Whether it’s an unattended candle or a small spark from a faulty wiring, fires can easily start in an unexpected location. Keep an extinguisher on each floor to prevent them from spreading. A quick response will go a long way to successfully putting out a small fire.
It is better to be prepared than to be running around looking for an extinguisher in the event of a fire. If there is probably a need for more fire extinguishers in your home or you simply want to have your current extinguishers inspected, then you should visit any of the reputable fire shops in your area.
When to use a fire extinguisher
While sprinkler systems are super effective against large fires, they aren’t designed to target and put out small flames. A fire extinguisher is perfect for putting out a small fire without causing further damage. In the event of a fire, you are likely going to run to the nearest fire extinguisher and use it to put out the flames. But, do you know that the use of a fire extinguisher may not be warranted in some circumstances? Before using a fire extinguisher in any situation, you have to read the instructions on how to use it well.
The right time to use a fire extinguisher
Grabbing the closest fire extinguisher you can find to put out a small fire without taking proper precautions can put you and others in your home at serious risk. Before using an extinguisher, make sure that the fire is not spreading around the area. It is also important that you make sure the area or room is not engulfed with smoke before using the extinguisher.
If the fire is large and is spreading quickly, please don’t try to put it out with your fire extinguisher. Rather, your goal should be to make sure that everyone is evacuated before the fire engulfs the entire building. Do well to alert the fire department in your area. Keep in mind that running away from a burning building is better and safer than trying to put out the flame on your own.
How to use a fire extinguisher
Using a fire extinguisher is not as difficult as you may be thinking. To help you get more comfortable with it, there is an easy anagram that can help you remember exactly what to do. Try to remember the word – PASS (Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep).
Remove the pin at the top of the extinguisher. This pin will instantly release the lock which will allow you to effortlessly discharge the content of the extinguisher.
Carefully aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire. Aiming at the flames directly may facilitate the spread of the fire and ultimately cause more damage.
Slowly squeeze the lever on the fire extinguisher slowly. This will instantly release the extinguishing agent.
Move the nozzle in a sweeping motion from side to side to cover the fire source until the fire is completely out. Wait a few seconds to be certain that the fire isn’t going to ignite.
Knowing how to use an extinguisher to put out a fire is important, but if you aren’t comfortable with using them, then you shouldn’t take the risk. Misusing an extinguisher could result in serious damage, injuries and even death.
How to choose a fire extinguisher?
A working fire extinguisher can be a lifesaver. When placed in an easy-to-grab area, it can easily be used to put out a small fire or suppress a large flame before the firefighters arrive.
Household extinguishers are classified into 3 categories:
- Class A
- Class B
- Class C
The label on each of these extinguishers usually shows the type of fires they can extinguish.
The major distinction between home extinguishers is size. In the realm of fire extinguishers, bigger isn’t always better. While large fire extinguisher contains more fire retarding chemical, they are too heavy to move around or maneuver.
There is also a difference between disposable and rechargeable extinguishers. As you guessed, a rechargeable one can be refilled once its content is depleted. It usually has a special gauge that shows how much of its content is left. On the other hand, the disposable ones, which are really quite cheap, cannot be refilled when they are empty.
The NFPA recommends a fire extinguisher for each floor. Regardless of how many you have, nothing can take the place of the most important safety tool- a fire plan. Ensure that your family members knows how to get out of your house quickly, a safe place to meet outside and how to call the authorities. Even when you are sure you can put out a fire on your own, still call 911.
Reading the label
The role of the label on fire extinguishers is to tell you the type of fire they are effective against.
- A is for combustible solids like paper, wood, and rubber.
- B is for flammable liquids like paint and gasoline.
- C is for electricity-related fires.
Make a decision
It is likely going to be difficult of you to determine the best fire extinguisher for your home. To be on the safe side, it is best you buy an all-purpose fire extinguisher (Like the one in the image below). They are usually labeled ABC. This means that they can be used to put out Class A, B and C fires.
Things you should never do with a fire extinguisher
Generally, people tend to use the thing for the exact opposite of what they are intended or designed for. Many times these can be harmful, dangerous or even fatal. A fire extinguisher, which is designed to protect lives and properties, can cause serious damage if not used the right way.
Below are some things you should never do with a fire extinguisher:
- As a flamethrower
- Pointing it at your face or mouth
- To carbonate water or beer
- Using it for welding
- As a prank
Fire extinguishers are meant to put out fires, not for flame throwing or drink preparation. Learning to use fire extinguishers properly is critical for safety, and misusing them can lead to serious damage, injury or even death.
Investing in a good fire extinguisher is one of the best ways to protect your home and family in the event of a fire emergency. Just like other firefighting equipment here, fire extinguishers need to be maintained. Also, they need to be kept in strategic places in a home so they can be easily reached in the event of a fire.
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