Fire extinguishers: What you need to know from A to K


portable fire extinguisher

What’s a piece of kitchen equipment that  every cook should have handy and know how to use, but hopes to never need?

A fire extinguisher.

There are a few different types of fire extinguishers. Some are meant for specialized situations, others for more general use. All are classified by two criteria: their mechanism of action, and the types of fires they are meant to extinguish. So first we’ll look at how fires themselves are classified.

According to the Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association, there are five types of fires, broken down by fuel source:

  • Class A fires are your regular old fires, started by heat hitting a combustible solid material such as wood, cloth, paper, trash, or plastic.
  • Class B fires spark from flammable liquids or gases, like gasoline,paint, butane,and propane.
  • Class C fires involve powered electrical equipment such as appliances, motors, and transformers. When the electrical power is shut off, these fires become one of the other types of fires.
  • Class D fires are a special group of conflagrations caused by combustible metals like sodium, potassium, magnesium, and aluminum.
  • Class K fires (why K? Because K is for Kitchen!) are fueled by cooking oils and grease from animal or vegetable fats.

Some fire extinguishers are useful in putting out more than one type of fire. Others are more specialized and will have warning labels advising of their proper use.

A fire needs four elements: heat, oxygen, a fuel source, and a chemical reaction. Remove any one of those four and you’ve snuffed that fire. That’s what different fire extinguishers do. Some remove heat. Others take away oxygen. Still others are best at interrupting the chemical reaction causing the blaze.

These are the basic types of fire extinguishers:

  • Water and Foam: these fire extinguishers work by removing heat. Foam-based extinguishers also inhibit the fire’s access to oxygen. Water extinguishers are for Class A fires only. They are NOT for use on Class B or Class C fires – spraying a water extinguisher on a fire caused by a flammable liquid could cause the fire to spread, or in the case of a Class C fire, create the risk of electrical shock.
  • Carbon Dioxide: these extinguishers put out fires by taking away the blaze’s source of oxygen. Their very cold discharge also removes heat.
  • Dry Chemical: these multi-purpose extinguishers are effective on Class A, Class B, and Class C fires. They work by interrupting the chemical reaction creating the fire. They’re the most common type of fire extinguisher found in the home. Some ordinary dry chemical fire extinguishers are designed to put out Class B and Class C fires only; always read the warning label and recommendations before deciding on the right fire extinguisher for your needs.
  • Wet Chemical: by removing heat and creating a barrier between the oxygen and fuel sources feeding the fire, wet chemical fire extinguishers are highly effective against Class K fires, specifically the fires caused by modern,high-efficiency deep-fat fryers found in commercial systems. This is the type of fire-suppression system installed beneath the hoods in many restaurants and commercial kitchens. While also effective in fighting Class A fires, wet chemical fire-extinguishing are generally only used in commercial and industrial applications.
  • Halogenated or Clean Agent: these extinguishers interrupt the chemical processes causing the fire. They’re effective versus Class B and Class C fires.
  • Dry Powder: a specialized type of fire extinguisher used only for putting out Class D fires. Similar to dry chemical extinguishers, but  designed only for putting out combustible metal fires. Not for home use.
  • Water Mist: these relatively new fire extinguishers are designed to replace halogenated extinguishers in situations where contamination is a pressing concern. They remove heat and are most effective against Class A fires.
  • Cartridge-Operated Dry Chemical: like their dry chemical cousins,these fire extinguishers work by interrupting the chemical reaction causing the fire. They can be effective against Class A, Class B, and Class C fires, though ordinary cartridge-operated dry chemical fire extinguishers are most effective in staunching Class B and Class C blazes. Again, always reads the warming labels and buy the fire extinguisher best-suited for your situation.

To learn more about fire extinguishers, check out the Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association.

As summer approaches, are your windows kid-proof?


window safetyWe’re a little late in jumping on the National Window Safety week bandwagon – it runs from April 3 to 9 this year – but we’d maintain that window safety isn’t an issue that should be confined to a single week of the year. The National Safety Council says that “Window Safety Week coincides with the arrival of spring, when homeowners naturally want to open the windows and let in fresh air. Its goal is twofold: For families to understand the role of windows in escaping a fire or other emergency and to learn to safeguard against accidental window falls.”

Every room should have two ways to exit – usually, that is at least one door and one window. The National Safety Council offers these window safety tips as part of your escape plan.

  • Make sure windows are not nailed or painted shut
  • Do not install air conditioners in windows that may be needed for escape
  • Make sure at least one window in each bedroom meets escape and rescue requirements
  • Window guards, security bars, grilles or grates render windows useless in an emergency unless they have a release mechanism; update them if necessary
  • Develop an emergency escape plan and practice it during the day and at night
  • Keep emergency escape ladders in second- or third-story bedrooms and teach everyone in the home how to use them

If you have young children, you have another safety issue to consider. Every year, more than 3,300 children under the age of 5 fall from windows, suffering injuries serious enough to send them to the hospital; sadly, about eight children a year die from these falls.

The Window Safety Task Force offers these tips to protect children from window falls:

  • Avoid the placement of furniture near windows to prevent children from climbing
  • Do not rely on insect screens to prevent a window fall
  • Keep children’s play away from open windows and doors
  • Install building code-compliant devices designed to limit how far a window will open or window guards with release mechanisms to help prevent a fall
  • Teach your child how to safely use a window to escape during an emergency

Here are some additional tools:

Window Safety Brochure
Fire Escape and Window Safety: A Balanced Approach
Window Safety Checklist

Winter fire safety: a few quick reminders


It’s peak season for home fires. While cooking is the leading cause of home fires year round, heating-related fires are a close second during the winter months – think space heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces. Use of inappropriate and unsafe materials during power outages can also lead to winter fires – relying on candles for lights, using a gas range for heat or a portable grill for cooking. The latter can also result in carbon monoxide poisoning, as can running a generator in or too close to the home.

Here are some short videos from FEMA that offer quick reminders about fire safety.

And with all this snow, don’t forget to dig out your nearest fire hydrant – a mere few minutes can make the difference when it comes to fire.

Your Cat Has an Important Safety Reminder for You This Weekend


cat-guide

If cats could talk, they’d remind you that this week is Daylight’s Savings Time so you need to set your clock ahead one hour. Plus, they’d tell you that it’s a good time to change the batteries in your smoke detector and your carbon monoxide detectors.

What, you think your cat doesn’t care?

Not true… the idea that cats are aloof is a just a myth — and we can prove it. Just last week, a cat named Meatball saved eleven people by waking its human when it smelled smoke in a French farmhouse. But don’t count on the cat detector method to save your family – change your batteries this weekend.

Check out this cute video, a Cat’s Guide to Taking Care of Your Human to see some other ways that our cats look out for us.

Have you watered your Christmas tree today?


If not, go do it now. Really! Here’s dramatic evidence of how flammable a dry Christmas tree can be as opposed to a tree that is watered regularly. This test was conducted by the National Fire Protection Association and Underwriters Laboratories.