A fire extinguisher can be a small but vital component of protecting your family and home in case of fire. Fire extinguishers can save lives by putting out small fires (including kitchen fires) or suppressing a fire until the fire department arrives. Of course, a fire extinguisher does no good if you don’t know how to use it or it isn’t maintained. The experienced professionals from Altra Insurance Services, a premier provider of home insurance San Diego residents trust, offer these guidelines on how to inspect the fire extinguisher in your home to make sure it’s ready in the event of a fire.
Check Your Fire Extinguisher Often
While a fire extinguisher should be professionally inspected every year, it’s a good idea to check the extinguisher yourself once a month to make sure it will work properly in an emergency. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends the following when inspecting your fire extinguisher every month.
Make Sure It’s Accessible
A fire extinguisher won’t help you if it’s buried in a cluttered closet or difficult to reach in an emergency. Always make sure the fire extinguisher is visible and easy to reach in case of fire. In the kitchen, a fire extinguisher shouldn’t be kept near the stove, because you don’t want to reach through flames. Instead, it should be about 30 feet from the stove. You may need to mount it in an adjacent room. Make sure everyone in your home knows where the fire extinguisher is located and how to use it in an emergency.
Check the Pressure Gauge
Most extinguishers have a pressure gauge that tells you whether the device is within the safe operating range. If your extinguisher has a test indicator, you can press it to make sure the pressure reading is safe. The correct pressure range is usually indicated with green markers on the gauge.
Look for Damage
Carefully inspect the nozzles, hoses, and can for signs of physical damage, such as rust or dents. Never use a fire extinguisher that has signs of damage, because it may be dangerous to use. The contents are under extreme pressure, and a corroded or damaged cylinder may explode.
Make Sure It’s Full
During your inspection, lift the extinguisher to ensure it’s full. If the cylinder feels light, it may have a leak, which means it won’t have the correct amount of pressure to work in a fire. If you have a dry chemical extinguisher, it’s also important to shake it monthly to stop the chemical agent from solidifying at the bottom of the cylinder.
Take These Additional Steps
While these steps cover a basic fire extinguisher inspection, there are additional guidelines for ensuring your fire extinguisher will work as it should in an emergency:
- Clean the outside of the extinguisher to remove dust and grease.
- Check the paper tag or label for the last maintenance or expiration date. As a general rule, you should replace your extinguisher after 10 years.
- Make sure you know what type of extinguisher you have. A Class A fire extinguisher should never be used on a cooking fire or electrical fire. Most home extinguishers are type ABC for flammable liquids, appliance and electrical fires, and ordinary materials such as wood. For kitchen fires, a class K fire extinguisher is recommended because it uses potassium acetate in a fine mist to combat grease fires.
- Always know how to use the extinguisher. Read the directions and refresh your memory each month if necessary.
It’s a great safety practice to inspect the fire extinguishers in your home every month to ensure they’ll operate properly if you need them. It’s also important to protect your home with high-quality insurance. At Altra Insurance Services, we provide affordable insurance homeowners can rely on. We also offer renters, commercial, and auto insurance. San Diego homeowners who are looking for high-quality service should give us a call today at 619-474-6666.