Fire extinguishers are usually your first line of defense against a fire. They are an excellent means of fighting fires, as they are portable and easily used. If you have them in your building, then they need to be inspected and maintained regularly. Why is fire extinguisher maintenance so important, and how do you go about this?
Here’s everything you need to know.
The Importance of Fire Extinguishers
A fire extinguisher is one of the best ways to tackle smaller fires. If you feel safe to do so, using an extinguisher will help put a fire out before it has the chance to spread and cause more damage. To that end, they are usually the best way to tackle a blaze, that is, if the fire extinguisher maintenance is upheld.
They’re also an excellent firefighting tool as they come in several different types. Different types of fires need different materials to put them out, depending on the fuel being consumed. A dry chemical extinguisher can put out a class A, B or C fire. A foam one, on the other hand, can tackle A, B, and D fires, depending on the foam type being used. With the right extinguishers in your building, you’ll be ready for anything.
How Fire Extinguishers Are Used
It’s not enough to just have a fire extinguisher to hand though, you need to know how to use it. That’s why all good businesses will offer fire training to staff, so they know just how to use an extinguisher.
Most extinguishers use the PASS system. It works like so:
P: Pull the pin from the handle of the extinguisher.
A: Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire.
S: Squeeze the handle to get a spray of extinguishing material
S: Sweep the nozzle from side to side, to cover the entire blaze.
If you use this system, then it shouldn’t be too difficult to handle a small fire. Of course, any good training should encourage you to evacuate right away if the fire gets worse, or if you are at all unsure about tackling it.
How Fire Extinguishers are Tested
You know how important fire extinguishers are now, so how are they maintained? The NFPA states that fire extinguisher maintenance includes testing them once a month to ensure that they are in full working condition. It’s vital that you do this, as you want to have extinguishers that are fully operational, should a fire break out. If the extinguisher is in an area where it could be tampered with, or prone to rust and other issues, then it should be tested more often.
The first thing to be done is an inspection. This is a quick check to see that everything is in order. You will be looking for the following when inspecting the extinguisher:
- The extinguisher should be in its designated spot.
- The extinguisher is visible to those who need it, or there’s signage that clearly shows where it is.
- It’s easy to access.
- Check the pressure gauge and ensure the needle is in the operable range.
- The extinguisher needs to be full. You can lift it to check weight, or weigh it on a scale.
- If you’re testing a non rechargeable extinguisher, use the push to test pressure indicators.
- Check the wheels, carriage, hose, and nozzle on wheeled extinguishers.
Once the fire extinguisher maintenance has been done, then you’ll need to keep records of it. It’s vital to have good record keeping, as this will show exactly when extinguishers have been tested and when they’ve been replaced or refilled.
After each inspection, a tag should be left on the extinguisher itself. You’ll also need to create a paper or electronic log, so it’s easy to track inspections. Each tag and log should note the month and year of the inspection, as well as who conducted the inspection. The records need to be maintained for at least 12 months. Most fire codes will require you to do this, so check what you need to do in regards to record keeping in your area.
Fire Extinguisher Maintenance
While any knowledgeable person can conduct inspections, you’ll need an expert to handle the fire extinguisher maintenance. This is where you’ll need to call in a fire protection service, who can take care of your fire extinguishers for you. They will have the certifications needed to properly handle the maintenance needed here.
Every fire extinguisher needs to be maintained yearly, and the time and date of the fire extinguisher maintenance need to be recorded for your logs. This tag will include details of when maintenance was performed, who did the work, and the agency who did the work for you.
Your agency will usually use hydrostatic testing to ensure your extinguishers are in top condition. This will include an internal and external examination, as you saw in the testing section. Then, the extinguisher is stripped down to its components.
At this point, the hose is filled up with water at a certain pressure and kept there for a certain amount of time. Once this is done, every part is thoroughly dried and the extinguisher put back together ready for use.
This test aims to find any issues with the extinguisher, such as leakage or moving couplings. If any of these issues are found, then the extinguisher is condemned. You’ll need to replace it ASAP, but your expert will let you know how to go about this.
Hydrostatic testing is done every 5 to 12 years, depending on the extinguisher that you have. Again, talk to your agency to see how often you’ll need testing.
Hiring the Right Agency
To keep your building safe in the event of a fire, you’ll need a fire protection agency to help you. They’ll be able to handle all kinds of things, from fire extinguisher maintenance, evacuation plans, and more. Any good team should have a good working knowledge of NFPA 10, so look for that when choosing an agency.