by Michelle Tanner, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross North Texas Region
When I bought my place, I decided to be a responsible homeowner and bought a fire extinguisher to place in my kitchen in case one of my cooking experiments went terribly, horribly wrong. Cut to 15 years later, and I am happy to say, I’ve never had to use it. Most of my interaction with the fire extinguisher is to pull it out as I store stuff behind it.
I pulled “Old Red” out the other day to use as a prop in a photo shoot, and saw that the arrow was sitting just on the line of expired. With it being tax-free weekend for emergency preparedness items, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to save a few bucks.
But, what do you do with an old, unused fire extinguisher? Some friends said to recharge it, so I checked the tag, that doesn’t work on this particular style. The actual answer is to take it to your local fire station.
Most fire stations have a fire extinguisher expert. They know how to safely discharge an expired extinguisher, which ones to send off to be recharged, and what to do with an old fire extinguisher. Lucky for me, he was on duty when I stopped into Dallas Fire and Rescue Station 8.
Here are a few things he told me:
- Fire extinguisher manufacturers recommend replacing your extinguisher after 12 years.
- If you want to know when your fire extinguisher was made, look at the number on the bottom of the canister.
- The big problem with aging fire extinguishers is the powder gets compacted and won’t expel when you need it. To help keep the powder loose, turn the extinguisher upside down and solidly tap the bottom of the canister ever year or so. That will help extend the life of the extinguisher.
- Spend the extra $10 to get the all-metal fire extinguisher. The plastic nozzle ones have a tendency to leak the nitrogen used to expel the fire extinguishing powder.
So, check your fire extinguishers to make sure they are still ready to go in case you need it. If you need to replace one, or get one, make sure it is rated for the needs you’ll have. And be sure to take advantage of the tax-free weekend!