(HealthDay News) -- Having a portable fire extinguisher on hand can save lives, so it's important to know how to properly store and use one in an emergency.

The National Fire Protection Association offers these guidelines:

  • You should only use a portable fire extinguisher in a contained area, in a room not filled with smoke, and after everyone has been evacuated from the building and the fire department has been called.
  • Operate the extinguisher according to instructions. Read instructions before an emergency so you know how to use it.
  • To use the extinguisher, remember the word PASS:
    • Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
    • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
    • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
    • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.
  • Choose a multi-purpose extinguisher that is easy to handle, and is approved by an independent testing laboratory.
  • Make sure you install an extinguisher near each exit. If possible, use it with your back to the exit so you can easily escape if the room fills with smoke.
  • Create an escape plan at home.