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Over the past few years, people have been busy setting up home offices and home learning spaces. And what started out as something that seemed temporary has, for many, become a semi-permanent, or perhaps even a permanent, thing. Maybe you did what everyone else did and grabbed a free table and chair, an extension cord or two, and built a workspace.
But there's one bit of kit -- an essential, in my opinion -- that many have forgotten in the midst of all the hard work of setting up a work or learning space: A fire extinguisher.
Fires are, thankfully, quite rare. But they do happen, and throwing in extension cords and chargers and a bunch of electronics into a space can increase that chance. Sure, it's a small increase, but it's an increase all the same.
A fire extinguisher can literally be a lifesaver.
While most electronic devices give you warnings before erupting into flames -- noxious fumes, arcing sounds, and even flashes -- things can erupt into an enthusiastic inferno without warning.
This is where having a fire extinguisher handy could mean the difference between life and death.
Tip: It's also a great idea to have a fire extinguisher in the car, but it needs to be quickly and easily accessible! Keeping it in the trunk under a bunch of stuff is pointless.
Class: A, B and C | Refillable: Yes | Contents: Carbon dioxide | Quantity: 1 |
Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers smother the fire in a gas rather than a dry powder, which means a lot less mess and clean up after the fact. It also doesn't damage things that haven't already been damaged by the fire.
Class: A, B, C, and K | Refillable: No | Contents: Foam | Quantity: 3 |
Not the biggest or the most expensive, but an effective tool against small fires. Can also be used on a wider array of fires, making it great for the home, office, kitchen, and even the garage and car.
The best fire extinguisher is the Buckeye 2.5lb fire extinguisher (4-pack), because of its quantity, contents, class, and refill-ability. The 4-pack allows you to have a fire extinguisher in several rooms, and one in your car.
What kind of extinguisher do you need?
I mean, they all look much the same. Red cylinders fixed to brackets on the wall.
The main thing to look for when buying a fire extinguisher is the class of the extinguisher. For home environments, you're likely to be tackling burning paper, wood, and fabrics, electrical fires, gasoline or other liquid fuel fires, and oil fires (in the kitchen).
Fire extinguishers come in different classes. The classes applicable to home use are:
Class A - Wood, paper, cardboard, fabrics, plastics
Class B - Flammable liquids such gasoline and diesel
Class C - Electric and electrical fires
Class K - Cooking oil and grease
Should you get a big or small fire extinguisher?
It can be tempting to go for the biggest extinguisher you can find, but remember, you're very unlikely to be tackling a big fire (and don't get brave, leave that to the professionals). A home fire extinguisher is for small fires, to buy you time, or to help you get out.
So, better to pick one that's not going to take up a huge about of room or going to end up buried under stuff or in a closet.
What's the difference between refillable and disposable fire extinguishers?
Some fire extinguishers can be refilled after use. These will also need periodic inspection and maintenance at specified intervals. Disposable fire extinguishers are one-use and have a fixed lifespan, after which they will need to be discarded.
In my experience with electrical fires and fire extinguishers, having a decent fire extinguisher gives you three things:
The ability to put out small fires
It buys you time to get out and call the fire department
It gives you a tool to help you get out if your exit is blocked by fire
The extinguishers selected above ticks these boxes and at the same time are also cost-effective (it's better to buy an extinguisher now, rather than to save up for a more expensive one in the future!).
Another factor is the ease of use. In the midst of a fire is not the time to be familiarizing yourself with how things work. Most extinguishers are easy to use -- point and shoot -- but it's a good idea to get up to speed on how your extinguishers work before you need them.
Also worth considering
A fire extinguisher is no good if you're not aware of the fire in the first place. This means that you need to fit smoke detectors as your first line of defense, and also, depending on how your property is heated, a carbon monoxide detector. Also, for grease fires in kitchens, a fire blanket may be more useful and make less mess than a fire extinguisher if a pan catches alight.