How To Properly Use A Fire Extinguisher

How To Properly Use A Fire Extinguisher bb3 Feb 10, 2011

By Staff writer State Farm™ Employee

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Most home fires start small. A variety of factors contribute to a fire spreading from small to large, but with a fire extinguisher handy on each floor of your home – most significantly, one in your kitchen – you can quickly snuff out a small, sudden fire without needing to call 911.

Fire Extinguisher ABCs

Before you buy or use a fire extinguisher, it’s important to know that different kinds of fires often require different kinds of fire extinguishers. For the home, your best bet is an “ABC” dry chemical fire extinguisher. This multipurpose extinguisher is good for the home because it can put out the three most common types of home fires: wood and paper fires (class “A”), grease and oil fires (class “B”), and electrical fires (class “C”). It’s important to remember that some extinguishers have limitations, and will not work on certain fires. For instance, a specific extinguisher for class “A” fires is water-based, and should never be used on a class “B” grease fire.


Once you’ve chosen your fire extinguisher, be prepared and read all the operating instructions on its canister. A typical fire extinguisher contains only about 10 seconds of extinguishing power, so knowing how to operate one ahead of time means nothing goes to waste. All extinguishers work in a similar manner, and an easy way of remembering how to use one is the acronym “PASS”:

  • Pull the pin at the top of the extinguisher.
  • Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, not at the flames.
  • Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent.
  • Sweep the spray back and forth across the fire until it’s out.

Before pulling the pin, make sure everyone else in the house is safely outside. Also be sure an exit is at your back, in case the extinguisher doesn’t fully accomplish the job and you need to escape quickly.

Maintain Your Extinguisher

Simply having an extinguisher in your home is not enough: Like any tool, it requires that you maintain it. Every month, dry chemical extinguishers (like the recommended “ABC” type) need to be shaken to prevent the powder from settling. If your extinguisher has a pressure gauge, consistently check that it is not too high or low. Keep the extinguisher clean, and wipe off any oil or grease residue that may accumulate on it from cooking. Also, never use an old extinguisher with signs of damage such as dents or rust; simply replace it with a new one.

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