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. Here is what you need to know about choosing and using fire extinguishers!
Remember to check your fire extinguisher for:
- 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.
- Cleanliness- 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.
When to Use a Fire Extinguisher
Fire extinguishers can be helpful on a small fire. Below is a checklist to help you prepare to use a fire extinguisher.
- Have I alerted others in the building that there’s a fire?
- Has someone called the fire department?
Am I physically able to use a fire extinguisher?
- Is the fire small and contained in a single object (like a pan or a wastebasket)?
- Am I safe from the fire’s toxic smoke?
- Do I have a clear escape route?
Use a fire extinguisher when all of these questions are answered “yes.” If you’re unsure about whether or not it’s safe to use a fire extinguisher, and for all other situations, alert others, leave the building, and call 911 from a mobile or neighbor’s phone. It is not recommended that children use fire extinguishers.
How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
When operating a fire extinguisher, tell 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.
More Fire Extinguisher Tips
- For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher (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.