1. What type of fire extinguisher is needed?
Different types of fires require different types of extinguishers. For example, a grease fire and an electrical fire require the use of different extinguishing agents to be effective and safely put the fire out.
Basically, there are five different types of extinguishing agents. Most fire extinguishers display symbols to show the kind of fire on which they are to be used.
There are also multi-purpose fire extinguishers - such as those labeled "B-C" or "A-B-C" that can be used on two or more of the above type fires.
For home a Class 2A- 10 BC fire extinguisher is recommended. The size of this extinguisher makes it very easy to use.
2. Is the fire at a point where it might still be controlled by a fire extinguisher?
Portable fire extinguishers are valuable for immediate use on small fires. They contain a limited amount of extinguishing material and need to be properly used so that this material is not wasted. For example, when a pan initially catches fire, it may be safe to turn off the burner, place a lid on the pan, and use an extinguisher. By the time the fire has spread, however, these actions will not be adequate. Only trained firefighters can safely extinguish such fires.
3. Am I physically capable of using the extinguisher?
Some people have physical limitations that might diminish or eliminate their ability to properly use a fire extinguisher. People with disabilities, older adults, or children may find that an extinguisher is too heavy to handle or it may be too difficult for them to exert the necessary pressure to operate the extinguisher.
Use a fire extinguisher only if:
You have alerted other occupants and someone has called the fire department;
The fire is small and contained to a single object, such as a wastebasket;
You are safe from the toxic smoke produced by the fire;
You have a means of escape identified and the fire is not between you and the escape route; and
Your instincts tell you that it is safe to use an extinguisher.
If all of these conditions are not present, you should NOT try to use a fire extinguisher. Alert other occupants, leave the building following your home escape plan, go to the agreed upon meeting place, and call the fire department from a cell phone or a neighbor's home.