Choosing and using fire extinguishers

It’s important to help the public understand that with proper training and education, fire extinguishers can save lives and property. Many adults might not know how or when to use fire extinguishers.

Encourage people to contact their fire department if they would like fire extinguisher training or have any questions. Help spread the word by sharing the following information and tips for using and maintaining fire extinguishers.

Explain the types of fire extinguishers

There are five primary types of fire extinguishers, each designed to put out different kinds of fires.

class A

For use with ordinary materials like cloth, wood and paper.

Often found in homes and businesses

class B

For use with combustible and flammable liquids like grease, gasoline, oil and oil-based paints.

Often found in homes and businesses

class C

For use with electrical equipment like appliances, tools, or other equipment that is plugged in.

Often found in homes and businesses

class D

For use with flammable metals

Often found in factories

class K

For use with vegetable oils, animal oils and fats in cooking appliances.

Often found in commercial kitchens (restaurants, cafeterias, catering businesses)

There are also multipurpose fire extinguishers that might be labeled "B-C" or "A-B-C." Most home improvement stores carry multipurpose fire extinguishers that cover Class A through Class C.

Help people decide when to use a fire extinguisher

Fire extinguishers can be helpful on a small fire. Consider providing a checklist to help people prepare to use a fire extinguisher on a potential fire.

For example:

Use a fire extinguisher when all of these questions are answered “yes.” If you’re unsure about whether or not it’s safe to use a fire extinguisher, and for all other situations, alert others, leave the building, and call 911 from a mobile or neighbor’s phone. It is not recommended that children use fire extinguishers.

Teach people how to use a fire extinguisher

When operating a fire extinguisher, tell residents to remember the word PASS:

Educate on the importance of fire extinguisher maintenance

Remind citizens to check fire extinguishers for:

Easy access in an emergency
Be sure nothing is blocking or limiting your ability to reach it.
The recommended pressure level
Many extinguishers have gauges that show when pressure is too high or too low.
Working parts
Make sure the can, hoses and nozzles aren’t damaged, dented, or rusted.
Remove any dust, oil, or grease that might be on the outside of the extinguisher.
Guidelines and instructions
Some extinguishers need to be shaken monthly, others need to be pressure tested every few years.

Additional resources for choosing and using fire extinguishers