Fire extinguishers are a necessary part of life. We don’t want to have to use them, but when the time comes, we shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they’ll work. Extinguishers have noncombustible contents which are under constant pressure. They’ll depressurize over time, making them useless if a fire occurs.
There are two types of extinguisher: single-use and rechargeable. The single-use must be replaced every 10–12 years, unless the manufacturer notes an earlier expiration date. The rechargeable one should be serviced every 6 years by a qualified professional.
When it is time to use the extinguisher on a fire, remember PASS!
- Pull the pin.
- Aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire from the recommended safe distance.
- Squeeze the operating lever to discharge the fire extinguishing agent.
- Starting at the recommended distance, Sweep the nozzle or hose from side to side until the fire is out. Move forward or around the fire area as the fire diminishes. Watch the area in case of re-ignition.
Once your fire extinguisher has been used to put out a fire, it needs to be replaced or recharged. There are a number of factors that could shorten a fire extinguisher’s life. Monthly checks are recommended to ensure yours is working correctly, especially if you are a landlord or property manager since a fire in one unit can quickly spread to others. If you’re an Airbnb host, check your extinguishers after each visit to make sure they are ready in case of an emergency.
If you notice any of the following when you check, replace or recharge the extinguisher:
- Check the pressure gauge to ensure the needle is in the green area.
- Check for corrosion or rust (especially if you live or work in a humid climate).
- The inspection sticker or hang tag is missing.
- The hose or nozzle is damaged or blocked.
- The locking pin on the handle is missing or unsealed.
- The handle is broken or loose.
Checking your fire extinguisher regularly will give you peace of mind if, or when, you ever have to use it.
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Victor Jablokov is the CEO of Wallflower Labs, a technology company based in Boston, MA that is developing products to reduce home fires caused by cooking. Learn more at wallflower.com.