Choosing the right fire extinguisher for your business can make the difference between a small fire that’s under control and a rapidly-spreading inferno.
Types of Fires
Before you choose a fire extinguisher for your restaurant, retail store, warehouse or other type of business, it’s important to understand how the different types of fires are categorized. Different types of fires are assigned a letter, ranging from A to D. When you choose a fire extinguisher, look at the letter classification and choose the right fire extinguisher for your situation.
Class A fires involve most ordinary combustible material, such as wood, clothes, or trash. Water, chemical foam, and dry chemical powders can be used on these fires.
Class B fires involve flammable liquids, like oil or grease, gas, or paint. Carbon Dioxide, aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), dry chemicals, and halon can be used on class B fires.
Class C fires are electrical fires, usually involving live electrical equipment. Carbon dioxide, dry chemicals and halon are used for class C fires.
Class D fires involve combustible metals like magnesium and titanium. These fires need a dry powder that is designed to handle the type of metal in question.
Types of Fire Extinguishers
Once you know the type of fire you may face in your workplace, you can find a fire extinguisher that suits that class of fire. There are many different types of extinguishers, but don’t be intimidated. Understanding how fires are classified makes finding the right fire extinguisher much easier.
A water extinguisher has pressurized water that is released through a pump. It’s used to cool class A fires. A water fire extinguisher cannot be used on class B or C fires.
A multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguisher is a solid choice for most businesses. This fire extinguisher smothers the flames by releasing pressurized powder. It’s good for class A, B, and C fires.
Chemical foam fire extinguishers release AFFF, smothering the flames. It’s useful for both class A and B fires.
Compressed gas fire extinguishers usually have carbon dioxide or halon. These fire extinguishers use the gas to smother the fire. These are good for fires that involve flammable liquids (class B) and electricity (class C). Halon extinguishers are no longer sold but you may find one in use in your building or warehouse. If a halon extinguisher is used, always properly ventilate the area before entering. It’s recommended that you wear proper respiratory equipment before using a halon extinguisher in an enclosed space. Since halon extinguishers are no longer sold, you may want to consider replacing a halon extinguisher with a newer extinguisher.
It’s important to properly maintain your fire extinguishers. This involves a monthly inspection to ensure the pressure gauge shows the extinguisher is still in the green zone. If it’s in one of the red zones, it’s time to repair or replace the extinguisher. Check the manufacture date on the fire extinguisher. After six and 12 years, the fire extinguisher needs to be inspected by a professional fire protection technician.
Choose the right type of fire extinguisher for your business and you’ll be prepared when disaster strikes.