Fire Extinguisher Safety
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 #1 priority for residents is to get out safely.
- Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and is not growing; everyone has exited the building; the fire department has been called or is being 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.
For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher (which 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.
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 trainings.
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.
Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape. Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.
Remember Pass! Types of Extinguishers
Check Fire Extinguishers
- Easy access in an emergency
- Be sure nothing is blocking or limiting your ability to reach it.
- The recommended pressure level
- Many extinguishers have gauges that show when pressure is too high or too low.
- Working parts
- Make sure the can, hoses, and nozzles aren’t damaged, dented, or rusted.
- Remove any dust, oil, or grease that might be on the outside of the extinguisher.
- Guidelines and instructions
- Some extinguishers need to be shaken monthly, others need to be pressure tested every few years.
- As a general rule, firefighting should be left to the fire department.
- Only adults who know how to use portable fire extinguishers should use them.
- Before trying to fight a fire, make sure that everyone is leaving the house, someone is calling 9-1-1, the extinguisher is mounted on the wall close to your way out, the fire is not bigger than a small wastepaper can and you can get out.
- Inspect portable extinguishers monthly and have them serviced annually.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and mounting height.
- As a general rule, portable fire extinguishers for the home should have a rating of at least 2-A:10-B:C.