Fire Extinguisher Precautions

Updated February 21, 2017

Portable fire extinguishers are important safety components that should be present in every home. They can be used to contain or extinguish small fires before they become large and dangerous fires. They can even save lives when used properly, according to the National Fire Protection Association. It is important to take certain precautions, including familiarising all members of the household with the proper use of fire extinguishers before they are needed in an actual emergency.


Portable fire extinguishers should be included in every family's fire safety plan, but a fire extinguisher is only useful if it is used properly. Each member of the household old enough to make decisions under stress should read and understand all manufacturer's instructions that come with the fire extinguisher. Most portable fire extinguishers operate on the P.A.S.S. acronym. Pull the safety pin and point the nozzle away from you before releasing the safety lock. Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire. Squeeze the trigger in a slow, steady motion. Sweep the nozzle back and forth at the source of the flames.

Proper Class of Extinguisher

It is imperative to only use the proper type of fire extinguisher on house fires. Using the wrong class of extinguisher may not extinguish the fire and could cause personal injury. There are five primary types of portable fire extinguishers rated for residential use. Class A fire extinguishers are suitable for use on fires involving combustible materials such as wood and paper. Class B extinguishers are designed for use on flammable liquids such as gasoline or solvents. Class C extinguishers use nonconductive materials and are suitable for use on electrical fires. Class D extinguishers are more specialised and are used on combustible metals. Class K fires are kitchen fires involving cooking oils, animal fats and grease. Homeowners should select a portable fire extinguisher that will be effective against the type of fire that is most likely in their environment. Combination fire extinguishers are available that can be used against a variety of fire types.

Know When to Leave

Portable fire extinguishers are limited in the amount of fire retardant materials they can carry. Some types of fire extinguishers will include a numeric code on their label indicating the number of square feet they can treat. You should only use a portable fire extinguisher to fight a fire once you have determined that all other persons have safely exited the building, an emergency call to 911 or the fire brigade has been made, the fire is small enough that using the extinguisher will be effective, there is no danger of toxic fumes or smoke and you have a clear exit. If there is any sense of danger, you must exit the building immediately and wait for help from the fire brigade.

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About the Author

Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.