Fire Extinguishers – Much More Than An Accessory

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Fire extinguishers can effectively put out 80 percent of all fires, even if the extinguisher is classified as a portable unit. In fact, the fire department is not required to attend fires in 75 percent of cases. Almost 2 million fires are handled entirely by a fire extinguisher in the U.S. every year thanks to what appears to be a simple—and sometimes overlooked—safety “accessory."

Don’t be mistaken. Fire extinguishers are powerful tools surrounded by myths and misinformation. For this reason, we’ve put together a simple “Fire Extinguisher 101” to share the truth on this topic and, ultimately, save lives and property. 

Commercial Issues

All commercial buildings have safety code requirements, which includes the maintenance of fire extinguishers. When it comes to commercial extinguishers presence and placement, property owners and management must consider the following:

  • Does the staff know what to do in an emergency and how to use a fire extinguisher correctly?
  • Do they know how to pull the pin and point the hose at the right spot?
  • Are the fire extinguishers inspected regularly and have current tags?
  • Are the fire extinguishers placed every 75 feet of travel in common hallways and areas?
  • When walking through the hallways, are the extinguishers visible and easily accessible?

Residential Issues

The rule of thumb for home use and placement of fire extinguishers is to situate them close enough to avoid ever having to walk through a fire to retrieve one. If fire extinguishers are too difficult to get to from any floor or area of the house, they’ll be rendered useless in an actual emergency. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that there be at least one working fire extinguisher for every 600 square feet of living area. Any source of heat or flame should have an extinguisher no farther than 25 feet away at all times wherever there could be a potential fire:

  • Kitchen
  • Garage (car engines, electrical components)
  • Living Room
  • Wherever there is open flame, like candles
  • Near wood-burning fireplaces
  • Mechanical rooms where furnaces and water heaters are located
  • Outside on decks where grills are located

To maintain an operational fire extinguisher, inspect it once a year, recharge it every six years, and rebuild or replace it every 12 years. Family fire drills should include how to use fire extinguishers.

Ready for Fire Extinguishers 201?

Now that you’ve passed “Fire Extinguishers 101,” let’s move on to “Fire Extinguishers 201.”
Let’s take a look at the three most common types of fire extinguishers:

  • Water:
    The water fire extinguisher is filled with a mixture of water and pressurized air. Water extinguishers work by removing heat from the fire. Some also contain a detergent that creates a foam when activated. Every home and business should have this type of fire extinguisher handy. It’s considered eco-friendly and affordable.
  • Dry Chemical:
    Dry chemical extinguishers are tanks of foam or dry powder that use compressed nitrogen as the propellant. They work by smothering the fire. When you put a layer of powder or foam on the fire, you cut off the fuel from the oxygen around it, and the fire goes out.
  • Carbon Dioxide:
    Carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishers contain a mixture of liquid and gaseous carbon dioxide (a nonflammable gas). CO2 is normally a gas at room temperature and pressure. It has to be stored under high pressure and subzero temperatures to make it a liquid. When you release the pressure, the gas expands enormously and creates a huge white jet. CO2 attacks the fire in two ways: 1) it smothers the oxygen and 2) it cools whatever’s being sprayed by absorbing heat from its surroundings when it transforms from a liquid back into a gas.
  • Total Flooding Pre-Engineered Fire Extinguishing Systems:
    There is an opportunity to skip the manual use of a fire extinguisher entirely. Brothers Fire and Security offers Fireboy-XinTex fire extinguishers, which automatically deploy when the temperature of a designated area reaches 175 degrees Fahrenheit.

To operate a fire extinguisher, remember to PASS:

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  • Pull the pin. Hold the extinguisher with the nozzle pointing away from you, and release the locking mechanism.
  • Aim low. Point the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side-to-side.

History Lesson

The first fire extinguisher was patented in England in 1723 by Ambrose Godfrey, a celebrated chemist at the time. It consisted of a cask of fire-extinguishing liquid containing a pewter chamber of gunpowder. This was connected with a system of fuses which were ignited, exploding the gunpowder and scattering the solution. The modern fire extinguisher was invented by British Captain George William Manby in 1818. It consisted of a copper vessel of three gallons (13.6 liters) of pearl ash (potassium carbonate) solution contained within compressed air.

And there you have it. It’s obvious fire extinguishers are a must-have in your business and home. When choosing a fire extinguisher, don’t base your decision on a cheap and often single use unit. Instead, Brothers Fire & Security recommends the Pyrochem and Ansul brands for the best quality and performance in an emergency.

We offer training to our commercial clients in how to use fire extinguishers, so give us a call and we’ll set up training.

Brothers Fire & Security encourages homeowners to thoroughly research extinguishers and discuss the options with your local fire department. They are very willing to help you in those decisions.

About Brothers Fire & Security

As one of the premier providers of fire and security solutions in the Upper Midwest, Brothers Fire & Security strives to build long-term, value-added relationships. We work with business owners and property management companies, as well as all types of public institutions to solve fire and security needs. By taking advantage of our integrated bundled services, many of our clients save 25-30 percent on their safety services, annual inspections, and more. We provide fire protection systems, security systems, fire sprinkler systems, fire alarm systems, 24-7 monitoring, fire extinguishers, card access, and kitchen hoods.