Fire Extinguisher Safety Zone, Super Useful Website and Handy Vacuum Tool, Too (with UPDATE!)

What do fire extinguishers, hard-to-find phone numbers and handy dandy cleaning tools have in common? Nothing other than the subject lines of three messages that recently washed up in my email box!

Dear Mary: Your recent column on fire extinguishers and the P.A.S.S. system got me thinking about my home fire extinguisher. Like yours, mine has been there so long it’s blending in with the decor and that prompted my question: Do fire extinguishers expire? How can I know it is still good? When should I replace? Janine

Dear Janine: Fire extinguishers do not have an infinite lifespan. They will expire. The typical portable extinguisher that has not been opened remains in good condition between 5 to 15 years. But you don’t have to guess or wonder if it’s fully charged and ready to go. Look for the pressure gauge on the extinguisher itself. Check to make sure the needle on the gauge is in the green zone. That indicates that it is still good. Once that needle moves into the red zone it should be replaced or recharged. (Small extinguishers for home use are often “single-use” products and cannot be recharged.)

During a recharge, the extinguisher service company will completely refill the extinguisher and check to make sure it is holding proper pressure. This process should not take longer than 10 to 20 minutes and can commonly be done at local fire stations or through private service companies. Keep in mind that it may be more cost efficient to purchase a new extinguisher if the one you have is for household usage. By the time the recharge has been done, the new one could be the same price if not cheaper.

Dear Mary: I’ve realized over the past few years that it’s a total pain and annoyance trying to find information about local county resources I’m trying to contact. If I’m trying to find a phone number or address to direct a concern that I have, I often find myself tumbling through Google search results one by one before either finding the wrong number, or navigating through a maze of local government sites, which are confusing. Most offices have their own website which is hard to find or filled with contact details that are not updated! I call a number and then end up hearing the dreaded no-longer-in-service message.

The website seems to have a complete database of listings for all emergency, legal and law enforcement government offices in the country including working phone numbers, county by county. I wanted to share the site because it has saved me a few headaches and I’m sure it would be useful to others as well. Sherry

Dear Sherry: Great find! I went to the site, clicked on my state and then my county and you’re right! With only two clicks I found contact information. Thanks for letting us know about the free and useful website.

UPDATE: It appears that, while a free site that links to a lot of very useful information, is riddled with ads. These ads, which make it appear that you must pay a fee to perform a search, are cleverly embedded into the site so as to make the ads not appear as ads! Very deceitful. As I used and tested this site, I have my ad-blocker enabled, which means I never saw the ads. They are blocked for me. ADVICE: There is a simple way you can use this site without paying or even giving your email address. Make sure you have installed an ad-blocker before attempting to use Rest assured that the site itself remains very useful and is completely FREE. If you see something else you do not have an active ad-blocker; you’re being manipulated. I use AdBlockPlus, which is free. There are others, so make sure you find one that is compatible with whichever web browser you are using. -mh

Dear Mary: I have followed your column for years, first in the newspaper and then online. Your advice is invaluable and I am grateful for all your tips, your commonsense outlook and generous spirit. Please continue this column; what you do is unique.

I recently bought this vacuum hose adapter and was very pleased to find it sturdy enough for real work and extremely handy. I’ve finally been able to reach into my dryer, my bathroom ceiling fan and other nooks and crannies which have always proved a headache to clean. Used with your beloved Shark vacuum, I’m pretty sure you and other Shark fans will discover VaccuFlex vacuum attachment is a worthy tool, able to tackle the most difficult corners and crevices. Robin

Dear Robin: Another great find! When I got your message, I ordered this Vaccuflex vacuum attachment kit online so I could test it myself. With Prime shipping I got it the next day. My clothes dryer has never been so clean. Couldn’t believe all the lint I pulled out of that area behind the lint trap. Now I am thinking about so many other places this is going to come in handy. Thanks a million!





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  • A Kelcy

    As a professional in disaster life safety, I have to comment on some of what has been said in today’s information. In regard to fire extinguishers, having the dial read in the green zone is definitely NOT a reliable sign that the extinguisher will be functional when you need it. Technically speaking, they should be replaced or recharged ANNUALLY for maximum safety, and if recharged, fully retired no later than ten years.

    It’s also a good idea to turn the extinguisher upside down and shake it about every quarter. If it wall mounted it should also have a seismic strap for earthquake safety for those who live in active seismic zones. Otherwise it could fly at incredible speed during a major earthquake and cause very serious, potentially even lethal, injuries.

    Perhaps you also commented on placement during the prior article that was mentioned. However, just in case you did not, it’s important for people to think through their means of escape. A single small accidental flame can be out of control in as little as 30 seconds, you can pass out from smoke and fumes iin as little as 90 seconds, and the room can completely flashover in as little as three minutes. So if the extinguisher is under the sink — which I’ve seen people do many times when I’ve done inspections — but the stove is between them and their only means of exit, this is very dangerous. The extinguisher should be positioned so that the most likely sources of fire are not between people and their exit route.

    Your comments are right that it’s often less expensive to replace them than to have them recharged. However, keep an eye out for disaster, “prepper” and other safety fairs as the hosts will someitmes provide free extinguisher recharge services. Also, if you are wondering what to do with one you are replacing, some fire departments are happy to receive them because they may be able to recharge them on a regular basis and use them when providing live fire extinguishing training to businesses and citizen programs such as CERT in their area.

    The comments about the dryer lint trap and the vacuum attachment are also sort of related to the fire issues. Accumulated lint is a major source of very damaging structure fires. It is even more important to clean behind a dryer than a refrigerator, and the exhaust hose that connects the dryer to the outside should be removed and thoroughly cleaned or replaced at least annually.

    • Yes please read the article linked in this column.

  • Judi Merrow

    I checked out the vacuum attachment on, it cost $22.00. They don’t ship that to Canada, on the the same thing is $88.00. I don’t think I will be buying it as much as I would like to. I think that is crazy.

  • Ed

    A Kelcy makes a good point regarding placement. I once had a fire on the stove and had to reach through the flames to retrieve the extinguisher from the cabinet above. Another thing to note is that fire extinguishers are not all the same. They are classified by the type of fires they are designed to extinguish (A=wood, plastic, etc; B=flammable liquids; C=electrical fires).