As many of us light a crackling fire to welcome the on coming chill of fall its a great time to make sure that fire extinguisher will be ready if we need it.
Fire extinguishers are used to douse a fire and prevent it from spreading . They are small metal canisters that contain compressed gas (usually nitrogen) that, when activated they propel a spray of flame-retardant chemicals.
But fire extinguishers are only effective if you understand how they are intended to be used.
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There is more than one kind of fire extinguisher: each kind is designed for a specific "Fire Type"
Fire extinguishers are classified based on the type of fire on which they are effective.
Fires are classified by their fuel source and assigned identifying letters as follows:
No fire extinguisher can be safely and effectively used for every type of fire.
Some contain chemicals that are ineffective in certain situations and can even cause harm to the operator if misapplied.
To prevent confusion, extinguishers are classified by the type of chemical agents they contain. A few of the most common extinguisher types are:
What is on an Extinguisher’s Label Tag?
You should find:
When should a fire extinguisher be used?
Small fires can be controlled through the use of household or commercial fire extinguishers.
A household extinguisher can often completely douse a very small fire and prevent the need for professional assistance. Even if a fire cannot be completely doused, a home owner can potentially control a blaze long enough with an extinguisher for fire fighters to arrive. Fire extinguishers should not be used if the operator is not sure they have the proper type of extinguisher, if they are not sure how to use it, or if they cannot avoid smoke or are in imminent danger. If the operation of an extinguisher will place building occupants in danger, they should evacuate the building and wait for fire crews to arrive.
Do fire extinguishers expire?
Yes, fire extinguishers do expire and they do this for a few different reasons.
Over time, the seal on the neck will weaken and allow compressed gas to escape. Extinguishers that have lost much of their pressure will not operate. Pressure within an extinguisher can be conveniently checked through a pressure gauge. “ABC” class extinguishers (ammonium phosphate) have the tendency to fail due to solidification of the chemical in the canister base. Home owners and inspectors can delay this process by periodically shaking the extinguisher. Expensive extinguishers that have expired, especially those designed for commercial use, can be refilled and resealed by companies who specialize in this service. Inexpensive models are disposable.
Unfortunately, an expiration date cannot be fully trusted and there is no foolproof way to know if an extinguisher is no longer functional. Due to the extremely destructive potential of fires and the relatively low cost of extinguishers, it is advisable to replace or recharge questionable extinguishers.
In summary, extinguishers are classified based on their chemical ingredients, all of which have their own strengths and limitations. It is important to know what type of extinguisher combats what type of fire. Fire extinguishers are critical indoor components that must be maintained and inspected regularly.
Fire Extinguisher Inspection, Testing and Replacement
The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends that extinguishers should be tested every twelve years or five years, depending on the type. The standard method of testing, “hydrostatic,” is conducted underwater where the cylinders are subjected to pressures that exceed their ratings. Vessels that fail the test are condemned and destroyed, while the rest are reassembled and put back into service.
According to the NFPA, extinguishers should be destroyed if any of the following conditions are present (they should not be tested):
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