A home portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or containing it until the fire department arrives. They aren't, however, designed to fight large or spreading fires and they aren't for everyone. Even against small fires, you should use them only if:
There are three basic types of fires. All fire extinguishers are labeled with standard symbols, letters, or both for the classes of fires they can put out.
Multipurpose fire extinguishers, labeled ABC, may be used on all three classes of fire.
A red slash through any of the symbols tells you the extinguisher cannot be used on that class of fire. A missing symbol tells you only that the extinguisher has not been tested for that class of fire. If you are using the wrong type of extinguisher, you can endanger yourself and even make the fire worse.
Portable extinguishers are rated for the size of fire they can handle. This rating is also on the label - for example, 2A:10B:C. The larger the numbers, the larger the fire that the extinguisher can put out, but higher-rated models are often heavier. Make sure you can hold and operate an extinguisher before you buy it. (Note: Many portable extinguishers discharge completely in as few as 8-10 seconds, which may not be enough to put out the fire.)
Install extinguishers in plain view, above the reach of children, near an escape route, and away from stoves and heating appliances.
Take care of your extinguishers. Read your operator's manual, learn how to inspect your extinguisher, and follow the manufacturer's instructions for maintenance.
Rechargeable extinguishers must be serviced after every use. (Service companies are listed in the Yellow Pages under "Fire Extinguishers.") Disposable fire extinguishers can be used only once and must be replaced after use.
Only fight a fire if you feel confident to continue. Keep your back to an unobstructed
exit and begin by standing 6-8 feet away from the fire.
Follow the four-step PASS procedure - Pull, Aim, Squeeze, and Sweep.