• How and When to Use a Fire Extinguisher

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, people are advised 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. Use the following guidelines if you plan to use a fire extinguisher at home:

  • Contact your local fire department and find out where you can receive training in the proper use and selection of sizes and types of portable fire extinguishers.

  • Select the most appropriate size and type of fire extinguisher(s) for your home

  • Purchase UL-listed fire extinguishers and install them above the reach of children, near an exit.

  • Read the usage and maintenance directions and keep them on hand, where you can reference them again.

  • Before attempting to fight a fire, always report the fire by calling your local fire department emergency number.

  • Make sure all others have evacuated the home

  • Identify an unobstructed exit and don't ever put the fire between you and the exit.

Safety authorities use the acronym PASS to teach the preferred method of using a fire extinguisher. Position yourself near an exit to outside. Stand 6-8 feet back from the fire and don't allow the flames to come between you and the exit.

  • P: Pull the pin out to unlock the operating lever

  • A: Aim low: point the extinguisher nozzle (or Hose) at the base of the fire.

  • S: Squeeze the lever below the handle to release the extinguishing chemical.

  • S: Sweep from side to side, moving carefully toward the fire, keep the extinguisher aimed at the base of the fire and sweep back and forth until the flames appear to be out. Watch the fire area. If the fire re-ignites, repeat the process.

Be ready to abandon the effort if the fire does not extinguish or if your safety is at risk. Even if you believe you have fully extinguished the fire, have the fire department inspect the fire and check for hidden hot spots that could flare up later.

  • How to Handle Kitchen Fires

Research shows that most home fires begin in the kitchen. To help keep the risk of injuries low in your kitchen, keep oven mitts and pan lids easily accessible and learn the preferred method for extinguishing a pan fire. Understand how to best handle different types of fires that can occur while cooking and be aware that in many cases, evacuating the home is your best defense.

Pan Fires: Always keep a potholder, oven mitt and lid handy. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, put on an oven mitt and smother the flames by carefully sliding the lid over the pan. Sliding a lid over a burning pan is a relatively safe way to extinguish a small grease fire. Placing the lid from front to back will limit your exposure to the flames and scalding grease. With the lid covering the flames, it is easier to turn off the burner. As long as the lid stays on, the oxygen is cut off and the fire can die out naturally. This procedure is widely recommended by safety authorities and is preferred over portable fire extinguishers, which if used improperly could push burning grease and flames off the pan and spread the fire. Baking soda can also be used to extinguish a small pan fire; however the user risks greater exposure to the heat, flames and scalding grease. Do not use baking powder because it can burn and would actually add fuel to the fire.

Don't remove the lid until it is completely cool. Never pour water on a grease fire and never try to move or carry a burning pan as you can be severely burned by hot grease and can easily spread the fire.

Oven Fires: Turn off the heat and keep the door closed to prevent flames from burning you and your clothing. Call the fire department to report the incidence so that firefighters can check for possible flame spread.

Toaster Oven or Microwave Fires: Keep the door closed and unplug the appliance if you can safely reach the receptacle. Call the fire department to report the fire. Have the appliance serviced before you use it again or replace it.

Using a Portable Fire Extinguisher: If you know how to safely use a portable fire extinguisher, you may be able to put out a small, contained fire, such as a toaster oven or trash fire. Always call the fire department before fighting the fire and make sure everyone else has left the building. Never let the fire get positioned between you and the exit.

  • Candle Safety

Candles can provide a warm and festive atmosphere - but they can also be a fire hazard if left unattended or placed near anything flammable. Families are encouraged to enjoy the warm and inviting atmosphere of candles while always keeping fire safety in mind:

  • Never leave burning candles unattended. Extinguish all candles before going to sleep or leaving the room.

  • Do not permit children to keep or use candles or incense in their rooms. Candles should only be used when a sober adult is present and awake.

  • Never use lighted candles on or near a Christmas tree or other evergreens.

  • Keep candles at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including other decorations and wrapping paper.

  • Always use stable, nonflammable candle holders.

  • Place candles where they will not be knocked down or blown over and out of reach of pets and young children.

  • Always keep burning candles up high, out of the reach of children. If you have children in your home, store candles, matches and lighters out of their sight and reach.

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