While smoke detectors can warn you of a fire, you can't use them to fight the blaze. That's why you need a good fire extinguisher. But it's not enough that you have one. Some fire
extinguishers work only for certain fires and using them indiscriminately could spread rather than control the fire.

To determine which fire extinguisher to use, you should first know the kind of fire you're fighting. Class A fires are those involving combustible materials such as paper, wood, cloth and upholstery. These fires can be safely extinguished with water or a fire extinguisher with a chemical base of ammonium phosphate.

Class B fires are those that involve flammable liquids like cooking grease, gasoline, paint solvents and fuel oils. To extinguish this fire, you must smother it by cutting off the oxygen supply. A sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) fire extinguisher is good for this type of fire.

Class C fires are caused by electrical equipment like a TV set, receiver, fuse boxes and wiring. A sodium bicarbonate unit will also control this fire.

Fire extinguishers are also rated according to the size of the type of fire they can put out. The higher the number, the more powerful the extinguisher. Thus, an extinguisher with a 2-A rating means the unit is twice as effective for Class A fires than one with a rating of 1-A. C-type extinguishers, however, are not rated by number.

Some companies sell multipurpose A:B:C extinguishers to handle all three types of fires. While that may sound like a good buy, Consumer Reports said they often contain ammonium phosphate and are far less effective on grease fires than the B:C units which use sodium bicarbonate.

For maximum efficiency, Consumer Reports suggests the following:

Install extinguishers near exits so you can fight the fire and yet be able to escape. They can also be used to clear a fire that’s blocking an exit.

Place extinguishers on a wall in plain sight and high enough for easy access by adults. Most extinguishers come with a bracket that can be glued or screwed to the wall. Those with hanging brackets can accidentally be knocked off the wall. A marine bracket is more secure but takes more time to remove.

Check the extinguisher monthly to make sure it works. Most fire extinguishers are equipped with a pressure gauge that indicates whether they are charged or not. Others have a test button to determine whether they are operational.

Never test a fire extinguisher by operating it. This can seriously deplete its charge; disabling it for when you really need the unit.

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Author's Bio: 

Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine www.HealthLinesNews.com.