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Fire Extinguishers for the Homeowner

Last year at this time we were cautioning everyone and providing tips on fire safety with regard to outside wild land fires. This year I suppose I could beat it out with my snow shovel that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. We all know that the danger is ever present, but given the slower start to the outdoor season, we thought we would give you some advice on home fire extinguishers instead.

This is another piece of safety equipment no home should be without. They don’t get a lot of attention, yet they can be an important piece in the fire safety puzzle. The reason we don’t dwell on them too much is because the use of an extinguisher requires some training and knowledge on how, when and where to use them. I admit, it does sound a little counter-intuitive to the message of “get out and stay out” that the fire service encourages everyone to follow, yet there are circumstances that warrant their use.

To begin with, a home extinguisher can be purchased many places such as your local hardware or home center store. Remember to look or ask for a home sized one as they are generally smaller, lighter and easier to operate. Always purchase an extinguisher that has been approved by an independent testing laboratory. Extinguishers are rated by alphabet to indicate what type of material they are best suited to handle. Stick with one that is “A,B,C” rated. Without going into a whole bunch of gobble-de-gook, that simply means that it can handle, paper and wood, plastic, oil and grease and electrical fires.

Now that you’ve got one, read the material that comes with it. After you have familiarized yourself with your new piece of equipment, mount it or place in an easily accessible location on the way out of the home.

When do you use it? This is where it gets a bit tricky; so a few guidelines to follow: First, make sure everyone else is either outside the home or on their way out. Be sure emergency services have been called and are on their way. Only tackle small fires that can be extinguished for the most part or “knocked down” to the point they are not growing as rapidly.

Children should never use an extinguisher; they should be out of the house. Make sure your back is to an open door that you can turn and get out of quickly if it gets too intense or smoky. Finally, but certainly not the least important, if you are unsure or are questioning if you can do it, drop it and get out.

Remember, you’ve already called emergency services and we are on our way. We would never want anyone to take up our task or put themselves in unnecessary danger. Keep in mind that “stuff” can be replaced. It only takes a few good breaths of heavy, acrid, poisonous smoke to do significant health damage to a person. It’s tough to make certain decisions when you only have seconds, so always consider the safety of you and yours first.

We just don’t have time here to instruct you on the actual use of an extinguisher, so we encourage you to seek out your local firefighter for that. They will be more than happy to help you to learn how to use one, whether it be on the boat, car, garage or home. So here’s to lessons we hope you never have to use, and stay tuned for some tips on keeping ourselves all in one piece!

Ken Elmore
Markey Township Firefighter

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