Knowledge about smoke detectors and fire extinguishers could be a lifesaver.
Robbie Rogers, division chief of Fire Prevention and Investigation for the Fort Smith Fire Department, said winter months bring more home fires. Faulty space heaters and unclean chimney fires are often behind local house fires in the winter months, Rogers noted.
A common misconception about smoke detectors, he adds, is that they last as long as batteries that operate it. Actually, he said, they are only good for 10 years, and the fire departments recommends changing the batteries on smoke detectors two times a year.
“We like to recommend to people that they change the batteries out when the time changes,” Rogers said of smoke detector batteries.
On the back of a smoke detector, if there is no manufacturing date, it means it was made before 1978, Rogers added.
The fire department does not recommend a certain brand of smoke detector, but only that it be “UL certified.”
When it comes to adding a fire extinguisher to a safety plan, Rogers said the fire department recommends a dry chemical “ABC” fire extinguisher rated for all types of fires: A — "ordinary combustibles" such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber and many plastics; B — flammable liquids, oils, greases, tars, oil-based paints and flammable gases; C — energized electrical equipment.
Rogers said he keeps a 5-pound ABC rated fire extinguisher at a home entrance near the kitchen. Many home fires start in the kitchen, he said. A 5-pound fire extinguisher will last about 10 seconds.
The National Fire Protection Association points out that a portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire, or containing it until the fire department arrives, but portable extinguishers have limitations.
“Because fire grows and spreads so rapidly, the No. 1 priority for residents is to get out safely,” the NFPA website states. “Fire extinguishers are one element of a fire response plan, but the primary element is safe escape. Every household should have a home fire escape plan and working smoke alarms.”
Encore Fire Protection states as a rule of thumb, extinguishers typically last five to 15 years.
Rogers said a common acronym to help people remember how to use a fire extinguisher is P.A.S.S.: Pull the pin. Aim low. Squeeze the trigger. Sweep from side to side. If the fire does not diminish immediately, get out of the building.
A University of Massachusetts-Boston tutorial on fire extinguishers states the horizontal range of the dry chemical stream will reach a distance from 5 to 20 feet and the approximate discharge time for 10 to 20 pounds of dry chemical ranges from 10 to 25 seconds.
Once activated, an ABC extinguisher can be turned off by simply not squeezing the trigger. This may be appropriate if you must reposition yourself in relation to the fire.
The advantages and disadvantages of ABC, dry chemical fire extinguishers are that the multi-purpose chemical, monoammonium phosphate, is corrosive and damages computers and electronic equipment. The corrosive action may be slow and not evident for several months, the UMASS-Boston website states.