Having a fire extinguisher in your home is a good idea — it could save your life in the unfortunate event of a fire. With many options to choose from, how do you know which one to buy? The first thing to understand is that different types of fire extinguishers are designed for distinct types of fires, and each one has a rating so you know what types of fires it can put out.
How are fire extinguishers classified and rated?
There are five main types, or classes, of fire extinguisher: A, B, C, D, and K. Here’s what each one means:
A — for materials like cloth, paper, and wood.
B — for flammable liquids like grease, oil, and gasoline.
C — for electrical equipment or anything that is plugged in.
D — for flammable metals.
K — for use with cooking oils and fats and cooking appliances.
All fire extinguishers are labeled with their class rating. Some fire extinguishers are rated for multiple purposes, so their labels will include multiple ratings, such as B-C or A-B-C.
When choosing an extinguisher, you may also notice numbers next to the class. Class A extinguishers are labeled with a water equivalency number, in 1.25-gallon increments (a rating of 4A is the equivalent of 5 gallons of water). B and C extinguishers are labeled with a square-footage number (a rating of 20B means the extinguisher can cover 20 square feet).
Which type is best for home use?
An A-B-C fire extinguisher is a good choice for home use. This type is designed to extinguish fires from both materials and liquids and is suitable for use on electrical fires. Class K extinguishers are normally only needed in commercial cooking sites like restaurants and hotels. Most home improvement stores carry A-B-C fire extinguishers.
Where should fire extinguishers be kept?
Fire safety experts recommend having at least one fire extinguisher for every level of your home so that there is always one relatively close by. You should have one in or near the kitchen area so you can douse cooking-related flames before they get out of control. Other good places to store fire extinguishers are utility rooms and garages.
Once you’ve placed your fire extinguisher(s) in your home, the next step is to ensure you and the people you live with know how to use one and when to use one — and when it’s better to just get out and leave the fire fighting to the fire department.