All homes must have fire extinguishing equipment. Decide on which equipment is best for you and your home.
Water is an effective means of extinguishing fires involving timber, textiles and paper. You can also use clean water to extinguish fires in your home’s electrical system. Never use water to extinguish deep fat, grease or oil fires. This can create an explosive fireball.
A domestic fire hose gives you unlimited access to water, providing a lot of fire extinguishing power for an extended period. It can be used by most people without difficulty or training. If a domestic fire hose is the only extinguishing equipment you have, check that it is long enough to be used in every room. The hose must not be more than 30 metres long.
The most common fire extinguishers come in two different varieties: foam and powder. These extinguishers are effective at putting out most types of fires that occur in the home. The extinguishers’ labelling tells you which types of fire you can use them on (see Fact Box: This is what the labels mean).
It is a legal requirement that all foam or powder extinguishers available on the market must have been tested and approved. They must also be red.
Foam and powder extinguishers operate at high pressure. If you try to extinguish a grease fire, such as a fire in a deep fat fryer, the pressure could spray the burning oil past the edge of the pan and spread the fire instead of extinguishing it.
You cannot use foam and powder extinguishers for the same length of time as domestic fire hoses. A 6 kilogram extinguisher will be empty in 10–20 seconds. Fire extinguishers can be heavy to lift, particularly for the elderly or people with disabilities.
Powder extinguishers contain a fine powder that forms a layer over the flames and smothers them. A foam extinguisher contains water-based foam that smothers and cools the fire. Foam and powder are generally considered to be equally effective at extinguishing fires. Powder can be easier to use, because you do not need to aim powder as accurately as foam.
Powder extinguishers will not be damaged by frost. Foam extinguishers must be kept in a frost-free environment in order to remain in working order. Keep this in mind if you have fire extinguishers in your cabin or other locations where it might get cold.
Small aerosol extinguishers or other back-up products that are sold under the name of ‘fire extinguishing equipment’ are not tested in the same way as the red foam and powder extinguishers. This means that you cannot be as confident about the extinguishing properties of these products. You should be aware of this if you buy this kind of equipment.
A fire blanket is a cheap and effective means of extinguishing small fires. It is a good idea to have several fire blankets in your home. A fire blanket can be especially useful in the kitchen. You can use it to smother the flames in pans and deep fat fryers. It is also effective at quickly extinguishing flames in clothing or hair. If you have to escape through flames, you can wrap the blanket around yourself or others to protect your skin from the heat.
Do you often use a deep fat fryer? There are extinguishers that have been developed specifically to put out fat and grease fires. These extinguishers are labelled with the letters AF.