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  • Writer's pictureInstitute Staff

Choosing The Proper Fire Extinguisher

Fire safety is a critical aspect of emergency preparedness, and having a fire extinguisher readily available in your home and business can save lives and minimize damage in the event of a fire. The Institute for Childhood Preparedness offers a comprehensive course on fire safety and prevention. In this article, we'll cover the essential information you need to know to ensure you have the right fire extinguisher and know how to use it in case of a fire.


Types of Fire Extinguishers


There are several types of fire extinguishers, each designed to combat specific types of fires. It's crucial to choose the right fire extinguisher based on the types of fires that are most likely to occur in your home or business. The five most common types of fire extinguishers are:


  • Class A: This type of fire extinguisher is suitable for ordinary combustible materials, such as paper, wood, and cloth.

  • Class B: This type of fire extinguisher is used for fires involving flammable liquids, such as gasoline and oil.

  • Class C: This type of fire extinguisher is used for electrical fires, such as those involving appliances and wiring.

  • Class D: This type of fire extinguisher is used for fires involving combustible metals, such as magnesium and titanium.

  • Class K: This type of fire extinguisher is used for fires involving cooking oils and fats in commercial kitchens.

The most common type of fire extinguisher is an extinguisher that is rated for A-B-C fires. Every fire extinguisher should list the classes of fires on the label.

The photo above is a dry chemical fire extinguisher. It is rated for Class A-B-C fires and is one of the most common extinguishers on the market.


Choosing the Right Size


The size of the fire extinguisher you need depends on many factors - including the size of the room, or building, and the contents of the room or building and the overall fire load.

It's recommended to have multiple fire extinguishers in different areas of your home for easy access in case of a fire.


As we mentioned above, the most common fire extinguisher is the ABC fire extinguisher. This means that the extinguisher can be used in a Class A, B, or C fires. In addition to seeing A, B, and C on the extinguisher, you may also notice some rating numbers, an example would be 10A:120B:C. Let's examine these numbers a bit.


The Class A size rating, 10A in the example above, represents the equivalent to gallons of water. Each number represents 1 ¼ gallons of water. For instance, 2A means the extinguisher is just as effective as 2 ½ gallons of water. 4A is equivalent to 5 gallons of water. Our example above with 10A means that the extinguisher is equivalent of having 12.5 gallons of water to fight a Class A fire.


The Class B size rating provides an estimate of the square footage the extinguisher can cover. In our example, 10B means that as long as you sweep the nozzle side to side, there is enough extinguishing agent inside the canister to provide 10 square feet of coverage.


For Class C - there is not a rating, but since C is included in the rating we know that it is also safe to use on an energized electrical fire.


General rule-of-thumb:

  • 10-pound or larger: Best for commercial spaces, warehouses, and areas such as garages or workshops where there may be more hazardous materials.

  • 5-pound: Best for typical offices and household spaces.

  • 2.5-pound: Best for cars or trucks or very small areas like a bathroom.


How To Use a Fire Extinguisher


In the event of a fire, it's crucial to know how to use your fire extinguisher properly. The steps for using a fire extinguisher are straightforward and easy to follow:


Pull the Pin: This will break the tamper seal and allow you to use the fire extinguisher.


Aim the Nozzle: Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, not at the flames.


Squeeze the Handle: This will release the fire-extinguishing agent.


Sweep the Nozzle: Sweep the nozzle from side to side, making sure to cover the entire area of the fire.



It's important to remember that fire extinguishers are designed to put out small fires and are not a substitute for calling the fire department. If the fire is too big to be controlled with a fire extinguisher, evacuate the building immediately and call 911.


The Institute for Childhood Preparedness and Fire Safety Training


At the Institute for Childhood Preparedness, we offer comprehensive training courses on emergency preparedness, including a course on fire safety and prevention. Our courses are designed to educate individuals and families on the importance of fire safety and how to reduce the risk of fires in their homes, businesses and communities.


In our fire safety and prevention course, participants will learn about fire extinguisher usage, fire prevention, and evacuation procedures. Our instructors help participants develop the skills and confidence they need to stay safe in the event of an emergency. During our in-person training, we provide participants with an opportunity to use a fire extinguisher to extinguish a live fire. We believe in training for emergencies and disasters before they occur.



The video below provides highlights from a Safety Saturday training event that was conducted in West Virginia in collaboration with River Valley Child Care Resource and Referral Agency. The Institute collaborated with numerous agencies to make this event possible, including the 9-1-1 Emergency Dispatch Center, the Parkersburg Fire Department, and Senator Joe Manchin's Office. Interested in conducting a Safety Summit in your area?

Fill out a Training Request Form and we will be in touch!



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