Types of fire extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are an essential part of any home safety plan, as they can save both lives and homes by preventing minor flames from getting out of hand. While it’s a purchase you hope to never use, having one on hand for when you do need it is better than being without one.

With various types of fire extinguishers for domestic use, it can be confusing picking the right one for your home or business, as different fires require different extinguishers. This Canstar Blue guide breaks down the most common types of fire extinguishers, maintenance tips, and what to consider before buying.

What is a fire extinguisher?

fire extinguisher on white background

By definition, a fire extinguisher is a portable apparatus used to put out a small fire by either depriving the flame of oxygen, or interfering at a chemical level. Fire extinguishers are generally filled with chemicals or liquids, and work by pointing the hose at the fire and squeezing the handle, propelling the liquid onto the fire. There are multiple sizes, types and units available, each suited for different situations, fire types and locations.

Types of fire extinguishers

Different types of fire extinguishers

To understand the different types of fire extinguishers, it’s important to understand that there are different types – or classes – of fires. Some fires are fuelled by gas, wood or cooking oils, meaning that not every fire extinguisher will be effective in putting it out, and in some cases, may even have the opposite effect. To help you understand the types of fires and which fire extinguisher to use, check out the chart below from Fire and Safety Australia.

Fire extinguisher selection chart

How do I use a fire extinguisher?

Man holding and using fire extinguisher

The technique recommended by fire safety organisations – such as the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) – to ensure proper use of fire extinguishers is the P.A.S.S. method:

  • P stands for pulling the pin at the top of the extinguisher;
  • A stands for aiming the nozzle towards the base of the fire;
  • S stands for squeezing the handle to discharge the extinguisher; and the final
  • S means sweeping the nozzle from side to side while still aiming at the base of the fire.

Where should I store a fire extinguisher?

Fire extinguisher in glass case on wall

Fire extinguishers should be stored in an area that is easily accessible but distant from areas likely to catch fire, such as keeping a fire extinguisher close to the kitchen, but away from the stove or oven where fires are more likely to occur. This is to help ensure you can access and use the fire extinguisher in an emergency without any flames or smoke blocking your path.

Do fire extinguishers expire?

Yes, fire extinguishers do eventually expire, with expiration dates ranging anywhere from five to 15 years after it’s purchased, depending on the extinguisher’s contents. The expiration date on the extinguisher is generally stamped on the cylinder body, so it’s best to regularly check to ensure your fire extinguisher can be used when the time comes.

How often should I check my fire extinguisher?

Person inspecting fire extinguishers

All fire extinguishers are expected to be both inspected and tested every six months to make sure it’s in working order and there are no faults. Extinguishers also need to be pressure tested and refilled every five years, while fire extinguishers with a gauge should be checked monthly to make sure it’s properly charged. There are professional services available to come and check your extinguishers, which may be best for office spaces, with fire safety services also outlining guides for home maintenance tips for each fire extinguisher type.

Where can I buy a fire extinguisher?

Man with a fire extinguisher in hand off shelf

As fire extinguishers are an important safety tool, they are available for purchase at fire safety retailers and stores, as well as through other retailers such as Bunnings and Officeworks. If you are installing fire extinguishes in your office space, you should also purchase signage indicating where the fire extinguisher is located.

Fire extinguisher training

While fire extinguishers are built to be easy to use, there are a number of training courses and qualifications available for both households and offices to undertake. Training courses will vary from state to state, but each will usually consist of a hands-on component and learning how to use a fire extinguisher, along with plenty of information on fire extinguishers and fire safety.

Should I have a fire extinguisher for my house?

Along with smoke alarms, fire extinguishers are essential for proper home fire safety. While there are no legal requirements for you to have one in your own home, having one on hand – particularly if you regularly use fire pits, fireplaces or plenty of electrical equipment – can not only help you in case of an incident, but give you peace of mind in the event of a fire.

Image credits: Noiz Stocker/shutterstock.com, A_stockphoto/shutterstock.com, dcwcreations/shutterstock.com, Maxx-Studio/shutterstock.com, Colaboyshot/shutterstock.com, Dinga/shutterstock.com, A_stockphoto/shutterstock.com

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