Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Hydrant Versus Extinguisher

Writers, if you think using imprecise terminology isn't a big deal, read on...

A couple of years ago, a local TV news anchor presented a segment about a man who suffered some burns from a small kitchen fire. The anchor either read some badly written copy or suffered an embarrassing brain cramp when relaying the following advice from the fire department:
“…every home should have a fire hydrant in the kitchen…”

It may seem silly, but this slip-up illustrates the importance of using the correct words to describe things. Firefighting can seem like a whole other language (and at times, it is), but it's really not difficult to get the basics right.

Fire hydrants are, of course, the very large metal devices located on street corners (and other locations) that supply large volumes of water to fire engines. You know – like this:

(Photo by RFC1394 via Wikimedia Commons)
Not a very practical solution for fire safety in a residential kitchen…

The anchor obviously meant to say “fire extinguisher,” which is one of these:
(Photo by ronnieb via
Fortunately, this important safety tip was correctly reported in the station’s online story:

“Every home should have a fire extinguisher rated for use in a variety of fires, firefighters said.”

When you’re writing about firefighting and firefighters, please get your terms correct. It will establish credibility with your readership while saving you some red-faced moments.

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