Which Fire Extinguisher Should I Use?

Fire extinguishers are a first aid tool that should be kept within businesses for small first-response situations. Before purchasing an extinguisher, make sure you have a proper smoke alarm system set up and an evacuation plan in place; then you are ready to start looking for extinguishers. This can seem overwhelming if you are not sure what the numbers and letters mean.

The letters pertain to the type of fire the extinguisher can put out.

  • A rating – trash, wood, or paper
  • B rating – flammable liquids
  • C rating – electrical
  • D ratings – combustible metals
  • K rating – cooking oils and fats

On the fine print label, the letters are preceded by numbers that signify the extinguishers classification rating. The numbers display the extinguisher’s relative effectiveness against each type of fire. The higher the number, the larger amount of that class of fire the extinguisher can extinguish. For example, an extinguisher with a 4-A rating is more effective on ordinary combustibles than a 2-A rating.

An important factor to note about fire extinguishers is their size, in most cases, the bigger the better. The weight of a fire extinguisher, minus the canister, is equivalent to the amount of chemical inside. So how do you choose the right size?

  • 10-pound: best fit in a garage or home workshop, where a fire may grow before being noticed.
  • 5-pound: best fit in a laundry room or kitchen, where it is easily accessible.
  • 2.5-pound: best fit in a car or other moving vehicle.

The most common is a multipurpose ABC extinguisher. The C designation carries no number; it simply means the extinguisher’s chemicals will not conduct electricity.

To help you remember how to use an extinguisher, use the acronym PASS.

  • Pull the extinguisher’s safety pin
  • Aim the chemical at the source of the flames, standing at least six feet from the fire.
  • Squeeze the trigger and hold it, keeping the extinguisher upright.
  • Sweep the source of the flames until the extinguisher runs dry.

Note: In any situation where a fire extinguisher has been used or the pressure gauge has slipped, the canister must be replaced or refilled.

Ahern can provide answers on the best extinguisher for your business and perform full inspections on them annually. To purchase or to schedule your facility’s inspections, contact us today.


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