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LIVING BETTER: Fire extinguishers are a safety necessity

Just having fire extinguishers in your home is not enough. Many homeowners position them around their homes and have no idea how to work them.

Do you know how to work your fire extinguisher?

In Canada, fire reportedly kills eight people each week; residential fires account for 73 per cent of these fatalities. Between 2011 and 2015 (latest number available), United States fire departments responded to an average of 358,500 home structure fires per year. These fires caused 12,300 injuries, 2,510 deaths, and $6.7 billion in direct damage. On average, seven people per day die in U.S. home fires.

While it’s hard to get a precise reading of the number of North American homes that have fire extinguishers, as a bare minimum every home needs at least one first extinguisher, most should have more. The number depends on the size of your home and the number of rooms.

Where to place extinguishers

Since most fires start in the kitchen, fast and easy access to a fire extinguisher is critical. It can mean the difference between an extensive cleanup and the loss of your home. Along with the kitchen, you ought to have a fire extinguisher close to the front door and rear exits. Fire experts also recommend placing a fire extinguisher in the main entranceway as well. The more centrally located the extinguisher the faster in can be reached from most parts of the house. If you have a second or third floor, there ought to be an easily reached extinguisher on each floor.

Picking an extinguisher

Instead of a water-based extinguisher, buy a dry chemical one. They’re more effective in extinguishing and smothering fires and are also safe to use with small electrical or grease fires. Water can create problems with grease or electrical fires.

Remember where you place extinguishers

It’s easy to forget where you place extinguishers. Take no chances. Write down on a piece of paper where you placed your extinguishers and scotch tape it to the back of a frequently used kitchen cabinet door. Don’t place it in a room, closet or entranceway and forget about it.

Learn how to use an extinguisher

Fire extinguishers are easy to use. The directions are on the canister. The time to learn how to use it is not when there is a fire and you’re in state of panic or extreme stress, but when you buy it or place it.

If you’ve never used one, here is fast lesson:

  • Pull the pin from the handle.
  • Keeping the extinguisher upright. Aim the nozzle low.
  • Squeeze the handle to release the fire-fighting chemicals. When you can see the fire is being put out, move in toward the fire, keeping your aim at the base of the flame.
  • Sweep the extinguisher from side to side until the fire is out.
  • Once the extinguisher has been discharged, replace or refill it even if you used only a little bit of its contents.
  • Be very careful. If the flames are large and bigger than you are, an extinguisher alone isn’t going to squelch the flames. Call your fire department immediately.

Check extinguisher regularly

The fire extinguisher’s pressure gauge should be checked monthly to be sure that the extinguisher is holding pressure. Many fire departments suggest that fire extinguishers should be inspected and certified annually by a fire protection equipment company.

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