According to FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), over 3,500 Americans each year die in fires, plus about 18,300 more are injured. The agency says that even though a fire extinguisher can save lives, most people do not know how to use them.
Firefighters say they often see tragedies because homeowners don’t know how to use extinguishers — even when they have them in the house. According to fire experts, “Fire doubles every 60 seconds. So the longer you wait, the worse the fire is going to be.” If you have two people at a fire, ideally one should work the fire extinguisher while the other calls 911.
Considering how important it is to know, it would be wise for every adult to get a fire extinguisher and actually practice using it. After all, this could save your home, or the life of a loved one.
To use a fire extinguisher correctly, experts say that one should remember the acronym P.A.S.S.
P: Pull the pin.
A: Aim at the base of the fire.
S: Squeeze the trigger.
S: Sweep side to side.
But they also say the most important lesson of all is to know when NOT to use an extinguisher. They are meant only for small fires in their very beginning stages. Anything bigger and you should get out — while you still can — and call 911.
Here are some additional fire-extinguisher tips from the National Fire Protection Association and Underwriters Laboratories Inc., which independently tests products and provides safety recommendations:
1. When buying fire extinguishers for your home: choose extinguishers labeled “ABC,” which means they are broad-spectrum and can combat all different kinds of fires. Also look for the seal of an independent testing organization to make sure the extinguisher is high quality.
2. Make sure they have gauges on them that tell you how much of the fire-fighting chemicals is left in the canister.
3. Get the largest, heaviest fire extinguisher you can comfortably handle, so you’ll have more fire-fighting power.
4. Store your fire extinguishers near the exits of the rooms they are in, so you can fight the fire from a location where there’s a clear path to get out. Make sure they are easy to grab, not trapped behind other belongings.
5. 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.
6. Get every other member of the family out of the house and have them call 911. Meanwhile, if the fire is not spreading, is confined to a small area, and the room is not filled with smoke, use the appropriate type of extinguisher on the fire.
7. Know both your limits and the fire extinguisher’s limits. The best way to think of fire extinguishers is as an aid in getting out alive rather than a device to douse a fire completely.
8. Periodically inspect your extinguishers to determine if they need to be recharged or replaced. Look at the gauge to see if there is ammunition left.
9. Extinguishers need to be recharged or replaced after each use – even if you haven’t used the entire extinguishing agent. Check the gauge on the fire extinguisher for this information.
10. When using a portable extinguisher, always keep your back to an unobstructed exit that is free from fire. This will allow a clear path to an exit.
For more information see the Florida Fire Services website or call us at (877) 662-3473.