You’re used to seeing fire extinguishers in public buildings such as offices and schools in case of an emergency. But would you be prepared if a fire broke out at home? Almost 400,000 home fires happen every year in the U.S., causing thousands of deaths and millions of dollars in losses, but still,1 in 4 Americans say they don’t have a fire extinguisher in their home.
While you may not be able to predict a house fire, you can protect your family by being prepared. That includes owning fire extinguishers, knowing how to use them, checking your smoke alarms, and having a family disaster plan.
If you are one of the families that currently doesn’t own any fire extinguishers – we strongly recommend purchasing one as soon as you can. Don’t worry, there are other steps you can take to safely contain a small home fire. Here are some helpful home fire safety tips and guidance.
Know not all fires are the same.
Some fires are oil-based. Others are sparked by electricity or chemicals. Still, other fires are non-chemical. The way you put out a fire depends upon the type. It’s very important to know the kind of fire. In some cases, if you choose the wrong way to try to extinguish a fire, it could make it even worse.
Here’s how to put out a cooking fire.
Kitchens are common places for home fires. When you turn on your stove, you ignite a flame. If that flame combines with cooking grease, a fire can erupt. Fires also can easily start if you leave a stove unattended and the food or liquid in the pan or pot starts to burn.
Water will not work on kitchen fires- which are oil or grease-based. Upon contact with the oil, the water molecules quickly heat to steam and cause the oil to explode in all directions.
The best way to put out a cooking fire is to “snuff it out”. You want to cut the flow of air to the fire. Here are some options:
- If the fire is small enough, cover it with a metal cooking lid or cookie sheet. Keep it covered until it has cooled.
- Cover the fire with a fire blanket, a large piece of fire-resistant material such as fiberglass.
- Don’t swat at the flames. This could create airflow and make the fire worse, or ignite your clothes.
- Pour a large quantity of salt or baking soda over the fire. Make sure it is salt or baking soda and not flour. Flour adds fuel to the fire and will cause it to burn (or even explode).
- Turn off any heat source.
- If your fire is in the oven or microwave, keep the door shut. While it may look scary, the lack of air will eventually extinguish the fire.
Here’s how to put out a chemical fire.
Many common household items are chemical-based and highly flammable. This includes alcohol, rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, products in aerosol cans, nail polish and remover. Exposing any of these chemicals to an open flame is dangerous. Even doing your nails near a lit candle can spark a chemical fire.
Chemical fires are similar to cooking grease fires. You never want to use water to put out a chemical fire. It could cause the fire to spread.
Here’s how to handle a chemical fire:
- Cover the fire with a fire blanket.
- Pour a large quantity of baking soda or sand on the fire.
Here’s how to put out an electrical fire.
There are many possible causes of electrical fires. They can start due to overloaded circuits, faulty electrical outlets, and outdated appliances. Worn or frayed cords can cause heat to reach flammable surfaces in your home such as curtains and rugs. Installing a light bulb with a wattage that is too hot for the fixture can ignite fires. Electric space heaters also are known for starting fires when their coils are placed too close to couches, curtains, bedding, and rugs.
Never use water to put out an electrical fire. Water conducts electricity, and if you douse an electrical fire with water, you could be electrocuted.
Here’s some guidance on how to put out an electrical fire.
- If it is safe to do so, unplug the device causing the fire.
- Turn off the electricity on the house’s breaker box.
- Smother the flames by pouring baking soda onto them.
Here’s how to put out ordinary fires.
Ordinary fires involve paper, wood, clothing, trash, or plastic. This type of fire may occur if you knock over a candle or get a spark from the fireplace.
Unlike the other fires, these do respond well to water.
- Grab a bucket and fill it with water. Douse the flames.
- If you’re dealing with a wood-burning fireplace, you may wish to skip the water. That will create a mess and spread ashes throughout the room. Consider spreading out the logs and embers, and covering them with sand or baking soda.
Don’t try to put out a large fire by yourself.
If the fire becomes larger or out of control, you do not want to try to contain it. Your safety comes first. Get out of the house and call 9-1-1.
A fire extinguisher is a good investment for your home.
Finally, if your home does not have a fire extinguisher, you should invest in one. Fire extinguishers use either water, foam, dry powder, CO2, and wet chemicals to extinguish fires. Some use a combination. The basic classifications for home use include:
- Class A – This type is used on any fire that may be extinguished with water.
- Class B – This type is used for flammable liquids and grease fires.
- Class C – This type is used for fires involving electrical equipment.
Review your coverage with your homeowner’s insurance to know how you are covered in the event of a fire.
To help prevent fires in your home, see our blog on home fire safety tips.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.