Americans reported a home fire every 86 seconds in 2015, according to the National Fire Protection Association. But despite the clear safety risks and financial costs of home fires, a new poll from PEMCO Insurance shows about a quarter of residents in Washington and Oregon do not have a fire extinguisher in their home, and only about half of all residents feel very confident using one.
According to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, 27 percent of Northwest residents live without a fire extinguisher in their home – a figure that has remained steady since 2011. The poll suggests that among the most at-risk are renters, who are significantly less likely than homeowners to have fire extinguishers – 58 percent of renters vs. 82 percent of homeowners.
But even residents who own fire extinguishers might be underprepared in an emergency. Less than half (43 percent) say they have experience using a fire extinguisher, and the poll also shows that only half (58 percent) say they have a high level of confidence using fire extinguishers correctly.
In both Washington and Oregon, men are the most confident in their fire extinguishing skills. In Washington, three out of four men (76 percent) say they feel at least very confident in their ability to use a fire extinguisher correctly, while less than half that number of women (35 percent) said the same. Oregon sees a similar trend, with 78 percent of men saying they are very or extremely confident, compared to just 41 percent of women.
"Fire extinguishers are an important part of overall fire safety and prevention plans – just as critical as having a home fire-escape plan and working smoke alarms," said PEMCO Spokesperson Derek Wing. "If a small fire breaks out in your home, using a fire extinguisher within six seconds can prevent it from quickly growing out of control."
To use a fire extinguisher, PEMCO urges all residents to remember the acronym PASS, which stands for "pull, aim, squeeze, and sweep." First, make sure the fire extinguisher is upright, then:
· Pull the pin from the handle.
· Aim the nozzle low, while keeping the extinguisher upright.
· Squeeze the handle to release the fire-fighting chemicals. When you can see the fire is being put out, move in toward the fire, keeping your aim at the base of the flame.
· Sweep the extinguisher from side to side until the fire is out.
Experts also recommend you follow these tips to maximize your fire extinguisher's effectiveness:
· Choose the right fire extinguisher. A dry chemical ABC, size 2-A: 10-B: C is often considered the best all-around home fire extinguisher, and can fight most common household fires.
· Hang fire extinguishers in the kitchen and garage, but never near the stove. If a fire breaks out there, you'll need to grab the extinguisher from elsewhere in your home.
- Replace or refill your fire extinguisher once it's been discharged, even if you used only a little.
- Be extremely cautious. If the flames are bigger than you are, it's too big to put out with a fire extinguisher. Get out and call the fire department if the fire doesn't diminish immediately when you hit it with the spray.
"Even the lost basic understanding of fire extinguishers and how to use them can make a big difference in keeping your home and your family safe," Wing added. "If you don't feel comfortable operating your fire extinguisher, or are looking for more detailed information, don't hesitate to contact your local fire department."
For more fire safety tips, visit www.pemco.com/Home/tips/Safety. For a complete summary of PEMCO's poll results, visit www.pemco.com/poll, where you'll find the responses collected by FBK Research of Seattle in December 2016.