Keep your family safe with fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and more
Fire safety equipment such as fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, should be at the top of every homeowner’s list of essential must-have products. Use these tools to protect your home, family and pets from fire, smoke and poisonous carbon monoxide gas.
Safety: Fires can start in a variety of ways, including faulty electrical wiring, lightning strikes, cigarette smoking, cooking mishaps, dryer vent ignition, gas furnace ignition, fireplace ignition, portable heater tip-overs and more. Fire can smolder for hours before suddenly erupting into flame. Wherever there is a heat source or open flame, be very cautious.
The source of fire plays a major role in determining the best way to fight it. For example, a grease fire should never be doused with water, but instead attacked with a fire extinguisher, salt or baking soda to remove the oxygen that is needed to sustain the fire.
If you have an electrical fire, a fire extinguisher, sand or baking soda can be used once the electrical source of the fire has been disrupted.
This guide will show you the different types of fire safety equipment and teach you how and when to use them.
Safety: If you have time and access to a phone, call 911 before attempting to extinguish a fire yourself.
Fire extinguishers are classified by ratings of A, B and C. These ratings determine the size and type of fire that the extinguisher can put out.
A-type fires consist of burning wood, paper or fabric.
B types consist of flammable liquids like gasoline and oil.
C types are electrical.
The number that precedes the letter determines how big of a fire the extinguisher can put out in increments of 2.5 feet. For example, a 10-B:C extinguisher can put out a 25-square foot fire from a flammable liquid or electrical source. A 5-B:C extinguisher can handle a 12.5-foot fire from a flammable liquid or electrical source.
The first rule in proper fire extinguisher use is making sure your extinguisher is accessible. Beyond that, there is a simple acronym that comes in handy to teach you how to properly use a fire extinguisher: PASS.
Pull the pin from the back of the handle.
Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire from approximately 6 feet away from the fire.
Squeeze the handle.
Sweep the stream in a side-to-side manner.
To properly maintain your fire extinguisher, check the gauge monthly to make sure it is pressurized. The gauge should appear somewhere in the green zone, which signifies it is ready for use. Make sure the pull pin is secured and that there are no cracks, dents or rust spots present on the canister. Replace extinguishers that are older than 12 years.
There are two basic types of smoke detectors: ionization and photoelectric. Both types are effective in detecting smoke and fire, but the best smoke alarms feature both technologies.
Ionization smoke alarms are better at detecting small particles that are produced in greater amounts in flaming fires, which quickly consume combustible materials and spread in many directions.
Photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting large particles that are produced in greater amounts in smoldering fires, which may smolder for hours before bursting into flame.
The inclusion of lithium ion batteries enables smoke detectors to last 10 years without needing a battery change. Because of this advancement, these smoke alarm batteries can be sealed and are considered “worry-free.” At the end of the 10-year period, simply discard and install a new model for another 10-year period of worry-free monitoring.
Most fire fatalities occur between the hours of 2 and 6 a.m. when most people are asleep. That’s precisely why it’s so important to have several working smoke alarms in your home. Smoke detectors should be placed in each bedroom, in the kitchen and on every level of your home.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that comes from an appliance malfunction and burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal. A furnace crack, dryer vent clog or a blocked chimney can all produce CO. Use carbon monoxide alarms to detect a leak quickly.
Under normal operation, a carbon monoxide detector is able to vent the small amounts of CO gas produced outside of your home. When added with the fresh air that your home receives from air conditioners, ceiling fans, screen doors and open windows, you have virtually nothing to worry about under normal circumstances.
However, when the vents are blocked, small amounts of CO gas can build up and become a life-threatening problem.
Carbon monoxide robs you of oxygen that your blood depends on to sustain life. If you are exposed to even small amounts of CO, it quickly bonds with hemoglobin in your blood and displaces oxygen.
When this occurs, you experience flu-like symptoms, such as headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzy spells, confusion and irritability. Because these symptoms are similar to influenza, they are sometimes misdiagnosed.
As more time passes, the symptoms can worsen to include vomiting, loss of consciousness, brain damage and even death.
To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, place a CO detector in every bedroom, living room and basement in your home.
Carbon monoxide detectors work by measuring the amount of CO over time. The following limits were created by Underwriters Laboratory, so make sure your CO detector is UL-approved:
- 30 ppm (parts per million) for 30 days
- 150 ppm for 10-50 minutes
- 70 ppm for 60-240 minutes
400 ppm for 4-15 minutes
If any of these levels are exceeded, the CO detector’s alarm will alert you of the threat. If your CO detector alarm is ever activated, leave your home immediately and call 911.
Fireplace & Smoking Safety
If your home has a wood-burning or gas-burning fireplace, make sure you take the proper precautions necessary.
Have your chimney inspected and, if necessary, swept at least once a year, especially if you use your fireplace regularly.
You should also have a fireplace screen securely in place every time you light a fire. The screen is necessary to keep ash or spewing log fragments from igniting carpet, area rugs or other fabric nearby.
If you or any family members or guests choose to smoke, consider making a rule that smoking should be entertained outside of the home. Should you choose to smoke indoors, however, you should not smoke in bed, as many fires start when a person falls asleep in bed and the lit cigar or cigarette ignites bedding material.