Did you know that there are two types of fire extinguishers?

Yes, fire extinguishers are not the same. They are distinguished mainly by whether they are cartridge-operated or stored pressure, their contents, and the type of fire they are designed to suppress.

In this post, we’re going to look at a few fire extinguisher tips and consider how to choose the right fire extinguisher for your business.

Before we do, however, here’s everything you need to know about fire extinguishers. Let’s start by defining what a fire extinguisher is.

Fire Extinguisher Definition

Safeopedia.com gives us a comprehensive definition:

Fire extinguishers are portable devices used to extinguish small fires or reduce their destruction before firefighters arrive at the scene.”

Put another way, it’s a fire safety system used in the suppression and control of containable fires. It’s important to highlight the fact that employees should only attempt to suppress minor fires, typically when an emergency arises.

Employees should in no way try to extinguish a fire that’s beyond their control. We mean here a fire which has scaled to ceiling height, where there is a risk of being trapped, or where there is an explosion hazard.

In this case, the designated fire wardens should channel their efforts to ensure that everyone has been evacuated from the building as they were taught during their fire training. Once safely at the meeting point, they can then contact the relevant fire authorities.

The Two Types of Fire Extinguishers

As mentioned at the beginning, there are two main types of fire extinguishers:

Stored Pressure Fire Extinguishers

Stored pressured fire extinguishers (SPFE) are designed in such a way that the firefighting agent is contained in the same compartment as the expellant. The firefighting agent can range from liquid gas to dry/wet chemical agents.

Nitrogen is generally the propeller of choice in these fire suppressant systems. SPFE are also the most common type of fire extinguisher you’ll find. Therefore, this is the type of fire extinguisher you’ll probably be recommended for your business.

Cartridge-Operated Fire Extinguishers

Cartridge-operated fire extinguishers (COFE) are hand-held cylindrical pressure systems and are the less common of the two forms. The extinguishing gas is stored within a different part of the cartridge.

Prior to discharge, this gas-containing chamber is punctured and the extinguishing agent mixes with the propellant. Cartridge-operated fire extinguishers are mostly found in industrial-type businesses. Hence, if your business is industrial in nature, the best fire extinguishers are generally COFE.

Now, with this understanding, let’s examine how to choose fire extinguishers for your business based on the agents they contain. Here are our best fire extinguisher tips.

How to Choose the Right Fire Extinguisher for Your Business

1.     Carbon-Dioxide Extinguishers

Example businesses: Manufacturing, laboratories, pharmaceuticals

Recommended fire extinguisher: Carbon dioxide fire extinguisher

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are used to extinguish Class B and C fires. These are fires involving chemicals and sometimes electrical power tools or elements that may arise in manufacturing sites, laboratories and pharmaceutical spaces.

2.     Chemical Foam Extinguishers

Example businesses: Versatile – bookstores, rubber plants, plastics manufacturers, lumbers, clothing stores, hardware stores etc

Recommended fire extinguisher: Chemical foam extinguishers

Chemical foam fire extinguishers are the most versatile extinguishers and hence are often recommended for the average business. Whether you’re a bookstore, rubber plant, plastics manufacturer, lumber, clothing store, or hardware store, this is the fire extinguisher for you.

3.     Dry Chemical Extinguishers

Example business: Industrial complexes with flammable substances 

Recommended fire extinguisher: sodium chloride fire extinguishers

Businesses whose activities revolve around volatile elements like gas, oil, and paint, as well as manufacturing plants with lots of power tools and motors, are at high risk for fire and thus necessitate dry chemical fire extinguishers.

4.     Dry Powder Extinguishers

Example businesses: Metal refineries, metal extraction plants, mining sites

Recommended fire extinguisher: Dry powder extinguishers

Businesses involving the extraction, refinement, and conversion of metals into different products need dry powder extinguishers. Especially when dealing with combustible metals such as titanium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium.

5.     Liquid Gas Extinguishers

Example businesses: Gas companies, oil, paint and lacquer dealerships

Recommended fire extinguisher: Liquid gas extinguishers

Liquid gas is the suppressant of choice for fires whose fuel is paint, oil, lacquer or gas.

6.     Water Extinguishers

Example businesses: Libraries, clothing shops, paper mills, woodworks

Recommended fire extinguisher: Water-based fire extinguisher

Businesses dealing in rubber and plastics can also rely on water-based fire extinguishers.

7. Wet Chemical Extinguishers

Example businesses: Restaurants, fast food outlets, commercial kitchens

Recommended fire extinguisher: Wet chemical fire extinguishers

These fire extinguishers are best for businesses such as commercial kitchens where the risk of fire from grease, fats, and cooking oils is high.

Storing Your Fire Extinguishers

Great, now that you know which fire extinguisher to purchase for your business, here are our best fire extinguisher tips regarding storage.

Tip #1 Where to Mount Your Fire Extinguisher

Fire extinguishers should be mounted in a place that’s easy to access and clearly visible.  They should not be kept locked in cardboards, stored in backrooms, or inaccessible places.

Preferably set up the extinguishers near fire hazards or fire hazard areas like kitchens but give enough room to reach the extinguisher. Therefore, approximately 10m (30 feet) away from the fire hazard.

Tip #2 Store Fire Extinguishers Vertically

Whenever possible, store the fire extinguishers in an upright position. 

Laying the canister on its side may interfere with discharge when you need to use it. This is particularly true for COFE also known as non-pressurized fire extinguishers.

Tip #3 Avoid Adverse Weather Conditions

Fire extinguishers can be affected by adverse weather conditions. Therefore, ensure they are kept in places where temperatures are not extreme.

The general rule is that the rooms in which fire extinguishers are stored should be within the following temperatures: -40 and 48.9°C (-40 and 120°F).

Wrap Up

Our Nutech Fire Prevention fire specialists are happy to make fire extinguisher recommendations for your business.

Not only that, but we can also design custom fire safety plans, conduct on-site routine testing, fire training, gas detection, inspections, and maintenance of fire protection systems such as sprinklers, fire extinguishers, fire alarms, emergency lighting, emergency backup generators, and exit lighting. 

Request a free quote today.