Fighting Fires in the Home

Fire extinguishers are special pressurized devices that release chemicals or water to put out a fire. They keep small fires from spreading, assist in fighting fires until the fire department arrives and can help provide an escape route for you and your family.

Remember: A fire extinguisher is no substitute for the fire department! Always call the fire department first -- no matter how small you think the fire is.

How do fire extinguishers work? Fire is a result of a chemical reaction called combustion. Fire needs fuel, oxygen and heat in order to burn. Fire extinguishers apply an "agent" that will cool burning fuel or restrict or remove oxygen so the fire cannot continue to burn. Small household fires can be quickly controlled by a fire extinguisher.

Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher, but simply owning an extinguisher is not enough.

One-third of all people injured by fire are hurt while trying to control or extinguish the fire. You need the right type of extinguisher and you must know how to use it. 

Don't fight a fire unless:

  • You call the fire department first. An extinguisher is no substitute for the fire department.
  • The fire is small and not spreading. A fire can double in size every two or three minutes.
  • You can get out fast if you can't control the fire. Don't get trapped. Make sure the fire is not between you and your exit.
  • You have the right extinguisher for what's burning. Read the label! Know what type of extinguisher you have before there is a fire.
  • Your extinguisher works. Inspect extinguishers once a month for signs of damage, corrosion, tampering and leaks. A partially discharged extinguisher is an empty extinguisher.
  • You know how to use your extinguisher. It's too late to read the instructions when the fire is burning.
  • Attend an extinguisher training class if you can.
  • Make it a habit to unplug all counter appliances when not in use.
  • Store cigarette lighters and matches out of the reach of children.
  • Practice home fire drills regularly. Make them realistic. Pretend that some escape routes are blocked by smoke or fire and practice using alternate exits.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector. They are especially useful in the newer energy-efficient homes with tight weather seals.
  • Don't use an outdoor grill or charcoal grill indoors. 
  • Test your smoke detector monthly to make sure it's operable.
  • If your smoke detector is battery-operated or has a batter backup system, change the batteries twice a year.



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