Fire extinguishers are the first line of defense when a fire occurs in the community or at home. Businesses are required to install them, and homeowners are strongly encouraged to have them. In order to save lives and protect property, the extinguisher must be available, accessible and working properly.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more than 370,000 residential fires are extinguished by fire extinguishers yearly. Studies show that after notifying the fire department, the average person can help save lives and protect property by using a fire extinguisher in an emergency. In fact, fire extinguishers were found effective in extinguishing 95% of fires.

Successful fire extinguisher stories from all over the country are highlighted at www.fireextinguisherssavelives.org. The online resource shares the stories in an effort to bring further awareness to fire safety. These extinguisher experts suggest three simple steps to prepare to use a fire extinguisher: See it. Grab it. Use it.

See it. By familiarizing yourself with the location of extinguishers in your home or workplace, you will be able to find one quickly. Your local firefighters recommend that you install at least two ABC multipurpose dry chemical extinguishers in your home.

Grab it. Extinguishers should be strategically placed so they are readily available. In your home, you should place the extinguishers in visible locations that are close to exits and easily accessible. The top of the basement stairs, the kitchen, and the garage are great locations for fire extinguishers. It is important to read the operating instructions and become familiar with the extinguishers before the stress of an emergency is added to the situation.

Use it. When it is time to use the fire extinguisher just remember PASS. This will help you safely and properly use a fire extinguisher. These letters represent the four steps to take when using a fire extinguisher: Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep. When faced with a fire, PASS will help you remember what to do. Pull the pin while holding the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you. Aim the nozzle of the extinguisher at the base of the fire. Squeeze the handles together to start to discharge the contents of the extinguisher. Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side to fully cover the burning material.

In each of these fire extinguisher success stories, the presence of a fire extinguisher led to a positive outcome and the details are both interesting and inspiring. These incidents serve as excellent reminders of why every home and business should have at least one fire extinguisher and why every person should be familiar with the basic procedures to use a fire extinguisher.

In Springfield, Mass., an employee at Smith & Wesson quickly put out a fire at one of the gun manufacturer’s buildings. According to a Springfield Fire Department officer, the employee’s quick action to use an extinguisher actually saved the building. The Smith & Wesson employee reported that he received training on how to use the extinguisher so he knew what to do when he saw it and grabbed it.

Locally, a fire extinguisher was instrumental in preventing a grill fire from becoming a structure fire in a home in Shelter Harbor. The resident immediately retrieved his fire extinguisher from under the kitchen sink when he noticed that large flames were extending from his grill and climbing the side of his home. He extinguished the fire very quickly and prevented it from spreading to the rest of his home.

Just last month, a Watch Hill Business owner extinguished a fire in her shop’s ceiling. After the business owner dialed 911 to report the smoke and flames in her store, she retrieved the fire extinguisher located by the rear exit and aimed for the burning recessed light and fan fixture in her ceiling. The business owner was able to use the fire extinguisher to put out the majority of the visible fire as firefighters were arriving on scene. The owner’s quick actions stopped the spread of the fire in the building that contained several stores on the first floor and several apartments on the second floor.

For more information about fire extinguishers, visit www.fireextinguisherssavelives.org. You can also contact your local fire department to sign up for fire extinguisher training or to ask questions about fire extinguisher placement and use.

Jane Perkins is the fire safety specialist for the Rhode Island Southern Firefighters League and captain of the Watch Hill Fire Department. If you would like to see a question answered in this column, please email her at askafirefighter@yahoo.com.

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