picture of a fire extinguisher

Businesses are strongly recommended to keep fire extinguishers at their place of work. These extinguishers not only reduce the potential damage caused by a fire but also help reduce insurance premiums. There are many different types of fire extinguishers which have many different uses.

How do extinguishers work?

At the top of the extinguisher, there is a small cylinder filled with compressed gas. A release valve at the top acts as a locking mechanism and prevents any gas from escaping. When you pull the safety pin out and squeeze the lever, the lever pushes a rod down the extinguisher and opens a passage to the nozzle, releasing the gas and the extinguishers contents.

Types of fire extinguisher

The type of fire extinguisher which should be deployed varies greatly on what is on fire. No single type of extinguisher  is designed to deal with all types of fire. The main types of extinguisher are Water, foam, dry powder, Carbon Dioxide and Dry Water Mist extinguishers. We run through them below.

Water fire extinguishers are designed to combat fires involving solids, they work by cooling burning material. Solid material they are effective against include wood, cloth, paper, plastic etc. You should not use water fire extinguishers on burning fat or oil, or on electrical appliances. To use, point the extinguisher at the base of the flames and move it across the area of the fire.

Foam fire extinguishers are designed to deal with a number of liquid fires, but should not be used against chip pan or electric fires.The foam works by forming a skin which smothers the fire, when in use you should avoid aiming the jet straight onto the liquid, but instead point the jet at the edge of the fire, allowing the foam to creep over the burning liquid.

Dry powder extinguishers come in two forms, standard and multi-purpose. We will first discuss the standard type. The standard dry powder is for use on combustibles such as grease, fat, oil and petrol, but again should not be used on chip pan fires. This foam is safe to use on electrical equipment although standard dry powder does not have a huge cooling power, so an eye should be kept out for fires re igniting. To use, aim the jet at the base of the fire and sweep across the fire. Powder works by knocking down the flames and melting to form a seal over the fire. Multi-purpose dry powder is much the same as above, but can deal with solid fires such as those from wood, cloth, paper, plastic etc.

Carbon Dioxide fire extinguishers are for use on liquids such as grease, fats, oils, paints and petrol. They should not be used on Chip pan fires. They are also effective and safe to use on electrical equipment fires. It is important to ventilate the area as soon as the fire has been controlled, as Co2 fumes can be harmful. To use the extinguisher, aim the horn at the base of the flames and move it across the area of the fire. These extinguishers by smothering the fire by displacing oxygen in the air, their cooling effect is limited, so keeping an eye out for re ignition is vital.

Portable water mist extinguishers are an exciting new concept. These extinguishers are the very first which can tackle both general fires, as well as deep fat fryers. Where Water mist extinguishers differ from traditional water extinguishers is that the only contain de-mineralised water, which leaves no residue. This type of extinguisher can also be used on electrical equipment up to 35,000 volts. This type of extinguisher however, is not safe to use on gas fires.

Fire Extinguisher Maintenance

You need to ensure that any fire in your premises is contained immediately. To ensure your fire extinguisher works when you need it most, you should follow these guidelines:

  • Ensure your fire extinguisher is easily accessible, it is no good having one which you cannot reach during an emergency
  • Ensure that the fire extinguisher is set up for immediate use
  • Ensure the extinguisher if fully charged at all times, check the pressure dial regularly
  • Ensure the pull pin is secured and held in place by the tamper evident seal
  • Check that the instructions on the extinguisher correspond with the extinguisher itself

Failure to maintain fire extinguishers can result in their failure to activate properly when in use, not only this; extinguishers can explode if not looked after properly. If you believe that the extinguisher needs looking at, there are a ton of fire extinguisher maintenance companies out there.

Recording maintenance

A key to recording fire extinguisher maintenance is keeping that extinguisher labelled with work which has been carried out upon it. These labels are easy way of recording important information. Ensuring that your extinguisher is kept in tip top condition, should you ever use it.  To see our range of Fire Extinguisher Maintenance Labels click here.

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