How to Use a Fire Extinguisher

fire extinguisher

A fire extinguisher is an important piece of equipment to have on hand in case a small fire starts. A fire extinguisher is a handheld device that contains a pressurized container of fire-suppressant material. The device is a metal container with a handle and a nozzle, usually with a red and white label. The label indicates what type of fire the extinguisher is rated to put out. Keeping a few simple fire extinguisher tips in mind can help you use one effectively when the need arises.

Pull the pin: This depresses the actuating rod, which opens the passage to the fire-suppressant agent in the cylinder. Squeeze the handle: Squeezing the handle releases the fire-suppressant agent through the nozzle. Aim at the base of the fire: Do not aim directly at the flames; doing so will cause the agent to pass right through the flames and do little to stop them. Sweep: Move the nozzle from side to side over the source of the fire, sweeping it in a continuous motion until the fire appears to be extinguished. Watch the area to make sure it does not re-ignite.

There are several types of fire extinguishers available for homeowners, including water, foam, dry chemical, and carbon dioxide (classes A and B). Some units also have a wetting agent and ammonium dihydrogen phosphate, which is used on class D fires. All of these types are effective on wood, paper, cloth, and other solids, as well as flammable liquids such as cooking oils and paint thinners. Carbon dioxide, which is a compressed gas, works by excluding oxygen from the combustion process and interrupting the chemical chain reaction. Wetting agents work by absorbing the oil in the fire and slowing down its release or by reducing its temperature to below its autoignition point. Dry chemicals, such as potassium acetate and potassium carbonate, and potassium citrate extinguish class A fires by reducing the heat generated in the combustion process and by cooling the fuel.

Graphite is another common option for class D fires, but it is only effective in very small areas of the fire and can be dangerous to handle. For home owners, the best choice is a multipurpose dry chemical extinguisher such as a Super-K or Purple-K unit (classes A:B:C). These devices contain both ordinary sodium potassium bicarbonate and urea potassium bicarbonate base agents. These are effective on class A, B, and C fires as well as electrical fires. They are also able to be recharged in a short period of time. You can find these fire extinguishers online and at most hardware stores. Before using any fire extinguisher, read the operating instructions carefully. Check with your local fire department to see if they offer homeowner training in the proper use of these devices. Keep your fire extinguishers where they are easy to reach, preferably near an escape exit. And remember to practice a fire escape plan with your family on a regular basis, and have a designated meeting spot outside of the house in the event of a fire.

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