When used properly, a portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or controlling it until the fire department arrives. Portable extinguishers, intended for the home, are not designed to fight large or spreading fires. However, even against small fires, they are useful only under certain conditions:
Choose your extinguisher carefully. A fire extinguisher should bear the seal of an independent testing laboratory. It should also be labelled as to the type of fire it is intended to extinguish
The extinguisher must be large enough to put out the fire. Most portable extinguishers discharge completely in as few as eight seconds.
Classes of fires: There are four classes of fires. All fire extinguishers are labelled with standard symbols for for the classes of fires they can put out. A red slash through any of the symbols tells you the extinguisher cannot be used on that class fire. A missing symbol tells you only that the extinguisher has not been tested for use on a given class of fire.
Many household fire extinguishers are "multipurpose" A-B-C models, labelled for use on all three classes of fire.
Warning: It is dangerous to use water or an extinguisher labelled only for Class A fires on grease or electrical fire.
Extinguishers should be installed in plain view above the rach of children near an escape route and away from stoves and heating appliances.
Extinguishers require routine care. Read your operator's manual and ask your dealer how your extinguisher should be inspected and serviced. Rechargeable models must be serviced after every use. Disposable fire extinguishers can be used only once; they must be replaced after one use. Following manufacturer's instructions, check the pressure in your extinguishers once a month.
Stand 6 to 8 feet away from the fire and follow the four-step PASS procedure. If the fire does not begin to go out immediately, leave the area at once.
Before you beging to fight a fire:
It is dangerous to fight a fire under any other circumstances. Instead, leave immediately and close off the doors and windows if possible.