Fire extinguishers: Four tips to keep your family safe this spring

May 20, 2013 - When it comes to home safety, fire extinguishers are your first line of defense, but only when they're installed correctly and used properly. Spring is the perfect time of year to make sure you know how your home’s fire extinguishers work, where they should be located and what type you should install.

Here are four tips to keep in mind around your home:

1. Location, location, location. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends installing fire extinguishers near the exits of your home. NFPA also emphasizes that fire extinguishers should only be use when:

  • The fire is confined to a small area
  • Everyone is safely outside
  • Emergency authorities have been notified
  • The room is not filled with smoke
2. Pick the right tool for the job. Whether it's electrical wires, household appliances or building materials, homes offer a seemingly endless array of combustion sources -- and each fire requires a different type of fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers are sorted into three classes:

  • A-class: fire extinguishers designed for use on paper, cloth, wood and some plastics.
  • B-class: fire extinguishers designed to combat gasoline and other fires involving flammable liquids.
  • C-class: fire extinguishers designed to fight electrical fires.

Fortunately, multipurpose fire extinguishers carry a combined A-B-C classification. They're easily identifiable by their red color and are widely available at hardware stores.

3. Practice makes perfect. Learn how to use your home’s fire extinguishers before a blaze erupts. In addition to carefully reading their instruction manual, NFPA recommends learning the easy-to-remember PASS system. The acronym stands for:

  • Pulling the pin
  • Aiming low
  • Squeezing the lever
  • Sweeping the nozzle from side-to-side
4. Don't be a hero. NFPA recommends developing a comprehensive fire safety plan that includes fire prevention best practices, when (and when not) to use a fire extinguisher, and escape planning. And remember, everyone's safety is the most important consideration.

Following these four fire extinguisher tips this spring can keep you and your family safe throughout the year. In addition, many local fire departments conduct fire extinguisher demonstrations during the warmer months, so check around to see if an upcoming class is scheduled in your area.

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