A portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives; but portable extinguishers have limitations. Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the number one priority for residents is to get out safely.
- Use a portable fire extinguisher when the fire is confined to a small area, such as a wastebasket, and is not growing; everyone has exited the building; the fire department has been called or is being called; and the room is not filled with smoke.
- To operate a fire extinguisher, remember the word PASS:
- Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
- Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
- Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
- Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
- For the home, select a multi-purpose extinguisher (can be used on all types of home fires) that is large enough to put out a small fire, but not so heavy as to be difficult to handle.
- Choose a fire extinguisher that carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.
- Read the instructions that come with the fire extinguisher and become familiar with its parts and operation before a fire breaks out. Local fire departments or fire equipment distributors often offer hands-on fire extinguisher trainings.
- Install fire extinguishers close to an exit and keep your back to a clear exit when you use the device so you can make an easy escape if the fire cannot be controlled. If the room fills with smoke, leave immediately.
- 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.
Vandalism & Extinguisher Protection
Fire extinguishers can be a target of vandalism in schools and other open spaces. Extinguishers can be partially or fully discharged by a vandal, impairing the extinguisher's actual firefighting abilities. In open public spaces, extinguishers are ideally kept inside cabinets that have glass that must be broken to access the extinguisher, or which emit an alarm siren that cannot be shut off without a key, to alert people the extinguisher has been handled by an unauthorized person if a fire is not present.
CFD provides free, online training in the proper use of portable fire extinguishers. This self-paced learning opportunity may be found in the Emergency Planning Tab (Portable Fire Extinguisher Training) of this website.