A Guide to Fire Extinguishers: Which Type for which Fire?
Fire extinguishers play a crucial role in the overall fire safety of a property, providing a way to fight smaller fires before they begin to burn out of control.
However, using them is not simply a case of pointing them at a blaze and pulling the lever. Using an extinguisher containing the wrong substance for the type of fire being tackled could prove to be highly dangerous, in some cases accelerating the spread of the fire and putting yourself and others at further risk.
With that in mind, here’s a quick guide to help you to determine which extinguisher to use on which type of fire…
Despite being one of the first elements you might think of for tackling a fire, water extinguishers are limited in their use only to Class A fires. This is any blaze involving wood, fabrics, paper, plastics and coal. Under no circumstances should they be used on electric of flammable liquid fires. Water extinguishers are marked with a red stripe.
Foam extinguishers can be used for Class A fires too, but also for Class B. This means they are an appropriate option for putting out fires caused by flammable liquids, such as spirits and petrol. Foam units are sometimes referred to as AFFF Fire Extinguishers, although these extinguishers are slightly different as they contain a small amount of water which might not be suitable for some Class B fires. Foam extinguishers are recognizable by a cream stripe.
Most regularly used for Class B fires, carbon dioxide extinguishers can also be used on electrical fires which are sometimes referred to as Class E fires (mostly in Australasia), and, confusingly, Class C fires in the United States. In the UK, electrical fires are not given a Class, but are tackled with CO2 extinguishers nonetheless. These extinguishers have a black stripe.
Perhaps the most multipurpose extinguisher available, dry powder units can tackle Class A, B and C fires, protecting against everything from wood and paper to electrical and flammable liquid fires. Powder extinguishers can leave a slight residue, however, so may not be desirable for use around expensive electrical equipment. They are marked with a blue stripe.
Although wet chemical extinguishers can be used on Class A fires, their real usefulness comes against Class F blazes. This class deals with fires caused by cooking fats and oils, and wet chemical units are generally the only extinguisher that can protect against this class. They are identified by a yellow stripe.
Deciding on which fire extinguishers are most appropriate for your premises depends largely on the nature of the activity taking place there. For example, commercial kitchens will require a wet chemical extinguisher, while offices might benefit from a CO2 or dry powder unit.
Here at AAI Security Systems, we hold accreditation from the National Security Inspectorate under the BAFE scheme SP101/ST104, meaning our expert team can supply and install fire extinguishers at any domestic or commercial property. We can also offer advice and assistance in determining which extinguishers are most appropriate for your needs.