When a fire starts, it is usually small enough to put out quickly if you have the right portable fire extinguisher and know how and when to use it.
Which one should you buy?
Not all fire extinguishers are alike. Letters indicate the type of fire they can put out. For example:
* "A" type extinguishers work on fuels such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber and plastics.
* "B" type extinguishers work on flammable liquids such as gasoline, kerosene, oil, paint and kitchen grease.
* "C" type extinguishers work on electrical fires.
Purchase a multipurpose extinguisher that is designed to work on more than one fuel type.
Select one with a "BC" or an "ABC" rating for typical home use.
Purchase only those extinguishers with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Factory Manual (FM) label.
Avoid extinguishers that resemble aerosol cans. They can be dangerous when used.
Pull, aim, squeeze and sweep
Most fire extinguishers have a locking pin that prevents the handle from moving.
To use the extinguisher, pull the locking pin.
Aim at the base of the flames.
Aiming is important as the contents of most household extinguishers last less than 10 seconds. You won't have much time to correct your aim.
Squeeze the handle.
Sweep back and forth over the burning area.
Storing your extinguisher
Mount the extinguisher according to the manufacturer's recommendation.
The most important place to have a fire extinguisher in your home is the kitchen.
It is also wise to have one in your garage, workshop, or near any room with a fireplace or open-flame heater.
Check the pressure
Check the pressure gauge periodically to see if it needs replaced or recharged.
Disposable extinguishers can be used only once and must be discarded and replaced even if they have been only partially discharged.
Rechargeable extinguishers must be tested and serviced professionally.
Refill or replace immediately
Always refill or replace an extinguisher immediately after using it.
Never put it back empty.
Consult a professional for filling and recharging.
Washington Township Fire Department Fire Marshal Alan Perkins submitted the Smoke Signals column.