Updated: February 2016
A fire extinguisher is something most people don't think about until they need one. While you may be able to use a home fire extinguisher to help you put out a small fire, you may find that it's of little value if it hasn't been kept in operating condition. Below are some helpful tips to help make sure your fire extinguisher is in proper working order.
Before you buy or use a fire extinguisher, you should know what types of fires it is made to handle. The U.S. Fire Administration says fire extinguishers are made to combat five types of blazes:
Some fire extinguishers may be made for more than one type of fire, and they will be labeled as such: "ABC" or "BC," for example.
Even if they haven't expired, home fire extinguishers should be checked each month to help make sure they are ready for use, says the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
The NFPA suggests including the following steps in your inspection:
1. Ensure easy access.
Make sure the extinguisher is in its proper spot, visible and easy to access.
2. Check the seals.
Look over the tamper seal and safety seal to make sure they are intact.
3. Check the pressure.
Many fire extinguishers have a pressure gauge that indicates whether the device is in the proper operating range. If yours has one, check to make sure that the gauge's needle indicates proper pressure. If the fire extinguisher has a test indicator, press it to make sure the pressure reading is within the correct range.
4. Look for physical damage.
Visible signs of damage, such as corrosion, leakage or a clogged nozzle, may mean it's time to replace the extinguisher.
Documenting your monthly checks on the extinguisher's inspection tag may help you keep track of its maintenance history.
Fire extinguishers are often an overlooked part of a home safety plan. Do your checks, know how to use them (your local fire department may be able to provide additional resources) consult professionals when you need them, and be sure your extinguishers are ready for use — just in case.
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