Are you prepared?
It seems like every time I turn on the news, I hear about another car catching on fire.
As someone who works within the life safety industry, I feel the need to share the importance of having a fire extinguisher in your car. While it is not required on all vehicles, given the risk, drivers should consider investing in a car fire extinguisher. Only certain vehicle classes are legally required to carry fire extinguishers, but extinguishers give personal vehicle owners peace of mind and sense of preparedness.
Vehicle fire statistics
According to the most recent figures from the U.S. Fire Administration, firefighters responded to 204,000 car fires in 2016, with an average of 345 deaths; 1,300 injuries; and $1.1 billion in property loss.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that vehicle fires account for about 20 percent of all reported fires, so it’s worth knowing how to reduce some of the risk in your own car or truck.
Cause of vehicle fires
While some car fires can be caused by collisions, they are more often caused by problems with a vehicle’s electrical and mechanical systems or leakage of motor oil, coolant, or transmission, power steering, or brake fluid.
If you smell smoke or see flames coming from your car while you’re driving, knowing what to do can prevent injuries or even save lives. It’s important to remain calm but act quickly. Having a fire extinguisher on hand will allow you to fight the blaze and deter excessive vehicle damage.
The National Fire Protection Association Council recommends following these steps if you’re driving and a fire starts:
- Signal, and immediately move to the closest safe place to stop, whether that’s a side lane or a median.
- Stop the car and turn off the ignition.
- Get every person out of the car, and don’t allow anyone to go back to retrieve personal items.
- Move far from the burning vehicle to avoid the flames and toxic fumes—at least 100 feet—and also keep bystanders back.
- Call 911
What type/ size of fire extinguisher is best suited for your vehicle?
A car fire extinguisher is an essential part of every vehicle safety kit. The most common place to mount the car fire extinguisher is in the bottom of the front driver’s seat or in the trunk where it is tied up to the side.
Your vehicle presents several different fire hazards: oil, gas, electrical wires and upholstery. Your car fire extinguisher must be able to handle every possible mishap.
An ABC fire extinguisher will allow you to suppress any fire which starts within a vehicle without having to worry about it.
There are a few other things to look for specifically in a car fire extinguisher:
Lightweight models are preferable. Most people recommend around 2lbs, although going up to 2.5lbs might not be a bad idea for those who have a larger SUV.
- A mounting bracket is pretty essential. Place it somewhere you can easily access it.
- Dry fire extinguishers are also nice for vehicles. While many people worry about what this might do to their interior, you’re better off with a dry material since it will also suppress the fire to keep it from restarting.
- A metal body is also essential for vehicles, preferably something durable since the most likely time a fire will start is after a collision.