A fire starts in a residential home every 86 seconds. Are you prepared?

(BPT) – You check your alarms regularly and practice your emergency escape plan — but are you overlooking an essential component of home safety? Having fire extinguishers — and knowing how to use them — is important to help ensure your home and family are prepared for the unexpected.

“A fire starts in a residential home every 86 seconds in the U.S. — and the rapid protection offered by fire extinguishers can make the difference between minor, insignificant damage and greater tragedy,” said Tarsila Wey, director of marketing for First Alert, the most trusted brand in fire safety. “Fire extinguishers are an important first line of defense in home safety, therefore it is important to know how to use one should a fire break out.”

To practice whole home safety and help ensure your family is prepared in case of fire, follow these tips on fire extinguishers in the home:

1) Keep it within reach

Unattended cooking is the number one cause of home fires in the U.S., according to the National Fire Protection Association (NPFA). When seconds count, having an extinguisher within reach is crucial for quick response. Place fire extinguishers on every level of your home, plus the common places like the kitchen and garage. The NFPA recommends installing fire extinguishers close to room exits so that you can discharge them and quickly escape if the fire cannot be controlled. In addition, make sure that every responsible member of your household (including house sitters and babysitters) knows where each fire extinguisher is placed.

2) Know how to use it

Fire extinguishers generally include instructions on proper usage, but a simple way to remember the steps is with the acronym PASS:

  • Pull the pin on the extinguisher
  • Aim the nozzle low toward the base of the fire
  • Squeeze the trigger
  • Sweep the nozzle from side to side

Frequently repeat the acronym when practicing your family escape plan so that, if a fire occurs, the response will be automatic.

3) Compare features

When it comes to fire extinguishers, there are a variety of types to choose from — from home and kitchen to commercial applications. When selecting a home fire extinguisher, two of the most important features are size and intended use.

Select a home fire extinguisher that weighs three pounds or less for easy handling. For home fire extinguishers, other features to look for include a metal valve and trigger, which offer the durability of a commercial grade extinguisher, as well as an easy-to-read color-coded gauge for accurate measurement. Remember, a fire extinguisher that has been discharged is no longer effective, so consider rechargeable extinguishers, which can be recharged by a certified professional if the unit is used.

4) Know your ABCs

While they may look similar, fire extinguishers have very specific ratings that indicate what kind of fire they are designed to extinguish. Extinguishers with a Class A rating can put out fires caused by wood, paper, trash and other common materials, while Class B rated extinguishers are intended for gasoline and flammable liquids. Class C rated extinguishers are meant for fires caused by electrical equipment, such as frayed cords. For trusted reliable protection, it’s best to select a multi-rated extinguisher, such as the First Alert Rechargeable Home Fire Extinguisher, which is capable of handling most types of household fires, including wood, paper, fabric, flammable liquid and electrical fires.

To learn more about fire safety, visit FirstAlert.com.