Fire extinguishers are an essential piece of fire safety equipment.
There are many different fire extinguishers to choose from, depending on the type of fire you need to put out. In this article, we have created a fire extinguisher guide to know the different types of extinguishers and how to use them.
Different fire classes will require specific fire extinguishers to help diminish the fire. Here are the main classes to consider.
Class A Fires
Class A fires happen most frequently, usually involving common combustible materials such as paper and wood, and often occur in the home or office. Class A fires are minimised with water or foam fire extinguishers.
Class B Fires
This fire occurs due to flammable liquids such as oils, alcohol, paint, petrol and diesel. A foam fire extinguisher is required to limit a Class B fire.
Class C Fires
Flammable or combustible gases are the reason for Class C fire breakouts, usually caused by natural gas, propane or methane. Powder fire extinguishers are the best option for a class C fire but are only operated in large spaces rather than small areas to prevent the risk of inhalation.
Class D Fires
Class D Fires often happen after exposure to flammable metals such as magnesium and titanium. To put this fire out, you will require a dry powder extinguisher, specifically designed to deal with the metals.
Class F Fires
F Class fires will usually happen in areas with a kitchen or kitchen equipment used to heat oils. The best fire extinguisher is a wet chemical extinguisher that can handle dangerously high temperatures.
Electrical fires are dealt with slightly differently from other types of fires. Never use water extinguishers for electrical fires as this can cause electric shock. Use a CO2 extinguisher as a safer solution.
Types of fire extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are colour-coded so users can identify which option is best for the type of fire they are handling. British Standards EN3 legislation states that 90% of each fire extinguisher should be red, with an identification colour on the side.
Water fire extinguishers
Water fire extinguishers handle standard Class A fires. Avoid using them on an electrical fire as mixing the water and electricity is a serious safety hazard. This type of extinguisher is best located in public or residential areas and is colour-coded red.
Foam fire extinguishers
Great for both Class A and B fires, foam extinguishers are often found in numerous environments and work by smothering the fire to prevent reignition. Foam fire extinguishers are colour-coded cream and are slightly more expensive than water fire extinguishers.
Powder fire extinguishers
Powder extinguishers take care of Class A, B and C fires. This type of extinguisher should not be used inside unless advised by a health and safety assessment. This extinguisher is colour-coded blue.
CO2 fire extinguishers
CO2 fire extinguishers are slim in shape and work to suffocate the fire. They are recommended for use on electrical fires as they will not cause further harm to any electrical equipment or leave any nasty residue. This extinguisher is colour-coded black.
Wet chemical fire extinguishers
As one of the most expensive fire extinguishers, wet chemical fire extinguishers are required in kitchen and food preparation areas and are commonly handled for Class F fires. This type of extinguisher is colour-coded yellow.
The importance of how to use a fire extinguisher
While you might only use a fire extinguisher once or never in your life, you must know how to use a fire extinguisher in case of an emergency. Fire extinguishers do a fantastic job of limiting or lessening the fire while waiting for the fire services to arrive.
Every fire extinguisher will have a guide on how to use the specific extinguisher and for which type of fire. During an emergency, however, there is likely to be limited time to read a pamphlet on how to use the extinguisher, so having prior knowledge is highly recommended.
Most fire extinguishers will work similarly, but it is crucial to have training before use for health and safety purposes. In a business environment, dedicating a responsible person to ensure all fire safety measures happen, such as risk assessments and fire drills, can help improve workplace fire safety and educate everyone on how to use fire extinguishers correctly.
How to use a fire extinguisher
Before using a fire extinguisher, check the colour code to know whether or not it is suitable for the fire class. Ensure that the needle is in the green area and a pressure gauge is in place. You should only attempt to extinguish a fire if you believe it is small enough to be handled – otherwise, you should leave the premises safely and wait for the fire brigade to arrive.
If a fire is manageable, the PASS method is as follows:
- Pull the pin from the extinguisher handle to begin to use
- Aim the extinguisher hose at the base of the fire to level with the source
- Squeeze the lever slightly while applying pressure
- Sweep the hose from side to side to evenly distribute and cover the source of the fire. You can get closer as it minimises.
While the PASS method offers a helping hand, do not stay in the building if the fire becomes unmanageable. It is unsafe to tackle a large fire without professional help and guidance. Leave the building immediately after to avoid smoke inhalation.
Legislation surrounding fire extinguishers
The regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 covers all fire safety matters across England and Wales. Regulations in the UK express that two Class A fire extinguishers must be available on every office floor.
Depending on the type of work, businesses may require other fire extinguishers such as CO2 to handle electrical fires. Pairing foam/water extinguishers with CO2 ensures protection in case a fire starts.
According to the UK British Standards (BS53306), every building must have a fire extinguisher no more than 30 metres away from occupants and present fire safety signage that is easy to digest and understand.
Fire extinguishers must be serviced at least once a year and conducted by BAFE (British Approvals for Fire Equipment) registered experts. Services should include
- An inspection covering any signs of tampering and the overall condition of the fire extinguisher
- Testing the pressure of the fire extinguisher
- Make sure the pin is functioning properly
- Checking the hose application
- Investigate the provided instructions to ensure the information is correct and up to date.
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