Fire extinguishers are an essential tool for aiding escape in the event of fire. This is why you will find them typically located on exit routes. They can be also be used by trained users to extinguish small manageable fires, where there is no risk to the user and where an escape route remains accessible. They are not meant to be used to tackle large, out of control fires.

The following 4 facts about fire extinguishers are an essential read for all business operators:

1. Training

Fire extinguishers should only be used by trained and competent employees, often  designated as fire marshalls. The fire marshalls should assess each situation, only tackling a fire where they feel safe to do so.

The following P.A.S.S. technique should be followed:

  • Pull the pin from the top of the extinguisher to activate it
  • Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire to fight it
  • Squeeze the handle slowly – if you do it too quickly, the shock and speed of diffusion could cause your hand to freeze to the tube
  • Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire.

2. Types of Extinguisher

There are 8 different types of extinguishers for tackling different types of fires:

  • Water
  • Water Mist
  • Water Spray
  • Foam
  • Dry Powder – Standard
  • Dry Powder – Specialist
  • Carbon Dioxide (‘CO2’)
  • Wet Chemical

There are six classes of fire: Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, ‘Electrical’, and Class F.

  • Class A fires – combustible materials: caused by flammable solids, such as wood, paper, and fabric
  • Class B fires – flammable liquids: such as petrol, turpentine or paint
  • Class C fires – flammable gases: like hydrogen, butane or methane
  • Class D fires – combustible metals: chemicals such as magnesium, aluminum or potassium
  • Electrical fires – electrical equipment: once the electrical item is removed, the fire changes class
  • Class F fires – cooking oils: typically a chip-pan fire

There is no one extinguisher type which works on all classes of fire. Therefore it is important you have the right types of fire extinguishers for fires that may occur on your premises.

3. Maintenance of fire extinguishers

It’s important you have fire extinguishers serviced on an annual basis or disposable extinguishers replaced annually. Monthly visual checks should be conducted to ensure a fire extinguisher:

  • It is correctly located.
  • It is accessible.
  • It is fully charged.
  • Both the pin and seal are in place.
  • There is no visible damage.
  • The nozzle is free from blockages.

4. Recharging after Use

Whether a small amount has been accidentally discharged or actively used to fight a small fire, always top up what’s been used ready for future use.