Fire extinguishers play a vital role in safeguarding premises by providing a means to quickly and effectively suppress fires. Understanding the different types of fires and the appropriate fire extinguisher to combat them is essential for protecting lives and property. Here is a breakdown of the key points to consider.
Importance of Fire Extinguishers in Safeguarding Premises
- Fire extinguishers provide a means for occupants to take immediate action and prevent small fires from spreading.
- Properly installed and maintained extinguishers instill a sense of security and empower individuals to respond to fire emergencies effectively.
How Fire Extinguishers Work to Suppress Fires
- Fire extinguishers suppress fires through cooling, smothering, and interrupting the chemical reactions that sustain the fire.
- Extinguishers contain various extinguishing agents like water, foam, dry powder, CO2, or wet chemical, depending on the type of fire they are designed to tackle.
Factors to Consider when Choosing the Right Fire Extinguisher
- Assess the specific fire risks in your premises through a fire risk assessment.
- Understand the fire extinguisher rating system to determine the appropriate type of extinguisher.
- Ensure extinguishers are easily accessible and visible in strategic locations.
- Comply with fire safety regulations and standards.
- Regularly maintain and service fire extinguishers to ensure their effectiveness.
- Consider the surface area of a fire extinguisher for better heat dissipation.
Class A Fires:
Class A fires involve ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper, and fabric. They are commonly encountered and can be identified by the production of ash when burning. These fires can be extinguished by removing heat, fuel, or oxygen.
Class B Fires:
Class B fires occur when flammable liquids like petrol, oil, paraffin, alcohol, and certain paints catch fire. They are often ignited by high temperatures or sparks. Extinguishing Class B fires involve eliminating heat, fuel, or oxygen sources.
Class C Fires:
Class C fires involve flammable gases, including butane, propane, and natural gases used for cooking or heating. These fires possess a high risk of explosion and can be extremely dangerous. Safely extinguishing Class C fires requires eliminating the ignition source and cutting off the gas supply.
As the name suggests, electrical fires involve fires caused by electrical equipment. These fires can be ignited due to faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, or electrical malfunctions. Special care must be taken when extinguishing electrical fires to ensure personal safety. De-energizing the electrical source is essential before using an appropriate fire extinguisher.
Class F Fires:
Class F fires, commonly known as “Kitchen Fires,” are specifically associated with cooking oils and fats. These fires can occur when oils reach their ignition point, leading to rapid and intense flames. Extinguishing Class F fires requires using specially designed wet chemical extinguishers that react with the hot oil, forming a soapy layer to suppress the fire and prevent re-ignition.
Fires are the result of a combination of fuel, oxygen, and heat. To extinguish a fire effectively, one or more of these elements must be eliminated. Fire extinguishers play a crucial role in this process by providing the means to remove heat, oxygen, or fuel, thereby suppressing the fire and preventing its spread.
Fire Extinguisher Types for Different Fire Classes
Selecting the right fire extinguisher is essential in combating different types of fires. Understanding the various fire extinguisher types and their applications can significantly enhance fire safety measures. Here are the five main fire extinguisher types and their recommended uses:
- Water Fire Extinguishers: Water fire extinguishers are suitable for Class-A fires involving combustible organic materials like wood, paper, and fabric. They have a cooling effect on the fire and extinguish it by absorbing heat. However, water extinguishers should never be used on electrical fires as they can pose a significant risk. There are four types of water extinguishers available:
- Mist Water Extinguishers: These generate a water mist to increase the surface area and quickly absorb heat from the fire.
- Jet Water Extinguishers: They discharge a high-pressure stream of water to cool and prevent re-ignition.
- Spray Water Extinguishers: These produce a fine spray of water droplets and are eco-friendly, containing no chemicals or additives.
- Water with Additives Extinguishers: These extinguishers include chemicals that enhance the effectiveness of water in extinguishing fires.
- Water-based fire extinguishers are commonly recommended for a range of workplaces, including warehouses, offices, schools, hospitals, storage units, textile factories, and retail businesses.
- Foam Fire Extinguishers: Foam fire extinguishers are versatile and can be used on both Class-A and Class-B fires. They create a foam blanket that helps to smother the fire, preventing oxygen from reaching the fuel source and extinguishing the flames. These extinguishers are suitable for fires involving flammable liquids like petrol, oil, and paints. Foam extinguishers are commonly found in environments such as factories, warehouses, garages, and workshops.
- Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers: Dry powder fire extinguishers are effective for tackling a wide range of fires, including Class-A, Class-B, and Class-C fires. They work by interrupting the chemical reaction of the fire and suppressing the flames. Dry powder extinguishers are particularly useful in environments where multiple fire risks exist or where the nature of the fire is uncertain. However, the residue left after discharging a dry powder extinguisher can be messy, and it may impair visibility in confined spaces. These extinguishers are commonly used in construction sites, laboratories, kitchens, and areas with electrical equipment.
- CO2 Fire Extinguishers: CO2 fire extinguishers are specifically designed for electrical fires, but they can also be used on Class-B fires. They displace oxygen and cool the fire, effectively extinguishing it without leaving any residue. CO2 extinguishers are non-conductive, making them safe to use on electrical equipment. These extinguishers are commonly found in offices, server rooms, computer labs, and areas with electrical machinery.
- Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishers: Wet chemical fire extinguishers are designed for Class-F fires, which involve cooking oils and fats. They create a cooling and chemical reaction that turns the oil or fat into a soap-like substance, sealing the surface and preventing re-ignition. Wet chemical extinguishers are typically found in commercial kitchens, restaurants, and catering establishments.
Using a Fire Extinguisher
- Using a fire extinguisher effectively requires proper knowledge and training. Before attempting to use one, ensure that you have received appropriate training and familiarize yourself with the instructions provided for the specific extinguisher. It’s crucial to have a Responsible Person in your workplace who conducts fire risk assessments, ensures proper installation of equipment, and provides training on fire extinguisher usage and emergency protocols.
- Verify that you have the correct type of extinguisher for the class of fire, and check the pressure gauge if present.
- Stand at a safe distance from the fire, with your back towards an exit.
- Pull the pin from the handle to break the seal and enable its operation.
- Aim the hose at the base of the fire to extinguish it at its source.
- Squeeze the lever slowly, applying consistent pressure.
- Sweep the hose from side to side, evenly covering the fire.
- Maintain a safe distance and monitor the fire. If it persists or rekindles, evacuate immediately and contact the fire brigade.
If at any point you feel unsure about controlling the fire, prioritize your safety and evacuate the premises. Let the professionals handle the situation.
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