(CONSUMER REPORTS/WTVF) — It’s a brand name synonymous with fire safety, but a new Consumer Reports investigation finds reports of serious problems with Kidde brand fire extinguishers.
We now know a lot more about what prompted Kidde to recall millions of fire extinguishers four years ago, and it seems the company failed initially to share information about the problems with its products that put consumers at risk for years.
“We sifted through years of lawsuits and public reported complaints and found allegations that Kidde knew of the problems with its fire extinguishers for years before they finally issued a recall in 2015 and again in 2017,” said Ryan Felton, Consumer Reports Investigative Reporter.
A judge recently ordered Kidde to pay a $12 million fine as part of a consent decree settling allegations by the Department of Justice that the company knowingly misled the government about the extent and scope of the problems with some of its products. Kidde did not admit that it violated federal law as part of the settlement.
A Kidde spokesperson said, “Kidde is committed to ensuring our products are safe and dependable, especially those related to life safety such as fire extinguishers."
But that’s not all, Consumer Reports also found reports on the CPSC website of consumers saying Kidde bungled the recall, in some cases replacing a recalled fire extinguisher with another recalled extinguisher.
Among reasons for the recall problems, Kidde says that they learned some of the replacement units were “damaged in transit,” adding that the company has since taken steps to provide working extinguishers to customers who received damaged devices.
So what can you do to make sure your fire extinguisher will work when you need it?
First, make sure it hasn’t been recalled. Head online to saferproducts.gov to check the model number.
“If you have a recalled Kidde fire extinguisher, contact the company to have it replaced as soon as possible,” said Felton.
Here are some helpful tips about storing and using a fire extinguisher: store it where you think a fire is most likely to occur, like the kitchen and garage. Also, regularly check the dial on the pressure gauge -- it should always be within the green zone. And while you’re at it, check the manufacture date on your extinguisher. If it’s older than 12 years, replace it.
Finally, make sure you and everyone in your family knows how to properly use it.
“Read the instructions and familiarize yourself with your fire extinguisher before there is an emergency. You don’t want the first time you ever handle it to be when there’s an actual fire to put out,” said Felton.
Now Consumer Reports says if you've got a fire, call 911 first. They say fire extinguishers like this are designed for small, contained fires. If you've got a fire that's bigger than that, that you can't put out yourself, get out of your house immediately, stay back and wait for the professional firefighters to arrive and handle it.