Fire Extinguisher Tips

Home Safety Council’s State of Home Safety in America report identifies fires and burns as the third leading cause of unintentional home injury related death. While portable household fire extinguishers are not designed or intended to fight a large or spreading fire, knowing how to properly operate one may prove vital in the event of a small fire.

If fire strikes, the Home Safety Council advises people to put their safety first, and belongings second. In many cases, the safest response is to evacuate the home and call the fire department. Under no circumstances should children be encouraged or taught to fight a home fire. With proper training, the right portable fire extinguisher can enable you to control a containable fire until the fire department arrives, helping protect your property. The Home Safety Council recommends the following guidelines if you plan to use a fire extinguisher at home:

Before the Fire

  • Select the most appropriate size and type of fire extinguisher(s) for your home
  • Choose the largest fire extinguisher you can physically handle.
  • Read all the directions. Know how to use an extinguisher. If possible, get training from your local fire department or workplace that will let you practice putting out a fire.
  • Keep the instructions so you can review them from time to time.
  • Mount the extinguisher near an exit door, out of reach of children.

Fighting a Small Fire

  • Make sure everyone else is leaving the home.
  • Ask someone to call the fire department from outside.

If the fire is still small and not spreading, quickly get your extinguisher. Start with your back to the exit, making sure the fire does not block your escape route. Stand 6 -8 feet away from the fire. Then, remember the word PASS:

  • Pull the pin out to unlock the operating lever.
  • Aim low: Point the extinguisher nozzle (or hose) at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent. Be prepared! It will come out with force.
  • Sweep from side to side, moving carefully toward the fire. Keep the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire, sweeping back and forth until all the flames are out. Watch the fire area. If the fire re-ignites, repeat the process.

Important: If the fire does not go out quickly, or if you feel at risk in any way, leave immediately and let the fire department handle it. Fighting a fire can be dangerous. Only adults who know how and when to use an extinguisher should attempt to put out a fire. Children should not use fire extinguishers.

After a Fire

Even if you believe the fire is out, have the fire department inspect your home to look for hidden hot spots that could flare up later.

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