If you own a home-based business, you must know how to protect yourself, family and property in the event of a fire. One of the ways to do this is by keeping a fire extinguisher handy and knowing how to use one if needed. If you have never purchased or operated a fire extinguisher, you need to know how to differentiate the various types and familiarize yourself with how to operate those you choose. Keep the following guidelines handy:
1. Determine the Fire Extinguisher Types and Uses
As a general rule of safety, fire extinguishers are best kept on every level of the building. However, you should note that fire extinguishers are not made to be "one type fits all." There are various types of fire extinguishers created to be used on fires ranging from electrical to combustible. These units are generally categorized by Type A, Type B and Type C. To make it easy to learn, think of it as the ABC of fire extinguishers. Here is a breakdown on each category and its purpose:
Type A: To be used on combustible materials that may ignite. This might include all wood materials, as well as paper products, cloth or fabric, rubber and plastics. Most any room in the house may contain these materials, so determine where you'd place the Type A fire extinguisher for easy access. If your home business includes a kitchen, this is a good place for placement.
Type B: To be used on combustible liquids that may ignite: Think of liquids and chemicals labeled as flammable. These are often stored in the garage and include paints, stains and turpentine. Also, products containing alcohol or grease.
Type C: To be used on electrical fires. This may include fires originating from a short circuit or overloaded electrical outlet. A handy spot for such a unit might be in the computer room. Basically, any room where electrical equipment is heavily used should have a fire extinguisher mounted on the wall.
2. Decide Which You'd Prefer: Disposable or Rechargeable
The names are basically self-explanatory. Disposable fire extinguishers are meant to be used once then discarded. Rechargeable units may be used repeatedly, although they need to be recharged after each use. As a general rule, the rechargeable model will cost more than the disposable. One reason is because it's made with metal valves rather than plastic valves as disposable models are.
With a rechargeable fire extinguisher, you must refill it when the contents become low, otherwise it will be rendered useless. Rechargeable fire extinguishers do not need to be refilled, as you simply discard it after use and replace it with a new unit. However, the cost of replacing a disposable fire extinguisher may be higher than refilling a rechargeable one. The choice is yours, so consider which method will be best suitable for you.
3. Learn How to Properly Mount Your Fire Extinguisher
The unit should come with instructions and hardware necessary for mounting. You'll need the brackets for mounting, or you may want to store them in some type of cabinet. If you have small children in the building, be sure the cabinets are locked at all times.
The height at which you mount your fire extinguisher is important as well. The carry handle should be approximately three feet from floor level. For units weighing 40 pounds or more, the top section should not exceed 5.5 feet above the floor. The bottom of the unit needs to have sufficient clearance for the use of household machines and implements such as vacuums, brooms and mops.
4. Know How to Operate a Fire Extinguisher In the Event of a Fire
Basically, you'll pull the safety pin and aim the unit at the base of the fire, squeezing the trigger repeatedly until the fire is extinguished. As you attempt to put out the fire, move the unit from side to side in a sweeping motion.
5. Perform a Visual Inspection of Your Fire Extinguishers Periodically and Maintain Them
You must be certain your fire extinguishers are operable and ready for use in the event of an emergency. If a unit has not been used for a long period of time, pressure inside may be lost. To ensure full pressure, look at the meter on the unit. It should read "Full" or show a green light. Check pressure accuracy on a monthly basis.
It is best to contact the manufacturer for instructions on servicing your rechargeable fire extinguishers. Recommendations may be once a year or more often, depending upon the model. Maintain the unit by keeping it fully charged at all times.
As a final note, only use your fire extinguisher on a contained fire. For fires that burn out of control, exit to safety immediately and contact your fire department at once.
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