Girl putting fire extinguisher in laundry cabinet.

The importance of fire extinguishers and types

Every home should have fire extinguishers that are designed for each type of fire.

Your home should be a safe haven and to keep it safe there are some essential safety items you should have. One of the most essential items is the right kind of fire extinguisher because in 2019 there were over 1.2 million fires and 3,000 deaths from fire.

The right fire extinguisher may save lives and help prevent damage to your home, but all fire extinguishers aren't the same. Knowing the difference between different types of fire extinguishers will help you choose the right one for your home.

Types of extinguishers and their uses

There are several types of extinguishers to choose from and each has various uses. The common types of home fire extinguishers include:

  • Class A fire extinguisher: Typically this type is used for ordinary combustibles like wood, paper, cloth and some plastics. It works by coating the fire with water or a dry chemical.
  • Class B fire extinguisher: This type can be used for flammable liquids such as gasoline, grease and oil.
  • Class C fire extinguisher. This type of extinguisher works on electrical, lightning or energized fires from live wires, panels and circuit breakers.
  • Class A-B-C fire extinguisher. The A-B-C extinguisher will do the work of a Class A, B or C fire extinguisher. It is the most versatile of all the home options and is usually sold at most home improvement stores.
  • Element fire extinguisher. This is a small handheld fire extinguisher that is highly portable and can be kept in a car or carried when needed. It is typically used for fighting fires on the molecular level. Its gas chemically interrupts the chain of combustion effectively extinguishing a fire without making any mess and without removing surrounding oxygen.
  • Class D and K fire extinguisher: These types of extinguishers are usually found in commercial settings. Class D fire extinguisher works on flammable metals and Class K fire extinguisher is used for oil fires in cooking appliances.

Types of home fires

To produce a fire, there must be oxygen, heat, fuel and a chemical reaction. In a typical home fire, the fuel will either be grease or oil from the kitchen or combustible material from around the house such as cloth, paper or wood. Because of the amount of fuel a typical home has in the form of wood or paper, it's best to try and stop a fire when it's small. In 2019, fires caused almost $15 billion in damage and injured over 16,000 people.

Because home fires can have different fuels or chemical reactions, it is best to have a multipurpose fire extinguisher. You should place one in your kitchen and every level of your home and learn how to use it.

How to use a fire extinguisher

Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, is not growing and the room is not full of smoke. Since fires spread rapidly and safety is the priority, everyone should quickly exit the building and the fire department should be called immediately.

To use a fire extinguisher properly, the National Fire Protection Association recommends remembering the word PASS.

  • Pull the pin.
  • Aim low.
  • Squeeze the lever.
  • Sweep the nozzle.

Fire extinguisher maintenance

Buying a fire extinguisher is just the first step in keeping your house safe. You must periodically check your extinguishers. You should follow your specific extinguisher's maintenance schedule and also periodically check to make sure it's:

  • Accessible,
  • Has the recommended pressure level,
  • In proper working order, and
  • Clean of any dust or oil on the outside of the extinguisher.

Know when to go. Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape. Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.

In the event of a house fire, be sure to report any damage to your insurance company. A home inventory is an excellent way to help make home insurance and renters insurance coverage decisions and expedite the insurance claims process after theft, damage or loss.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates). While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. State Farm is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.

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