Having a fire extinguisher is crucial to the safety of your restaurant, employees, and customers. It is important that you understand the different types of fire extinguishers as well as the associated components and terminology so you can choose the fire extinguisher that's right for your operation.
Fires can be fueled by a variety of different materials and, for that reason, are divided into different classes. It is important that you understand these classes so that you can make an educated purchasing decision when selecting your new extinguisher.
Fueled by organic, combustible materials such as wood, cloth, paper, rubber, and many plastics. These fires pose a risk to restaurants with wood-burning stoves, campgrounds, and other outdoor venues.
Fueled by flammable liquids, combustible liquids, petroleum greases, tars, oil-based paints, solvents, lacquers, alcohol, and flammable gases. These fires can be prominent in gas stations, bars, and chemistry labs.
Electrical fires involving energized electrical equipment, such as short-circuiting machinery and overloaded electrical cables. These are a danger in breaker rooms, server rooms, or any area with a high volume of electrical equipment.
A major danger in restaurant kitchens, Class K fires occur in cooking appliances that utilize a flammable cooking media such as vegetable or animal oils and fats.
Fire extinguishers are uniquely designed to meet the needs of a variety of applications, so it's important to choose the one that's right for you. For example, a different extinguisher may be needed for a commercial kitchen as opposed to a clean room or library. Additional fire extinguisher uses are detailed below.
Different fire extinguisher types may have some design variations, but they generally feature the same components and operate in similar fashion.
The extinguishing agent comes out of the extinguisher to eliminate fires. It is fed out of the extinguisher's tank via a pickup tube once an expellant (often from a compressed gas canister) is released into the tank. The expellant is released when the safety pin is removed and the discharge lever is squeezed. To aim, users hold the extinguisher by the carrying handle and point the discharge nozzle at the base of a fire. A pressure gauge displays the pressure inside the tank, making it clear if a leak exists or the extinguisher's been used.
An ABC Fire Extinguisher might have a UL Rating of 4-A:80-B:C. But what do these fire extinguisher ratings mean? The numbers in the UL Rating are a relative measurement of how effective a given extinguisher is at fighting certain classes of fires, based on proper fire extinguisher training.
In practical terms, that means that if Fire Extinguisher 1 has a 4-A:80-B:C rating and Fire Extinguisher 2 has a 1-A:10-B:C rating, Fire Extinguisher 1 is...
The size of a fire extinguisher indicates the amount of extinguishing agent it holds and is most often measured in pounds. Sizes can range from as small as 2.5 lb. to as large as 350 lb. While the largest extinguishers will come with built-in wheels to make transportation manageable, size is always important to consider.
Fire extinguisher sizing for your operation will depend on a variety of factors, including...
Tagged fire extinguishers arrive inspected and tagged so that, in most locales, they can be used immediately upon delivery. They have been tested to ensure that they operate properly and display tags that are valid for 12 months from the date of inspection per the NFPA-10 code. Before purchasing a tagged extinguisher, check your local fire inspection codes to make sure it won't need to be re-tagged to meet the specific guidelines of your county or state.
Federally-mandated rules and regulations require untagged fire extinguishers be inspected and tagged before it can be used. Purchasing an untagged extinguisher means it will be inspected on-site at your business, which assures you that your unit is in compliance with the codes in your area and you know exactly when your tags expire. The downside is that your extinguisher cannot be used as soon as it arrives.
Extinguishers must be pressurized for extinguishing agents to travel up the pickup tube and out of the discharge nozzle. This pressure is administered by an expellant source (normally a gas cylinder) in a few different ways.
The extinguishing agent and expellant source are contained within the same cylinder. They are typically the most affordable option upfront with lower service costs and instant activation.
The extinguishing agent and expellant source are contained in separate cylinders, allowing for larger agent capacities than stored pressure models. The agent cylinder doesn't have to be depressurized when replacing the agent, as is necessary in stored pressure units. In pressure transfer extinguishers, pressure is at its peak when initially activated and decreases throughout the discharge process.
Offering the same benefits as pressure transfer extinguishers, pressure regulated units feature an extinguishing agent and expellant source within separate cylinders. These models come with a pressure regulator to maintain smooth, consistent discharge throughout the discharge process. Because the regulator delivers consistent pressure from start to finish, a larger expellant cylinder is required than with pressure transfer units.
Make sure that your fire extinguisher is secure, easily accessible, and clearly labeled with brackets, signs, and other helpful accessories.
Fire extinguishers are generally warranted for somewhere between 5 - 15 years, but be sure to review your model's warranty for specific information.
Whether needed as part of regular maintenance or immediately after use, your extinguisher should be recharged by a trained professional from a fire protection company.
If the extinguisher is charged, call your local fire department and ask if they take recycled canisters. If not, take the extinguisher to a hazardous waste disposal site.
if the extinguisher is empty, squeeze the lever to ensure all the pressure is released and remove the head. You can then drop off the shell at your local recycling facility.