Fire Extinguisher Safety

If you have limited experience with fire extinguishers, you might wonder about fire extinguisher safety. Or, you might want to know which fire extinguishers are the best ones to buy for your home or auto. This page is designed to give you the information you need about:

Buying a Fire Extinguisher
  • How to use a fire extinguisher safely
  • Which fire extinguishers are used for which kinds of fires
  • Which brands are best
  • Which kinds of fire extinguishers to avoid

There are several different kinds of fire extinguishers for sale and it can seem confusing when you are trying to figure out which one to buy. Fire extinguishers are classified based on the type of fire they put out. Here is the guide:

  • A – put out fires in ordinary combustible materials such as cloth, wood, rubber, paper, and many plastics.
  • B – are used on fires involving flammable liquids, such as grease, tar, gasoline, oil, lacquer, and oil-based paints.
  • C – are suitable for use on fires involving appliances, tools, or other machinery that has wires or is electrically plugged in.
  • D – are designed for use on flammable metals and are often specific for the type of metal in question. (These are usually found in industrial settings and not usually found in homes.)
  • K – are intended for use on fires that involve vegetable oils, animal oils, or fats in cooking appliances. (These are usually found in commercial settings, and not usually found in homes.)

Usually, when you go to buy a fire extinguisher, you will see them marked as an "ABC" Classification or sometimes as a "BC" Classification. Get the ABC fire extinguisher. This is exactly what you are looking to purchase. Of the different fire extinguisher types, it is perfect for home use. Make sure it has been tested by an independent laboratory, such as United Laboratories.

However, before you throw it in your cart, make sure it is the right size for your needs. Some fire extinguishers are really small and won't do much good. Remember that the larger the size, the bigger the fire you can put out. You are not going to be taking on major fires, but you do need to be able to put out a small kitchen fire or a trash can sized fire and a little hand-held fire extinguisher may just not be enough to handle that task.

Fire extinguishers to avoid are the aerosol hand-held types, such as the Tundra brand. I'm not picking on that particular brand, but the type of fire extinguisher in general. When I went through CERT training, the fire department personnel who were training us told us point blank that these were not good and in some cases made situations worse, especially in the case of kitchen fires. Please do not use these aerosol fire extinguishers.

Fire Extinguisher Safety: Learning to P-A-S-S

When faced with a small kitchen fire – and these are the most common household fires - get everyone out of the house first and call 9-1-1. Make sure you have a way to get out before you try to put out the fire. Then, get your ABC fire extinguisher and from a distance of 6 to 8 feet:

  • Pull the safety plug from the top of the handle
  • Aim low toward the base of the fire
  • Squeeze the lever below the handle
  • Sweep back and forth (from side to side) moving closer to the fire as it goes out
That is the PASS acronym.

When fighting a fire with a fire extinguisher, always keep your exit to your back. That way you know you have your escape route covered.

CERT Fire Extinguisher Training

Here is a picture of me practicing this during CERT training. Please remember that there are chemicals in these fire extinguishers, so don't let your children play with them. Put them where you can get to them, but away from your children. If you actually install them on a wall, put them near the area where you might need them, but not right in the immediate area or you might not be able to get to them.

Fire Extinguisher Safety: Maintenance

Fire extinguishers need to be maintained. Fire extinguisher repair must be done by someone who is qualified to do those repairs. Never attempt to repair a fire extinguisher yourself.

If your fire extinguisher needs to be inspected or the gauge is no longer in the green zone, you will need to find a fire extinguisher recharge service in your area. Every unit has a tag on it to show when the last inspection was done. When you take yours to be evaluated, your tag will be updated to reflect the new recharge and inspection. To find a place to do this, just do a Google search or check your phone book.

Here is a company in Dallas showing how the process works. No audio, but the video is a nice explanation.

Buying a Fire Extinguisher

If you are ready to buy a fire extinguisher, there are several brands which are well-known and provide quality products. I, personally, have a Kidde fire extinguisher in my car, the garage, just outside of the kitchen and at the top of the stairs. Kidde has a good reputation for making great products. Here is a sample of some of the best selling fire extinguishers they make:

Kidde Fire Extinguisher 1A10BC Kidde Pro 210 Fire Extinguisher, ABC Kidde Multi Purpose Fire Extinguisher Twin Value Pack - Includes Strap Bracket

Another well-known brand is Amerex. Here are a couple of their models:

Amerex #B402 ABC Multi-Purpose Fire Extinguisher - 5lb Amerex ABC 5lb Multi-Purpose Fire Extinguisher

And finally First Alert.

First Alert Multi-Purpose Household Extinguisher ABC

How Many Do You Need?

Have at least one fire extinguisher per what I like to call "danger zone". This could be your kitchen, garage, backyard shed, upstairs family room, pool room, etc. Think about the various areas where you keep anything or anyone that might need protecting or where a fire might erupt.

Keep aware and stay safe!