Do You Have the Right Fire Extinguisher for Your Home or Business?

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When championing fire safety in your office, home, or vehicle, owning the correct fire extinguishers for the task is essential. Though you should only consider using a fire extinguisher when a blaze is in the early stages—small and contained—they can be crucial in preventing significant destruction, and managing dangerous situations. It is important to be aware of the types of fires and units that are available so that you know your home, office or vehicle is protected.

Types of Fires

There are 5 different classes of fire, each with its own challenges. Knowing what kinds of fires are most likely to occur in your home or business is important because different kinds of fires require different kinds of fire extinguishers.

Class A Fires

Class A fires are fires in ordinary combustible materials, such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber, and many plastics.

Class B Fires

Class B fires are fires in flammable liquids, combustible liquids, petroleum greases, tars, oils, oil-based paints, solvents, lacquers, alcohols, and flammable gases.

Class C Fires

Class C fires are fires that involve energized electrical equipment.

Class D Fires

Class D fires are fires in combustible metals, such as magnesium, titanium, zirconium, sodium, lithium, and potassium.

Class K Fires

Class K fires are fires in cooking appliances that involve combustible cooking media (vegetable or animal oils and fats).

Types of Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers come in many different forms, because fires, and their causes, are diverse. The types of fire extinguisher you will come across in the search for optimum fire safety may include:

Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers

Dry Chemical Extinguishers are used to interrupt the chemical reaction in the fire triangle, and are most effective on Class "B" and "C" fires.

Clean Agent Fire Extinguishers

Clean Agent Extinguishers are used to interrupt the chemical reaction in the fire triangle, and are most effective on Class "B" and "C" fires. These types of fire extinguishers include halon agents as well as the newer and less ozone depleting halocarbon agents.

Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishers

Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers remove oxygen from the fire triangle and reduce heat with a cold discharge. These extinguishers are for Class "B" and "C" fires.

Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers

Dry Powder Extinguishers separate the fuel from the oxygen in the fire triangle and remove heat. These extinguishers are for Class "D" or combustible metal fires only.

Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers

Wet Chemical Extinguishers remove heat and prevent re-ignition by creating a barrier between fuel and oxygen elements. These extinguishers are best in commercial cooking deep-fat fryers, but can be useful in Class "A" fires.

Water Mist Fire Extinguishers

Water Mist Extinguishers are used to remove heat from the fire triangle - used on Class "A" fires, but can be suitable for Class "C" fires also.

Water and Foam Fire Extinguishers

Water and Foam Extinguishers are used to extinguish fires by removing the heat from the fire triangle and separating oxygen from other elements. Water extinguishers are for Class “A” fires only - they should not be used on Class “B” or “C” fires.

Cartridge Operated Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers

Cartridge Operated Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers are used to interrupt the chemical reaction in the fire triangle and are effective on Class “A”, “B” and “C” fires. This agent also works by creating a barrier between the oxygen element and the fuel element on Class “A” fires.

Extinguishers for the Office or Business

It goes without saying that the types of fire extinguishers you may need in your workplace or office are likely to vary from the ones you would require at home. The minimum rating for a single extinguisher for Class A Hazards is 2-A. Per NFPA10 - Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers 2013 Edition, fire extinguishers shall be located so that the maximum travel distances shall not exceed 75 ft. When choosing extinguishers, you should consider types of hazards you are protecting, travel distances, and square footage of building. The hazards of an area determine types and sizes of extinguishers needed, as well as travel distance.

A commercial kitchen may require a combination of wet chemical extinguishers and dry chemical extinguishers. Most commercial kitchens also have a fire suppression system in the hood, which is to be activated before use of a Class “K” extinguisher.

Sensitive electrical equipment requires the use of a Clean Agent extinguisher. Clean Agent extinguishers are ideal for computer centers, data/document storage areas, control rooms, laboratories, museums, art galleries, shops containing lasers, CNC’s and any other expensive electrical equipment.

Three-dimensional fires, pressurized flammable liquids, and obstacle fires require an extinguisher of 10 lb. or greater and a discharge rate of 1 lb/sec or more. These are considered high-flow extinguishers.

Purchasing the right selection of fire extinguishers for your company, business, or office requires an in-depth fire safety assessment that considers all potential risks throughout the building or premises. It is important to consult a certified fire professional to assess hazards and risks in an area. It is very important to train your staff regarding the various extinguishers available and how to properly use them, as lack of understanding can lead to confusion and panic in emergency situations.

Extinguishers for the Home

Though homes differ in size and function, the risks are similar - focusing on cooking, garage, material, and electrical dangers.

A good place to start with your home-based fire safety is with a dry chemical extinguisher with at least a 2-A: 10-B: C rating. Fire extinguishers should be placed by exits whenever possible. It is also a good idea to have an extinguisher in your garage.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends that each house have an extinguisher for each floor - but no amount of extinguishers can be ideal without the presence of a good fire safety plan. Remember that fire extinguishers may be useless without an active smoke alarm available to tell you that a blaze has taken place.

Extinguishers for Light Vehicles

Though manufacturers keep the user's safety in mind, many components within vehicles are potential fire hazards. Having the right extinguisher on hand should help you to deter excessive vehicle damage and fight the blaze.

There are numerous compact models on the market today that are ideal for a personal vehicle, as their weight and size easily fit into most cars in an unobtrusive manner. Next, because your vehicle presents numerous fire hazards in the form of electrical wires, oil, gas, and upholstery, your extinguisher must be capable of handling any possible mishap. The most common extinguisher purchased for use in a passenger vehicle is a 2-1/2 lb. extinguisher as they are light weight, fit well in a vehicle, and are easily mounted in the floor board.

Ask yourself, do you have the right fire extinguishers available to keep you safe in the event of an emergency? Do you understand which types of extinguisher are appropriate for each blaze? Learning these things could save your property, and your life. 

Helpful Fire Extinguisher References For Further Research

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