Do You Have The Right Fire Extinguisher?
It is absolutely imperative that every single building and every single business has the correct fire extinguishers in place, in all required areas and on all floors - as well as making absolutely certain that all staff have had robust and relevant fire safety training courses. However, it is equally important to ensure that the correct fire extinguishers are installed, and that, in turn, a correct fire extinguisher maintenance programme is adhered to, and fire extinguisher servicing training provided. You could find that a poorly maintained fire extinguisher turns out to be about as much use as having no fire extinguisher at all…
which is the right one for the job?
There are several different types of fire extinguishers, each suited to different volumes of fire and suitable for different types of burning materials:
- POWDER: Powder fire extinguishers are for general fire protection. Nowadays they are not usually specified for indoor use due to the considerable mess they make and possible inhalation of the powder and restricted visibility caused by the discharge of the powder.
- FOAM: Foam fire extinguishers are suitable for fires involving solid combustible materials, but they are also extremely efficient on fires involving flammable liquids. The foam also helps to prevent the fire starting again once it’s been put out.
- CO2: Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are also suitable for flammable liquid fires but most popular for electrical associated fires. CO2 has the added benefit of leaving no residue, so any clean-up operation is easier.
- WATER or WATER WITH ADDITIVE: Plain Water fire extinguishers are best suited for wood, paper or other solid combustible material fires, but should never be used on electrical fires or around electrical items. The newer water with additive extinguishers can be purchased in smaller and lighter models but can be more efficient than larger plain water types.
- WET CHEMICAL: Wet chemical fire extinguishers usually have a special applicator and are suited deep fat fryer fires in kitchens etc. Traditionally, dry powder or foam extinguishers have been provided but usually have been ineffective due to the very high temperatures associated with cooking oil fires.
On top of the different kinds of extinguishers, there are also multiple classes of fire, classified according to the kind of material that is burning:
- Class A: Freely Burning Materials. This includes wood, paper, textile, straw and even coal.
- Class B: Flammable Liquids & Liquefiable such as petrol, diesel, oils, paint, paraffin, waxes.
- Class C: Flammable Gases
- Class D: Flammable Metals
- Class F: Combustible Cooking Media
- Electrical Risks (not an actual class of fire, but can start fires)
There’s an awful lot to learn, remember and think about there. Now imagine that, due to the fire itself, your staff are already panicking – do you begin to see exactly why fire extinguisher training is so vitally important? Who knows, one day it could even be the difference between life and death – so overlooking it is not a risk worth taking.