Any conscientious homeowner or renter keeps a fire extinguisher near the kitchen and garage, in case of an accident. However, if you don’t remember when you purchased it, or if you’ve recently had to use it to put out a fire, you might be wondering if you need a new one or if you can reuse the one you have.
You can use a fire extinguisher more than once, as long as it is not damaged or expired, but it must be recharged between uses. It is important to check the label of the fire extinguisher, so you know if the one you have is reusable or not.
Below will we cover some details about how to know if your extinguisher can be used again, how many times an extinguisher can be used, the basics for using a fire extinguisher for the first time, and what to do with a fire extinguisher after using it. You should keep reading to learn more important details about your reusable fire extinguisher.
Your # 1 priority is keeping your family safe. As a firefighter, I recommend everyone has updated smoke detectors that don’t require battery changes, like these ones from Kidde, a fire extinguisher, like this one from Amerex, and a fire escape ladder if you have bedrooms above the first floor, I recommend this one from Hausse.
Will it Work Again?
Depending on the brand and type most fire extinguishers can be used more than once. However, re-using a fire extinguisher is not as easy as just putting it away after being used. After being used, even for just a small amount of time the fire extinguisher must be recharged and refilled (if the label says it is reusable).
The fire extinguisher must not be expired as well. The extinguisher can usually be recharged multiple times for a period of 5 to 10 years, after which it is no longer useable and must be disposed of properly. So, check the expiration dates thoroughly.
After being used once the fire extinguisher can lose all pressure and not be useful in the event that another fire occurs. It is very important to take the used fire extinguisher to a company that specializes in recharging fire extinguishers.
Does the Fire Department recharge fire extinguishers? You may be able to get some information at the local firehouse, but they usually are not equipped to recharge the extinguisher for you.
Here is an example of a business that will inspect, refill and recharge your extinguisher for you: CFS Fire Protection
You can check what the cost to refill and recharge a fire extinguisher is in your area; in many cases, it can be more cost-effective to simply purchase a new one.
The fire extinguisher that I recommend for most applications is the Amerex B402, 5pound 3A:40B:C Dry Chemical Extinguisher. This an adequate size for most uses and is effective on Class A, B, and C fires (A-ordinary combustibles, B-flammable liquids, and C-electrical fires).
For your safety and the safety of your home. It is very important to take the fire extinguisher to be recharged as soon as possible, after all, you never know when you will need it. You certainly do not want to pick up an empty fire extinguisher in the event of a fire emergency.
How Many Times Can They Be Used?
The number of times a certain fire extinguisher can be used depends on the type, size, and model of the particular extinguisher. Usually, this information can be found on the warning labels and information that is attached to the extinguisher itself.
If your extinguisher does not have any paperwork or information with it then you may have to call the company or take it by your local firehouse for assistance.
Some fire extinguishers can be reused one-time and some can be reused over and over again as long as they are properly maintained, re-pinned, and refilled. I personally would only recommend that you recharge, re-pin, and reuse a fire extinguisher one time.
It is also important to note the expiration date on the fire extinguisher. This date can usually be found on the body of the extinguisher itself. If it is out of date, then it is less likely to be effective in the event of a fire and it is not safe to reuse or refill.
When talking about fire extinguisher maintenance and use it is important to know how to properly use one. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the location of the extinguishers within your home, business, boat, RV, etc. before there is an emergency.
Some fire stations offer a free tutorial on how to use a fire extinguisher but if you do not have time to attend one of these sessions, here are a few tips.
How To Use Your Fire Extinguisher the First Time
Using a fire extinguisher can seem scary, but if you take the time to learn how to properly use it; it can be simple and effective.
I want you to remember and use the acronym P.A.S.S. This will help you remember the 4 steps to using a fire extinguisher properly.
In the event of a fire, grab the fire extinguisher. Check for a clear exit path to safely leave once you have used it.
1. Pull the pin located at the top of the extinguisher completely out. Maintain control of the nozzle.
Next, you will need to stand back, and 2. Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire with one hand.
3. Squeeze the handle firmly with the other hand. 4. Make a sweeping motion with the nozzle into the base of the fire, to help contain the fire quickly.
After the fire extinguisher is empty or the fire is contained you need to quickly exit to an open outdoor area. At this time, you either need to call the fire department (911 in the US) if you have not or wait for their arrival outside where it is safe.
For more information about alerting the fire department and a list of other emergency numbers, read: How Do Firefighters Know When There is a Fire?
For information on what firefighters use to put out fires, read: What Do Firefighters Use to Put Out a Fire?
It is very important that you familiarize yourself with your fire extinguisher/s. Take the time to familiarize your children and housemates with the location and ways to use it as well. The worst time to try to learn how to use one is during a fire emergency when you are panicked and may not be thinking clearly.
Just remember PASS!
What Do You Do After Using It?
After using a fire extinguisher, if you choose not to refill it or it is past its refillable life, there are multiple options for disposal. The first thing to check is if it is empty or is it still full.
If it is empty you can take it to your local recycling center, fire station, or in some cases your local waste management facility (it is important to verify with them that they can accept empty extinguishers before throwing them in with your household trash).
If you choose to take it to a local recycling center there are some important steps to follow before drop-off. First, you need to make sure it is empty, remove the pin and tags from the top of the extinguisher and pull the trigger, it is important that you are outdoors in an open space.
The same rule applies to putting it in with your household trash as well. Once the device is empty you can then take it to the recycling center. If you are unsure or warry about discharging the extinguisher you can take it to the fire department and request that they do it for you.
If you chose to take it to your local fire station it may be a good idea to call them first to make sure they accept them. Some fire stations will take them whether they are empty, full, or even expired. Some fire stations even have an exchange program.
This program allows you to drop off any old, used, or expired extinguisher and they will give you a new one for no charge. Not all stations offer this program so check before stopping by.
If you have any other questions or concerns about your fire extinguisher. Whether it be its use, condition, or if it is refillable; do not hesitate to call or stop by your local fire station. They are trained to help the public with things like this and most even have programs dedicated to fire safety and fire extinguisher 101.
Remember it is important to include your family in this, fire safety is important for everyone and the proper way to handle an extinguisher could save a life one day.
Children are never too young to understand the importance of having and knowing how to use an extinguisher. It is important that they know where the fire extinguishers are stored for quick access.
It is also important to have multiple fire extinguishers. Most fire departments recommend you have one in the kitchen, one on each floor of your home and one in your garage, and any sheds or barns that you may have. This can be critical in saving time in the event of an emergency.
This is my recommended home and office use extinguisher for most spaces. It can be purchased in packs of 1 to 6, to make sure your home is well covered. Amerex B402, 5pound 3A:40B:C Dry Chemical Extinguisher
Here is a small, kitchen specific extinguisher: First Alert Kitchen Fire Extinguisher
There are also laws regarding how many and what size you need on boats, RVs, campers, etc. so it’s important to note those as well.
Here is a small, RV/Car/Boat specific fire extinguisher: First Alert Recreation Vehicle and Marine Fire Extinguisher
Extinguishers are usually the first line of defense in the event of a fire emergency at home, at the office, on the water, in the car, RV, campsite, etc. Proper training saves lives!