Tips & Advice
How often does a fire extinguisher need to be tested?
A fire extinguisher should be visually inspected each month to make sure it isn't leaky or corroded, and to make sure the indicator on the pressure gauge is within operating range. During this visual inspection, check to see if the pull pin is intact.
Government regulations require employers to perform a full maintenance check on workplace fire extinguishers at least once per year. This involves a thorough inspection by a professional fire protection company.
The law also requires employers to perform an internal maintenance inspection every five, six , or 12 years, depending on the type of fire extinguisher. This testing involves discharging and recharging the extinguisher to make sure it functions as expected.
How much does a fire extinguisher cost?
Single-use fire extinguishers designed to fight Class A, Class B, or Class C fires are the least expensive, and can cost $1$20. Multi-use extinguishers that tackle Class A, Class B, and Class C fires can run $35-$75. Industrial fire extinguishers are capable of putting out all types of fires, including those caused by combustible metals; these extinguishers can cost $300-$800. The cost of refilling or recharging a fire extinguisher can run $15-$20.
How do fire extinguishers work?
Fire extinguishers work by using extinguishing agents designed to douse specific types of blazes. The agents used include pressurized water, carbon dioxide, and dry chemicals. It's important to use a fire extinguisher that's built to tackle the type of blaze being addressed. Different types of fire extinguishers are offered that are designed to tackle blazes, such as cooking fires, electrical fires, and fires fueled by combustible metals.
What is the proper way to use a fire extinguisher?
The following steps should be followed when using a fire extinguisher:
- Activate the nearest fire alarm if there's one present, and place a call to the fire department.
- Map out a safe exit path that is free of fire, heat, and smoke. This should always be done before approaching a blaze.
- Make sure the fire extinguisher you've chosen is appropriate for the type of fire you're facing. For example, a Class A fire extinguisher is an ideal choice for blazes fueled by things like paper or trash, while a Class C fire extinguisher is your best bet for dousing electrical fires.
- Make sure you're close enough to the fire for the extinguisher's discharge to reach the flames. Some extinguishers have a range of just 4-6 feet.
- Discharge the extinguisher by pulling the pin, and aiming it at the blaze. Squeeze the extinguisher's handle to release the agent that will be used to douse the flames, and sweep it across the base of the fire until the blaze has been put out.
- Evacuate immediately if the extinguisher empties before the flames are doused.
- If the fire has been successfully extinguished, avoid getting too close to it in case it reignites.
How to dispose of fire extinguishers
For partially or fully charged fire extinguishers: These are considered hazardous waste, and you can't simply throw them out with the garbage. Some local fire departments will take these extinguishers, and you can call to see if they accept drop-offs. Another option is to dispose of the extinguisher at a local hazardous waste facility.
For empty fire extinguishers: Check to make sure there's no pressure left inside the canister by squeezing the lever. After you've confirmed that the canister is empty, remove the head of the extinguisher; this will make it clear to anyone who comes in contact with it that the canister isn't charged. Then drop the canister off at a local recycling facility.
Types of fire extinguishers
- Class A fire extinguishers: These fires are fueled by things such as wood, paper, and trash. Class A fire extinguishers typically put out blazes using pressurized water or a dry chemical, such as monoammonium phosphate.
- Class B fire extinguishers: These extinguishers are designed to tackle fires fueled by flammable liquids and gases, such as kerosene, gasoline, butane, and propane. Class B fire extinguishers work by smothering fires with compressed carbon dioxide or dry chemicals.
- Class C fire extinguishers: These extinguishers are rated to put out electrical fires. They use carbon dioxide or dry chemicals to accomplish this task.
- Class D fire extinguishers: These fire extinguishers are built to douse Class D fires, which are fueled by combustible metals, such as titanium, potassium, magnesium, and aluminum. Extinguishing agents such as water can cause these fires to worsen. Class D fire extinguishers kill these flames by using a dry powder agent.
- Class K fire extinguishers: These fire extinguishers are designed to tackle cooking fires, and are fueled by liquids used in food preparation, including greases, cooking oils, and animal fat. Class K fire extinguishers use wet chemicals to quell blazes.