Which Fire Extinguisher?

31 May 2013

You may not have realised that there are several different types of fire extinguisher available for your property. Each one is suited towards the types of fires you can expect, therefore it is extremely important that you choose the right fire extinguisher so that in an emergency, it is something you can rely on.

If you are a business, you need to perform a thorough fire risk assessment. Based on this, you can then choose the most suitable extinguisher. Fire safety experts will be able to help you with this so you can be sure you are making the right decision.

You may have noticed each extinguisher will specify the class of fire it is capable of putting out, from classes A to F. Below is a rough guide of what kind of fire/material the classes are referring to.

Class A – Solid materials such as wood, paper and plastic

Class B – Flammable liquids such as oil and petrol

Class C – Flammable gases such as propane and butane

Class D – Metals such as aluminium and titanium

Class F – Cooking oils and fats

CO2 fire extinguishers, as the name would suggest, give off clouds of carbon dioxide gas. This helps to extinguish a fire because it will displace all of the oxygen that a fire needs to maintain the “fire triangle”, slowly extinguishing the fire. If you choose a CO2 fire extinguisher, you will need to ensure that they are stored in the right place. They should be kept away from direct sunlight as well as any hot areas. CO2 extinguishers are best suited for class B fires.

Many business properties will have CO2 fire extinguishers in place, because they are very useful for an office environment. They can be used on computers or other electrical items, so if any technical equipment in your office begins to burn, this fire extinguisher will come in handy.

You should also be aware of water or foam (AFFF) fire extinguishers. These are best for tackling class A fires. Class A fires are usually started by material such as paper or wood. They are ideal because they are not messy, and they can be quite cheap to buy. However, they should not be for used on live electrical equipment.

Wet chemical fire extinguishers are perfect for fires that have been fuelled by oils or cooking fats. They are the most common type of fire extinguisher to be found in commercial kitchens. The fire extinguisher will create a film around the fire and seal in any burning oil. This means that they are ideal for school kitchens, catering areas and other properties that are likely to often use oils and fats.

Foam (AFFF) extinguishers can be used for most fires, excluding class F – they should not be used to tackle fires caused by oils and cooking fats and are not generally recommended for fires that involve electricity.

Finally, dry power extinguishers are more for multi purpose use. They can help to tackle fires involving flammable liquids and gases or electrical apparatus. Be aware that dry power extinguishers are very messy – especially if used in confined spaces, the powder can be quite intense, obstruct vision and cause serious damage if inhaled. They can also cause damage to equipment and furnishings. There are certain dry powders available for Class D fires involving metal.

Whichever fire extinguisher you choose, you should make sure that you get the right one for your property and then continue to regularly check and maintain it. Also remember that under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, fire extinguishers are a legal requirement for most premises and your employees need to be trained in their use. You might want to invest in a maintenance log book so that you record all checks done on the fire extinguisher and note down any changes. If in doubt, seek the help of professionals such as Total Fire Services who will be able to give adequate tests and peace of mind that they are in full working order should the worst occur. You should also check out the instructions on the extinguisher itself, to ensure that you are storing it in an appropriate place ready for use.

All extinguishers provided by us come with a 5 year warranty. For further information visit ourfire extinguisher servicing and maintenance page or call our friendly fire safety consultants on01204 697 990.

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