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How to Choose Your Fire Extinguisher

How to Choose Your Fire Extinguisher
Category: Articles

Synopsis: Choosing the right fire extinguisher is vital to ensure that your business or home is properly prepared for any type of fire.

Choosing the right fire extinguisher is vital to ensure that your business or home is properly prepared for any type of fire

Choose the Right Extinguisher for the Job

Every fire extinguisher is rated for fire types, so all you have to do is assess the risk in any particular area in your premises. If you are a business owner, you are required to do a Fire Risk Assessment by law. Often, it's best to provide two extinguisher types in any one location, to give a choice.

Here are the main types of extinguishers you can choose from, plus where they are commonly used. Each fire extinguisher is designed to tackle one or more different classes of fires. (To discover more about the different classes of fires, see our Essential Fire Safety article on Fire Extinguisher Types.)

Water fire extinguishers are the original fire extinguisher type, and for many situations, their extinguishing power is perfect. Use them to tackle Class A fires, such as office fires involving burning paper or office furniture.

Advantages: low cost. easy maintenance and refilling, non-toxic

Locations: office, home, storage, factory floors, anywhere where the left-over water can be cleaned up easily

Water additive fire extinguishers are the next generation of water-based fire extinguishers. Due to the additives included, these fire extinguishers are lightweight and easy to use. Water additive extinguishers are sometimes know as Hydrospray extinguishers, after the brand name of a popular Chubb Fire model. A 3 litre Hydrospray extinguisher can match the fire fighting performance of a traditional 9 litre water extinguisher.

Advantages: lightweight, easy to use, efficient

Locations: office, home, storage, anywhere where the left-over water can be cleaned up easily

CO2 fire extinguishers (carbon dioxide extinguishers) are perfect for tackling fires in, on, or around electrical equipment. A CO2 extinguisher leaves no residue, so its perfect for use near sensitive equipment that would be ruined by a powder extinguisher.

Advantages: fast, effective, safe on electrical equipment, no mess to clean up afterwards

Locations: office, home, any situation where electronics and electricals need protection

Dry powder fire extinguishers come in three types, according to the class of fire they should be used on:

ABC rated powder extinguishers are multi-purpose.

BC rated extinguishers should not be used on Class A fires

A and D rated graphite powder extinguishers should only be used on Class D (metal) fires

Advantages: efficient, multi-fire rating, relatively easy to clean up afterwards

Locations: office, home, vehicles, smaller garages, workshops, etc

Foam fire extinguishers are ideal for either Class A or B fires, and contain AFFF (Aqueous Film Forming Foam). This foam not only extinguishes the fire, but traps in potentially dangerous vapours too.

Advantages: rapid action, seals in vapours, suitable for flammable liquid fires, lighter to use than water fire extinguishers

Locations: industrial premises, garages, workshops, flammable fuel stores, residential premises, etc

Wet chemical extinguishers are designed just for use on Class F fires involving burning fats and cooking oils. These extinguishers work by a process called saponification, where the chemicals sprayed gently onto the fire react with the oil to create a soapy scum, smothering the fire and cooling the oil at the same time.

Advantages: designed to both extinguish and cool fat fires, does not splash hot oil over the user, non-conductive lance keeps user safe from electric shocks

Locations: commercial kitchens, food processing factories, fast food restaurants, etc

Specialist Fire Extinguishers

Special fire extinguishers are available for specific fire risks, including burning metals.

Certain metals, such as magnesium and lithium, react with air and ignite. Another metal that can easily ignite is powdered aluminium, produced by drilling, so these fires are probably more common than you think! Specialist extinguishers for metal fires contain powders, ranging from sodium chloride (salt) to powdered copper and graphite. Lithium fires should only be tackled with a specialist fire extinguisher, known as an L2.

Advantages: specific fire extinguishers for specific risks, highly technical solutions to difficult fire risks

Locations: laboratories, research facilities, aluminium manufacturing and processing units

And the choice doesn't stop there! Easy Fire Safety also offer non-magnetic extinguishers for MRI scanner rooms, and larger wheeled fire extinguishers for building sites, factories and other large-scale sites.