Whether you own a small residential property, a corporate building, a restaurant or an industrial building, taking every safety precaution and following all building codes to the letter are key elements of keeping your property and the people in said property safe. Although fire code guidelines will vary depending upon the size and nature of each structure, being informed about the multiple fire extinguisher types is an excellent way of determining the most appropriate devices for your specific needs, and ensuring that you will be prepared under every possible circumstance. The following paragraphs will discuss the fire extinguisher types and uses that are popular and recognized in the United Kingdom. It should serve as a guide to help in the planning stages of building and/or structure security. For specific guidelines regarding building code and safety requirements, consult with an official government agency.
Take note that regardless of the types of fire extinguisher you determine to be most appropriate for your needs, any and all extinguishing devices should be CE approved. CE is the acronym for Conformité Européene. To possess this mark of approval indicates that products of varying natures have met the established guidelines and minimum conformity requirements of this European Economic Area (EEA) requirement. Also take note that fire extinguishers should always carry a manufacturer’s warranty. These tools are not meant to be used frequently, but must be guaranteed to perform optimally when the situation warrants their use. A warranty is a manufacturer’s way of stating that it stands by the quality of its product.
There are several fire extinguisher types to be aware of. These types are distinguished by the nature of the extinguishing materials they employ, and the corresponding colour band that they feature. Be advised that products that conform to the British standard for colour-coding will bear the Kite mark.
Common contents for standard fire extinguishing canisters include water (canister features a red label), foam (canister features a white/ivory label), CO2 (canister features a black label), dry powder (canister features a blue label), wet chemical compound (canister features a yellow label), and vaporizing liquids (canister features a green label). Take note that the vaporizing liquid used in fire extinguishers, called Halon, is no longer legal in the UK. As a result, any extinguisher with a green label is no longer appropriate for use. Each of the substances listed above is ideal for addressing specific types of fires, but is not as effective in dealing with others. Choosing which extinguishing material to use can be done with the help of the UK classifications of fire types.
There are six classes of fires, recognized in the UK, pertaining to fire extinguishers. These classes are labelled from A to F, and are as follows: Class A fires are those that fuel on wood, paper and textiles. The most effective extinguishing materials for this class are water, foam and dry powder. Class B fires are those that fuel on flammable liquids such as gas (petrol), oil and paint. For situations in which these types of fires may occur, choose foam, CO2 or powder extinguishers. Class C fires involve flammable gases, and should be extinguished with powder. Class D fires are those involving metals. These types of fires require a special type of extinguishing powder designed specifically for the purpose. Class E fires are electrical fires. This class is not universally recognized, since electrical fires can occur under any of the above-listed circumstances. The best way to treat electrical fires is with CO2 or powder. Beware of using water extinguishers on electrical fires, since this application may result in electrocution. Finally, class F fires deal specifically with cooking oils and fats. The best extinguishing material in the case of a fire caused by cooking oil and/or fat is a wet chemical compound.
Some extinguishers are able to tackle more than one of these fire types. In particular, there is a large range of multi-purpose dry powder ABC fire extinguishers for sale made by among others Kidde, Guardian Fire and First Alert.
Regardless of which type of fire extinguisher you determine to be most appropriate for your given situation, be sure to read all specifications concerning the canister’s contents and how to use it in the case of a fire. For instance, CO2 extinguishers should only ever be used in very well-ventilated areas. As a general rule it is advisable to aim extinguishers’ nozzles at the base of the flames. Foam used to extinguish liquid fires is the exception to this rule. Instead, spray the foam next to the main source of the fire and allow it to expand and smother the flames.
Fire extinguishers come in different sizes. Generally these sizes correspond to their fire rating, which is a numerical indication of the size of fire the individual extinguisher is projected to be able to handle. Determine the size and quantity of extinguishers to purchase based on the given situation. For instance, in a regular sized home, a small extinguisher and fire blanket should be sufficient for storage in the kitchen. Larger establishments should determine the quantity of extinguishers necessary based on the fire rating printed on the canister.
Some other very important issues to address when dealing with any type of fire extinguishers include their storage or placement within an establishment and their maintenance. As a general rule, place fire extinguishers in easy-to-access locations. They should be visible immediately, and easy to employ. In larger establishments, position extinguishers near emergency exits, and clearly mark their contents and their deployment method. Avoid placing or storing canisters in areas subject to extreme temperatures. As previously mentioned, fire extinguishers are not intended to be used frequently, but must perform optimally when warranted. As such, regular maintenance is absolutely essential. Every time the unit is used, even if it has not been completely emptied, it should be refilled and tested for efficacy. In addition, manufacturers will include maintenance instructions by printing them directly on the canisters.
Owning and servicing fire extinguishers is a serious business. For detailed information on specific regulations or guidelines that may pertain to your situation, consider consulting with BAFE, or British Approvals for Fire Equipment. This resource will be able to provide detailed information on the latest regulations and standards, and can provide lists of approved fire extinguisher suppliers including manufacturers and retailers, and also fire extinguisher service and servicing providers.