Causing thousands of deaths and tens of thousands of injuries every year, fires involving U.S. civilians also cause tens of billions of dollars in property loss. Most fires can be stopped before catastrophic situations like these arise. Multiple studies reviewing thousands of fires found that a portable fire extinguisher effectively extinguished the fire roughly 80% of the time, and in approximately 75% of these cases, fire departments were not needed. In short, a household fire extinguisher is the most effective tool you can have at your disposal to prevent potential injury, death and property loss when a fire occurs. Expert-recommended multipurpose extinguishers are ideal for home use and range from a smaller-size 2A:10-B:C model for around $35 to a larger 3A:40-B:C for around $40.
A fire extinguisher for home safety is the next step up from smoke alarms in your house, but this rule also applies to commercial properties. At both types of location, using a fire extinguisher can save lives and prevent injuries and property damage either by putting out a fire entirely or suppressing it until professional firefighters arrive.
Always remember that you need to know how to use a fire extinguisher before you attempt to fight a fire with one. Learning in the middle of a crisis is the worst timing ever, so make sure you understand how your extinguisher works long before you have to use it. Also, remember that safety is always paramount. A kitchen fire extinguisher, or any other fire extinguisher, should only be used after everyone else is safely away from the building, your back is facing a safe exit, and the fire department has already been called. Don’t ever put yourself or anyone else at risk just to try your hand at using a fire extinguisher.
Fire extinguisher history
If you go all the way back, you can trace the first semblance of a fire extinguisher to Ctesibius of Alexandria, who came up with a hand-operated pump designed to get water to a fire sometime around 200 B.C. Fast-forwarding to 1723, English chemist Ambrose Godfrey is credited with the first patent on a fire extinguisher using a pewter chamber filled with gunpowder activated with fuses. In 1816, the first canister-based, pressurized vessel containing chemical fire retardant is credited to British Capt. George William Manby, whose copper container, known as “the Extincteur,” held potassium carbonate and compressed air. African American inventor Thomas J. Martin patented his own improved model of fire extinguisher in 1872. Technology has since progressed to include a variety of models divided by the class of fire, currently four specific types that are color-coded accordingly.
Fire extinguisher types and ratings
The four types of fire extinguishers are water (for Class A fires with solid sources, like wood, paper or textiles), foam (for Class B fires derived from flammable liquids, as well as Class A fires), CO2 (for Class C electrical fires and Class B fires) and dry powder (for classes A, B and C, and suitable for all fires involving solids, gases and liquids). Fire extinguisher ratings can be a little confusing, but they correspond with the types. A-rated extinguishers are designed to fight materials that water can extinguish, like wood, paper or textiles; B-rated extinguishers fight liquid-derived fires, like those involving paint or grease; and C-rated extinguishers are rated for electrical fires.
Using the wrong fire extinguisher can be dangerous and result in electrical shock or an ineffective extinguisher. Therefore, most people choose to outfit their homes with ABC-rated extinguishers, which are effective on all types of fires. However, a restaurant owner might insist on placing B-type extinguishers in the kitchen to fight grease fires. The number included in the rating corresponds to the power and capacity of the extinguisher, so the higher the number, the more you’ll have of both.
Fire extinguisher positioning
The maximum distance that a person should have to go from the source of the fire to secure the extinguisher for use ranges between 10 and 30 meters. However, you want to have your extinguishers easily accessible and within reach so you know exactly where they are in an emergency. You don’t want to fumble around in a cabinet or closet when your home is on fire.
Fire extinguisher safety and compliance
If you’re an employer, a property owner or both, it’s your responsibility to check local fire ordinances and educate yourself about your responsibilities to the properties you own and the people you employ. At minimum, begin with a practical fire risk assessment and escape planning, along with smoke alarm and fire extinguisher installation. Regulations assert a minimum number of fire extinguishers per floor in various buildings, and property owners must install them accordingly.
Fire extinguisher maintenance and inspections
As a property owner, you are also responsible for maintaining your home fire extinguisher as well as fire extinguishers at any commercial property you own, making sure that maintenance and inspections occur regularly and are documented. Every fire extinguisher in your building or home requires an annual inspection to ensure it is undamaged, fully pressurized, and ready for use in the event of a fire emergency. In addition to the annual inspection by a qualified technician, visually check fire extinguishers at least once a month to make sure each one is in good working order.
Importance of fire extinguishers
The importance of fire extinguishers cannot be overstated. With highly impressive success rates for fighting fires, preventing injuries and property damage, and saving lives, fire extinguishers are tremendously valuable assets to homeowners and business owners alike. Skipping them is not even an option, but inevitably, some people neglect their obligation to keep all fire extinguishers in tiptop condition year-round. Failing to maintain them can be a costly, painful and even deadly mistake. Stay safe! Keep all your fire extinguishers in great shape all year, every year. You’ll be glad you did.
Thanks for stopping by to read our post on fire extinguishers and why you should have at least one in your home. We hope it was informative and helpful. While you’re here, you might like to read a few of our other articles on topics like how to maintain your dryer, how to increase your home’s disaster resistance and the smart home takeover of the real estate market.
The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.