Are you here for our fire extinguisher tips? 

Well, tip numero uno: know what’s in the canister.

Wait, don’t all fire extinguishers do the same job? Why then would they be different?

Yes, in principle, all fire extinguishers exist to help contain and suppress small fires. However, because there are different types of fires, you also need different fire-fighting agents.

You’re not going to use water to put out an electrical fire now, are you? Do you see the necessity for distinct and suitable fire-suppressing materials?

So, in this post, we’re going to explore what’s inside fire extinguishers.

1. Water

Liquid water makes a great fire-fighting agent. It’s very reliable and safe for people. However, water-based fire extinguishers are limited in their scope.

Types of fires water fire extinguishers can suppress

They can only be used to suppress fires involving wood, paper, plastic, and textile materials. They are quite effective when these are the fuels in question.

Environments suitable for water fire extinguishers

Water fire extinguishers are typically seen in environments such as storage facilities, warehouses, office spaces and textile factories.

Water fire extinguisher dangers

Can water fire extinguishers be dangerous? Yes, they can be, primarily when used on fires that involve chemicals. Why is this? Water can spread chemicals thereby aggravating the situation. 

Similarly, with electrical fires, water extinguishers are never to be used because you run the risk of being electrocuted.

How do water fire extinguishers work?

As spray water is released onto the flames it eliminates the heat element of the fire, snuffing out the blaze.

2. Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide (CO2) fire extinguishers contain a highly pressurized mixture of liquid and or gaseous CO2.

Types of fires CO2 fire extinguishers can suppress

CO2 fire extinguishers are ideal for Class B fires, i.e. fires where flammable liquids are involved. Fires in which oil, gasoline or alcohol are intricated must be put out using CO2 extinguishers as these canisters and their active agents can effectively cut off the oxygen supply.

These extinguishers are also great for Class C fires i.e. electrical fires. Carbon dioxide makes a great fire-suppressing agent in this case because it is not an electrical conductor and can therefore be used safely.

Environments suitable for CO2 fire extinguishers

Storage spaces like warehouses for flammable liquids and restaurants would do well to mount CO2 fire extinguishers on their premises.

CO2 fire extinguisher dangers

While CO2 is a formidable fire-squelching agent it is dangerous in that it is fatal at the elevated concentrations necessary to put out a fire. For this reason, death by asphyxia in poorly ventilated areas is a risk. That’s why these types of canisters are never to be discharged in an enclosed space where people are still present.

How do C02 fire extinguishers work?

When the valve on top of the CO2 fire extinguisher is released, the contents smother the oxygen component in the air consequently starving the fire. 

3. Dry Chemical Foam/Powder

Dry-powder fire extinguishers are so called because they contain an active ingredient that can be one of three agents: sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate or mono-ammonium phosphate.

According to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), these fire extinguishers are by far the most common, most popular, and most widely used because of their versatility and ability to put out a variety of fires.

Types of fires dry powder fire extinguishers can suppress

Class D fires i.e. fires involving metals tend to be rare. However, when they do occur they require a fire-fighting agent that’s not water. That’s where a dry powder extinguisher becomes useful.

Environments suitable for dry powder fire extinguishers

Businesses and laboratories handling metals like aluminum, magnesium and potassium certainly need dry powder fire extinguishers.

Dry powder fire extinguisher dangers

The biggest danger presented by dry powder fire extinguishers lies in the fact that their active agent is very caustic and irritates mucous membranes. These fire canisters should not be discharged in poorly ventilated spaces as they can make breathing difficult, leading to distress, especially in those with pre-existing respiratory conditions.

How do dry powder fire extinguishers work?

Dry chemical powders or foams operate in one of two ways. They either remove the heat source or separate the oxygen from the actual fuel. Chemically this happens when the sodium bicarbonate decomposes (at temperatures above 158 degrees Fahrenheit/70 degrees Celsius) to release CO2. It is this carbon dioxide that then suffocates the fire arresting it. 

Fire Extinguisher Tips

Now that we know the different active ingredients within fire extinguishers, let’s look at a few practical fire extinguisher tips.

Tip #1 How to choose which fire extinguisher is best for you

Let’s start off with how to select the most suitable fire extinguisher for your home or business.

There are three things you need to consider here:

1. What are the fire hazards that could serve as fuel in your home or business?

2. Having identified the fire hazards, which fire extinguisher would be most effective?

3. Lastly, what practical considerations do you need to keep in mind?

Let’s say your business is a data center. You’ve got lots of machinery and electrical equipment in there. This is how you’d answer the three questions above:

1. Fire hazards: The fire hazards can be frayed cables, old wiring, and or faulty appliances. This means you’re at risk of Class C fires.

2. Most effective canister: The best or most suitable fire extinguisher, in this case, would be a carbon dioxide or dry powder one.

3. Practical considerations: Water and foam fire extinguishers would not be pragmatic because they are good conductors of electricity and therefore you would be risking electrocution.

Tip #2 Know how to operate a fire extinguisher

Workplace training on fire safety is imperative. Having fire wardens who know how to use fire extinguishers and safely evacuate the building is key to avoiding disasters.

That’s why we highly recommend annual fire inspections, drills and safety training. There’s little point in having fire extinguishers that no one knows how to operate.

Tip #3 How to correctly store fire extinguishers

Do fire extinguishers have a lifespan? Yes, they do. In general, if they have not been discharged or are not damaged they can last anywhere from 5 to 10 years before needing a replacement.

However, incorrect care and storage of these canisters will shorten their lifespan or even render them ineffective.

Be careful to keep them in an upright position and away from adverse weather conditions (avoid keeping them in spaces with temperature extremes – too hot or too cold).

Get Help Choosing the Right Fire Extinguisher

If you’d like some help selecting fire extinguishers for your home or business, our team here at  Nutech Fire Prevention is on hand to meet with you for a consultation.

That’s not all we do, however. We also offer a comprehensive line of emergency backup generators, fire alarm systems, fire warning systems, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, exit lighting, fire safety plans, sprinkler systems, and gas detection services for businesses in Hamilton, Ontario.

Request a free quote today.