The use of a fire extinguisher in the hands of a trained adult can be a life and property saving tool. However, a majority of adults have not had fire extinguisher training and may not know how and when to use them. Fire extinguisher use requires a sound decision making process and training on their proper use and maintenance.
When to Use a Fire Extinguisher
Consider the following three questions before purchasing or using a fire extinguisher to control a fire:
Checking for Problems
Fire extinguishers need to be regularly checked to ensure that:
- All parts are operable and not damaged or restricted in any way. Make sure hoses and nozzles are free of insects or debris. There should not be any signs of damage or abuse, such as dents or rust, on the extinguisher.
- The extinguisher is not blocked by furniture, doorways, or any thing that might limit access in an emergency.
- The outside of the extinguisher is clean. Remove any oil or grease that might accumulate on the exterior.
- The pressure is at the recommended level. Some extinguishers have gauges that indicate when the pressure is too high or too low.
Do the following to ensure your extinguisher is working properly:
- Immediately replace the extinguisher if it needs recharging or is damaged in any way.
- Pressure test the extinguisher (a process called hydrostatic testing) after a number of years to ensure that the cylinder is safe to use. Find out from the owner's manual, the label, or the manufacturer when an extinguisher may need this type of testing.
- Shake dry chemical extinguishers once a month to prevent the powder from settling or packing. Check the manufacturer's recommendations.
Sound Decision Making, Training, & Maintenance
All are required to safely control a fire with an extinguisher. For this reason, United States Fire Administration recommends that only those trained in the proper use and maintenance of fire extinguishers consider using them when appropriate. Contact the Kilgore Fire Department for information on training in your area.