Fighting fires is a dangerous business. In most cases you have only seconds to put out a fire before it flares out of control, and if you’re not successful, you could be left without enough time to escape if it does. But it is possible to extinguish a fire before it consumes your home or building—and it’s important to know how to respond in case of a fire. Here are a few fire fighting tips you should be aware of.
Keep fire extinguishers in easy reach—and keep them charged. One of the most effective pieces of fire fighting equipment for the home is a fire extinguisher. Be sure you have more than one in your home. Most firefighters recommend that you keep a fire extinguisher on every floor in your house, as well as one in fire-prone areas including the kitchen, basement, garage and shop. Fire extinguishers can eliminate a fire quickly and safely, but not if you can’t get to them in time or they’re blocked by the flames. Make sure your fire extinguisher is charged—you don’t want to find out it’s not working properly when you’re facing a fire.
Use the right extinguisher for the fire. These key pieces of fire fighting equipment come in several different classes. Class A is designed for wood, paper, rags, cloth and similar materials. Class B extinguishers are designed for gas, grease and flammable liquid fires, while Class C is made for electrical fires. If you use a Class A fire extinguisher on a grease or electrical fire, you could make the fire worse. Most residential fire extinguishers are ABC combination-class.
If you’re fighting fires without a fire extinguisher, you still have to be mindful of the type of fire you’re dealing with. Never try to put an electrical or grease fire out with water. Instead, use a fire extinguisher on either type of fire. If you don’t have one, cover a grease fire with a metal lid, plate or baking soda. For electrical fires, unplug the appliance if possible and use a fire extinguisher.
Stop, drop and roll. If you get fire on your clothes, the worst thing you can do is run. The rushing air will fuel the fire and make it grow. Instead, drop and roll on the ground until the flames are smothered. If another person’s clothes catch fire, wrap them with a rug, towel, blanket or other heavy cloth to put out the flame. If you don’t have a large, heavy cloth handy, drop them on the ground and roll with them until the flames are extinguished.
Fire grows fast, is unpredictable and highly dangerous. The best thing you can do when a fire starts in your home is get yourself and your family out safely. But it’s also important to know what to do if you’re fighting a fire—and you may be able to stop a tragedy before it starts, if you fight the fire in time. Make sure your fire extinguishers are distributed throughout the house in fire-prone areas, and are primed and in working order. Be sure you know how to operate them, and which extinguishers will put out which fires. Be very cautious when trying to fight fires yourself, and if unsuccessful, call the fire department and get out of the house. You may not be able to extinguish the fire, and protecting your home isn’t as important as protecting your life.