Do You Need a Fire Extinguisher at Home?

Cheryl Chiew
Do You Need a Fire Extinguisher at Home?
The recent spate of HDB flat fires in Whampoa, Ang Mo Kio and Bukit Merah is an unfortunate reminder of how important it is to own and maintain a fire extinguisher in our homes. But the reality is fire extinguishers are one of the most overlooked household items. No one expects a fire to break out in their home.
Still, fire extinguishers are a crucial part of any home fire safety plan. While you are not legally obligated to have a fire extinguisher in your home, you are strongly encouraged to do so. Under Singapore Standards, if you decide to have a portable fire extinguisher at home, you (i.e. the owner or occupant of the property) is responsible for inspecting and maintaining the fire extinguishers installed on their premises.

Why You Need A Fire Extinguisher At Home

Most home fires in Singapore are caused by poor disposal of lit cigarette butts and joss sticks, unattended cooking, faulty electrical wiring and malfunctioning personal mobility devices. Often, the fire tragedies we read in the news can be prevented or minimised if the owners had a fire extinguisher at home.
For about $30, you can purchase a 1kg portable fire extinguisher. It will help you:
  • Put out small fires and stop them from spreading
  • Suppress and confine fires until the SCDF arrive
  • Save lives
  • Prevent extensive property damage

Types Of Fire Extinguishers

There are five main types of fire extinguishers. Here’s how they work:
  1. Water or water-mist (water is used to douse the fire and cool burning objects; for water-mist extinguishers, an ultra-fine mist creates a curtain of water that suffocates the fire by cutting off oxygen)
  2. Foam fire extinguisher (foam smothers and cuts off the fire’s oxygen supply; there is much leftover residue to deal with after the fire is put out)
  3. Dry powder (power forms a crust to stifle the fire and stop it from spreading; however, the dry powder does not have a cooling effect which could reignite fires)
  4. Carbon dioxide fire extinguisher (to be used in caution in small places as it might suffocate those in the room)
  5. Wet chemical fire extinguisher (the pressurised solution of alkali salts in water creates a fine mist which suffocates the fire)
Before you can decide which is most suitable for your home, you need to know more about the different classes of fire and which type of extinguisher should be used. To effectively fight fires, you have to use the correct type of fire retardant:

How To Use Fire Extinguishers

SCDF recommends using the four-step P.A.S.S. method to extinguish a fire.
  1. Pull out the safety pin
  2. Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire
  3. Squeeze and press down on the fire extinguisher’s lever
  4. Sweep the fire with the extinguisher’s discharge by moving the nozzle side to side
In event of a fire, other fire safety tips include immediately turning off your gas supply. Do not use a water-based fire extinguisher or throw water on a kitchen fire. The oil in a pan is likely on fire. Adding water can result in the oil splashing, spreading the fire further.
Learn more about the rules surrounding maintaining and servicing portable fire extinguishers, head over to the SCDF website.

How to Buy Fire Insurance in Singapore (2021)

HDB flat owners have to purchase the compulsory coverage under the HDB Fire Insurance Scheme. But this fire insurance only covers the costs incurred from fixing damaged internal structures, fixtures, and areas built and provided by HDB; it doesn’t cover damage to the contents of your home.
If you haven’t already done so, purchase home insurance for more comprehensive coverage. The two common types of home insurance available are insured peril and all risks insurance. The former covers events such as fire and theft, whereas the latter protects you from a broader range of mishaps. Those who own private property should also get home insurance.
Check out our article to better understand home insurance coverage options for the various property types in Singapore.

Buying Fire Extinguisher For Your Home

While the best-case scenario is that you never have to use your fire extinguisher at all, it’s always better to be safe than sorry! You can conveniently store your fire extinguisher in a kitchen cupboard or the corner of your living room. Do remember to regularly maintain your portable fire extinguishers too.
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Other FAQ about Fire Extinguishers

Dry powder fire extinguishers (aka ABC-rated extinguishers) are the standard.

No, but you are strongly encouraged to do so as part of your home fire safety plan.

2kg portable fire extinguishers usually suffice.

Portable fire extinguishers need to be inspected and tagged once a year.

Near easy-to-access locations and exits in your kitchen or living room.