We run through the checks you need to be doing on a regular basis to ensure your fire extinguishers are in good working order. We’ve also got a really fun fire safety quiz to determine how well prepared you actually are.
A good fire extinguisher is only effective if it is well maintained. Fire extinguishers accumulate wear and tear over time and need especially close inspection after they have been used. In today’s article, we share a quick checklist that you can use to ensure your household extinguisher is always in tip-top condition.
Portable fire extinguishers like those found in the home should be visually inspected at least every month. However, locations that are prone to theft or tampering of devices should be checked more frequently than this. Simply checking that the pressure gauge is within the normal range of operation is not adequate enough. This in itself will not ensure that your extinguisher performs as it should in the event of an emergency.
- The extinguishers are all in their correct places.
- Nothing is obstructing the visibility of the extinguishers or the access to them.
- The safety seals must be intact and not be missing or broken.
- There should be no evidence of any damage. This includes corrosion, leaks, or any blockage of the nozzle.
- The pressure gauge should be displaying a reading within the acceptable range or appear to be broken in any way.
- The operating instructions should be clearly visible and not obscured in any way.
- Confirm that the device is full by weighing or simply lifting it.
- Ensure that everyone who has access to your location is aware of the positions of the extinguishers and how to operate them.
Upon inspection of a rechargeable fire extinguisher device, if any of the following are not in order then full maintenance by a registered technician must be carried out (or perhaps even replacement):
- The safety seals are missing, broken, or have been tampered with
- The operating instructions are not readable
- The extinguisher is lighter than usual, or it can’t be confirmed to be full
- The pressure gauge readings are not within the standard range or appear to be broken
- The device appears to be damaged or is leaking or showing signs of corrosion. A blocked nozzle is another indication of damage
Fire extinguisher service must be carried out every year or indeed more frequently than this if the inspection highlights a problem. The maintenance check must be carried out by a registered fire extinguisher service company. Your local fire station can help you locate one in your area.
The maintenance procedure includes a thorough check of the working parts of the device. The mechanics, extinguishing agent, and means of expelling the agent are all tested.
The technician will install new tamper seals after the exam to prove the working order of the extinguisher.
Remember too that non-rechargeable fire extinguishers have a shelf life. It’s usually 12 years then it has to be decommissioned.
Find out all about recharging extinguishers in this article.
6 & 12 Year Testing for Dry Chemical Extinguishers
Every 6 years, dry chemical pressurized extinguishers need a more rigorous test (this involves them being emptied and recharged). Again this must be performed by an approved service company.
Every 12 years hydrostatic testing must be done. This testing is carried out on pressurized devices to ensure that the cylinder is not ruptured or likely to fail.
5 Year Testing for Pressurized CO2, Water & Wet Chemical Extinguishers
The hydrostatic testing must be carried out more regularly for these devices. Again, make sure it’s done by a registered company or technician.
The Fire Safety Quiz
So you think you know your fire safety? Try our quick quiz to see how well prepared you actually are. The answers are all taken from the Federal Emergency Management Agency guide.
1. Proper use of a fire extinguisher is described using the PASS acronym. What do the 4 letters stand for?
a) Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep
b) Pull, Aim, Spray, Splash
c) Pin, Aim, Squeeze, Spread
d) Pin, Aim, Steady, Spray
Answer: 1. (a) Pull the pin and break the seal. Aim low by pointing the nozzle at the base of the fire. Squeeze the handle to spray the agent. Sweep the nozzle in a side to side motion.
2. Fire needs 3 elements to be present. What are they?
a) Oxygen, wood, heat
b) Air, heat, gas
c) Heat, fuel, oxygen
d) Oxygen, carbon, heat
Answer: 2. (c) Heat is needed to raise the temperature of something to the point of ignition. Fuel can be in the form of a solid, liquid, or gas. The type of fuel determines what kind of extinguisher is needed to put the fire out. Oxygen is essential in the formation of a fire.
3. Upon choosing to suppress a fire with an extinguisher, how long should you attempt to put out the fire before giving up and escaping the building?
a) One minute
b) 30 seconds
c) 20 seconds
d) 5 seconds
Answer: 3. (d) Upon engaging with a fire using an extinguisher, if you haven’t put the fire out after 5 seconds then you should remove yourself from the area. The fire is too large and it’s not worth taking a risk with.
4. What types of fire can a Class A extinguisher be used to tackle?
a) Those fueled by cloth, paper, wood, rubber, or plastic
b) Those fueled by flammable liquids and combustible liquids
c) Those fueled by energized electrical equipment
d) Those fueled by combustible metals
e) Those fueled by oils used in cooking
f) All of the above
Answer: a) Only fires caused by cloth, paper, wood, rubber, or plastic.
Here’s a quick run-through of the different fire classes that determine which type of extinguisher that should be used:
Class A – Cloth, paper, wood, rubber, or plastic.
Class B – Flammable liquids (like gasoline) and combustible liquids (like kerosene)
Class C – Electrical equipment like wiring and motors. If the electrical supply is cut off then they become Class A
Class D – Combustible metals
Class K – Cooking oils
Always be sure what is causing a fire before engaging a fire extinguisher.
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For more safety tips check out this article.