Why It’s Important To Use the Correct Fire Extinguisher

It’s essential for all workplaces and commercial environments to have appropriate fire safety measures in place. In fact, it’s a legal stipulation according to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This regulation states that the responsible person must ensure that ‘premises are, to the extent that it is appropriate, equipped with appropriate fire-fighting equipment, detectors and alarms.’

This fire-fighting equipment usually takes the form of fire extinguishers, as they’re the most effective way of tackling smaller, more manageable fires, but could also extend to things such as sprinklers or hose reels. In fact, studies have shown that around 70% of fires are usually dealt with by fire extinguishers and don’t require the emergency services – highlighting just how important they can be.  

While there is no understating the vital role extinguishers play when it comes to fire safety, it’s integral that users understand the different types available, and what fires they should be used on.

During the panic of a fire, you’d be forgiven for grabbing any fire extinguisher close to hand and using it. However, using the wrong fire extinguisher on the wrong fire can actually make things worse, accelerate a blaze and even be fatal to the user. 

In this blog, we’ll explore why it’s important to use the correct type of fire extinguisher, and which ones are most appropriate for your premises.  

What type of fire extinguisher should I use?

The type of extinguisher you should use completely depends on the category of fire you’re dealing with. To identify the classification of fire, you’ll need to know what is fuelling the blaze. Each type of fire, and therefore fire extinguisher, is represented with a letter of the alphabet to better help users understand what is appropriate to use.

Class A fires – Fuelled by solids such as wood, paper, plastic, textiles and furniture. A red labelled water fire extinguisher or cream labelled foam extinguisher can be used on Class A fires. 

Class B fires – Fuelled by flammable liquids such as petrol, oil and paraffin. A cream labelled foam extinguisher, black labelled CO2 extinguisher or blue labelled dry powder extinguisher can be used on Class B Fires.

Class C fires – Fuelled by flammable gases such as propane, methane and butane. Only blue labelled dry powder extinguishers are appropriate for this type of fire. 

Class D fires – Fuelled by metals such as magnesium, aluminium and titanium. Specialist powder extinguishers are required for these fires, they also have blue labels. 

Class F fires – Fuelled by cooking oils and fats. A yellow labelled wet chemical extinguisher can be used on Class F fires. 

Electrical fires – Fires triggered by electricity. The type of fire extinguisher you should use on this type of fire depends on what the electricity has set on fire. Dry powder and CO2 extinguishers are typically used in these instances, and water fire extinguishers should never be used. 

Risk assessments and the type of work your business or organisation does can normally give you a good idea of what type of fires are most likely to occur, and therefore which extinguishers are most appropriate for you. At Millennium Fire, we can tailor our services specifically to your needs, assessing your company and providing you with quality fire extinguishers to help you in the event of a fire.      

Why is it important to use the correct fire extinguisher?

If you use an unsuitable fire extinguisher on a blaze, you could end up in harm’s way or make the fire worse. For example, for fires triggered by cooking oils or fats, you must not use water fire extinguishers. Water and oil do not mix well, and water splashing on it is likely to cause it to further spread. Instead, it’s important to smother the flames with a wet chemical extinguisher, denying it oxygen and putting it out. 

Likewise, water spray fire extinguishers should never be used on electrical fires. The water will conduct the electricity, meaning the user is at risk of electrocution. 

If you’re unsure of what the most appropriate fire extinguisher is for your property, get in touch with Millennium Fire and our team will be able to advise.    

Should you use an expired fire extinguisher?

As well as asking yourself ‘which fire extinguisher should I use?’, this is another common question surrounding the use of expired fire extinguishers. 

Many people are unsure how to tell if a fire extinguisher has expired and needs replacing. There is no set expiry date for fire extinguishers, and each unit should be treated individually. However, as a general guide, you should probably consider replacing your extinguisher every 10 years. This can vary depending on its quality and reliability, but frequent inspections are a good way to ensure that it’s still in good working order. 

Once a month, a responsible person within your company should conduct an inspection, and professional services should occur on an annual basis. 

For more information on the topic of expired fire extinguishers, we recently wrote an entire blog on the topic! Check it out here.  

Remember, while fire extinguishers are a fundamental part of fire safety, only try to tackle a fire if it’s small, manageable and you’re confident you can extinguish it. If it starts to spread or becomes overwhelming, call the fire brigade immediately. At Millennium Fire, we provide quality fire safety equipment and services to organisations across Harrow, Ealing and Watford. To find out more about what we do, contact us today.