What is the right type of fire extinguisher for your business?

September 15, 2017

A fire extinguisher is a legal requirement for every establishment: whether is is an office, place of business, an industrial site, or otherwise. But the problem is that not all fire extinguishers are created equal, and getting the right extinguisher for your needs is vital to its ability to perform.

To understand fire extinguishers and their classes, you first need to know the different classes of fires that may be likely to occur at your business, and how they differ - as they will all have different methods of being extinguished:

  • Class A fires – these are fires fueled by organic combustibles like wood, cloth, paper, and rubber.
  • Class B fires – these are fires fueled by flammable liquids, petroleum, combustible liquids, tars, oil based paints, solvents, lacquers, flammable gases, and alcohol. They are most prominent in bars, gas stations, and labs.
  • Class C fires – this class of fires are electrical, with energized electrical equipment like short circuiting machinery and overloaded cables being the most common causes. They are encountered mostly in breaker rooms, server rooms and other places with a high volume of electrical equipment.
  • Class D fires – these are fires caused by combustible metal like aluminum, titanium, potassium, and magnesium. They most often occur in labs and industrial environments.
  • Class K fires – these fires occur mostly in or around cooking appliances, especially those that utilize flammable cooking vegetable or animal oils and fats.

Based on the above types of fires there are five types of extinguishers - we explain them briefly below, but you should consult an expert when making a final choice in order to make sure that you prepared for the most likely fire scenario at your business:

  1. ABC fire extinguisher – this extinguisher fights a class A fire, a class B fire, and a class C fire. It is filled with a dry chemical agent known as mono ammonium phosphate. The agent is corrosive and should be scrubbed off surfaces once the fire is put out. Mostly it is used in schools, offices, and homes.
  2. Class K fire extinguisher – these extinguishers contain a blend of potassium acetate and potassium citrate that is quite useful when putting out fires fueled by cooking oil and grease. It creates a solid barrier between extreme heat sources and oxygen to prevent reignition of the flammable materials. This extinguisher sprays in the form of mist so that the oil or grease doesn't splash or spread on contact.
  3. Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers – these are specifically designed to fight class C electrical fires. It displaces oxygen in the affected area causing the fire to suffocate as it is robbed of its fuel. It is not recommended for use in confined spaces.
  4. Water/ water mist fire extinguishers – water extinguishers are made to combat class A fires while water mist extinguishers combat both classes A and C fires. They both do not contain chemical components. The water penetrates the burning material and creates a cooling effect hence preventing re-ignition.
  5. Halotron fire extinguishers - these extinguish class B, class C and select class A fires. Unlike other extinguishers that leave a powder-like residue, the halotron extinguisher clean agents evaporate, doesn't cause thermal or static shocks, and are non-conducting. These extinguishers are good for offices, clean rooms and storage spaces or workspaces with delicate electronic equipment.

You've Made Your Choice - Now What?

Once you have the right fire extinguisher selected, your job isn't quite done yet. People (both yourself and your employees) need to be comfortable using the equipment so it can be safely and effectively discharged in a real emergency when tensions are running high.

Employee training on handling fire extinguishers ensures that they respond rapidly and efficiently in the event of a fire. OSHA's simple pull technique makes the whole exercise easy. Just PASS the extinguisher:

  1. Pull the pin
  2. Aim low at the base of the fire
  3. Squeeze the handle
  4. Sweep it across from side to side

An extinguisher is only as handy as its handler! Choose right, handle right and a quick response may be what saves your business costly damages.

If you would like more information on the right methods of fire suppression for your business, contact us at 1-866-384-1280 or find more information in our eBook, here .

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