If you’ve followed our blog at all, you know that we tout the importance of fire safety quite a bit. Few security measures have the ability to save lives in the manner of these important devices. Often, we focus on fire alarm equipment when we discuss fire safety. However, we also provide valuable equipment to help douse fires before they get out of control as well. Of course, we’re talking about fire extinguishers. In particular, businesses must have fire extinguishers installed for the safety of employees and customers like. More specifically, fire codes also dictate fire extinguisher installation and maintenance down to a “T.” In this post, we’ll explain these requirements so you can reference them for your own business.
First, we’ll show you how to choose the right type of extinguishers for your property. We surprise many customers with the variety of extinguisher types that we offer, so this will prove important. Then, we’ll review fire extinguisher code, and what it has to say about fire extinguisher installation and maintenance. Understanding these codes will help you stay in compliance of them at all times. This will help you keep your business safe and will also assist you in avoiding penalties for failing to meet these requirements. Now, let’s dive in with a look at the types of extinguishers we offer!
Installing the Right Extinguishers for the Job
As we mentioned above, fire extinguishers do not fall into the “one size fits all” category. Businesses require extinguishers that address their own unique fire hazards. In this section, we’ll review the categories of fires that businesses have. Of course, we’ll also go over how we provide extinguishers to fight these specific threats. Let’s get started by learning about the most common types of fire hazards.
Fighting the Most Common Types of Fires
Fire hazards have several different designations, and we have extinguishers for each. We identify these hazards through a letter-based system. For example, class A, B, and C fires represent the most common types of fires. Class A fires involves flammable solids. Wood, paper, cloth, and rubber catching fire would all constitute a fire of this class. For example, a campfire is a common example of a Class A fire. Lightning strikes and fallen candles provide example of inadvertent Class A fires.
The next class of fires get their fuel from flammable or combustible liquids. For example, oil, gasoline, paint, and propane could all start a Class B fire. Energized electrical fires make up the Class C fire designation. What do we mean by an “energized” electrical fire? We’re glad you asked! This means that the source of a fire must have an active source of electrical power. For example, a computer plugged into an outlet would create this type of fire if it catches flame. However, an unplugged computer would create a Class A fire if set ablaze. Old wiring and frayed cords may start a Class C fire. The most common type of extinguisher — appropriately dubbed an “ABC extinguisher” — fights all three of these threats. Many businesses have these extinguishers exclusively.
Creating Security Against Lesser-Known Fire Threats
However, we do have a couple additional important types of fires, as well as extinguishers that we install to fight them. One of the rarest types of fires, Class D fires involve the ignition of metals. Most Class D fires involve magnesium or titanium. However, aluminum and sodium are also to blame for some of these fires as well. Class D fires rarely take place in homes. Instead, industrial environments where employees carry out metal work make the most likely scene for these fires. Class D extinguishers use a dry powder to get the job done. This powder works only on class D fires involving metals.
Finally, Class K fires involve kitchen-related fire hazards. For example, class K extinguishers fight those fires started by grease, animal fat, or cooking oils. For this reason, you’ll most likely find them in restaurants. These extinguishers usually have a wet chemical in them designed specifically to fight the rapid pace with which Class K fires spread. In fact, the agent contained in Class K extinguishers turns the oil and fat that fuels Class K fires into soap or a foam. This transition is known as “saponification.” As you can see, fighting unique fires requires fire extinguisher classes with unique attributes!
Understanding Fire Extinguisher Requirements
Like fire alarm systems, fire extinguishers must meet strict installation and maintenance guidelines. The National Fire Alarm Protection Association (or “NFPA”) writes the code books governing these factors. In the case of extinguisher regulations, building owners and fire extinguisher professionals follow “NFPA 10.” This code book creates guidelines for both fire extinguisher installation and maintenance. The International Code Council (or “ICC”) also creates guidelines within their International Building Code (predictably shortened to “IBC”). Finally, OSHA guidelines for “Occaptional Safety and Health Administration”) also come into play at times as well. In this section, we go over the basics behind these guidelines. This includes both an overview of what the code says, as well as how you can comply. Let’s begin with a look at the spacing and mounting guidelines for commercial extinguishers.
Spacing and Mounting Guidelines
Spacing guidelines for extinguishers largely depends upon the types of fire hazards present. For example, the IBC states that you should never be more than 75 feet away from a class A extinguisher or 50 feet from a class B extinguisher. Extinguishers with both “A” and “B” ratings automatically turn into the aforementioned ABC extinguishers, which follow the same OSHA-based spacing guidelines as classes A and B. Class D and K hazards have extinguisher requirements based on proximity to the hazard itself.
For example, we must mount class D extinguishers within 75 feet of combustible metals. While OSHA does not have a class K spacing requirement, NFPA guidelines recommend that we install them within 30 feet of any kitchen fire hazard. Additionally, extinguishers must also be mounted at certain heights based on their weight. Working with a security company, such as ourselves, to place your extinguishers can ensure that you get this important aspect of security addressed effectively. Now, let’s switch our focus from spacing and mounting guidelines to annual extinguisher inspection and maintenance requirements.
Commercial fire extinguishers require an annual inspection that we can perform onsite or at our own office if customers bring their extinguishers in. We clean the extinguishers and make sure that their pressure gauge indicates the proper pressure for successful discharge. As long as the extinguisher passes inspection, we then “tag” it. This tag shows the month and year that we last inspected the extinguisher. NFPA 10 contains several reasons that extinguishers may fail this inspection. Extensive damage to extinguishers, for example, will cause them to fail. Using the wrong size or type of extinguisher for a given application will also lead to a failed inspection during on-site inspections.
Additionally, we perform more in-depth maintenance on most extinguishers every 6 years. During this maintenance, we must empty and recharge the extinguishers. Finally, we complete performance testing on most extinguisher types after 12 years. Failing to complete either extinguisher or fire alarm system maintenance can lead to legal troubles. These can include both fines and insurance-related issues as well.
We can travel out to your business to complete this inspection every year. In fact, we perform this service for hundreds of commercial properties every year. For smaller applications, we recommend that customers take their extinguishers to us. This saves them from paying for travel time to and from a location with very few extinguishers. No matter which option you choose, you can rest assured that your extinguishers will meet the grade upon completion!
Achieving Proper Fire Extinguisher Installation and Maintenance
We hope that this post helps you understand common fire extinguisher and maintenance best practices. Unfortunately, many people overlook this extremely important area of security. If you have any questions about the material presented here, we encourage you to contact us. We will happily answer any and all questions you may have about this or any other area of commercial security. Additionally, we also invite you to take advantage of our free site survey program. We offer complimentary security audits to both new and existing customers alike. While on site, we can address any areas of concern you may have. Furthermore, we can also make suggestions of our own based on observations made during our visit. Together, we can create a plan for fire extinguisher and maintenance that keeps your building, and everyone in it, as safe and secure as possible.