All fire extinguishers are not created equal!
- There are well built, robust extinguishers, which can be serviced and refilled many times over. Unless these are placed in a particularly corrosive environment (such as in salty air or damp conditions without protection), and as long as they are serviced regularly, they will give good performance and reliability over many years.
- There are also cheaply-built fire extinguishers, which have a much thinner metal can, and poor quality paint and parts. These will rust, break, fail and dent much more readily and their life expectancy is therefore far shorter. Additionally, many of the fire extinguishers available off the shelf in local shops, or off the internet only have a “built-in” life of five years. They will come with a five year guarantee, but at that point all fire extinguishers require a discharge / recharge test. Many cheap fire extinguishers are not capable of being disassembled to carry out this test. Thus, they have to be discarded and replaced with new units after the five years is up.
At Fal Fire we supply and install only high quality units. This does inevitably make them more expensive to purchase, but over their lifetime, they are far more reliable and ultimately more cost-effective than a cheaper alternative.
Installing Fire Extinguishers
You should be aware that as a business, you can't simply buy a fire extinguisher and hang it on the wall in your business premises, with no further action; the British Standard requires it to be commissioned on site by a qualified technician. To comply with the BS, it must be serviced regularly and requires a current service label, which also has to be carried out by a qualified technician. When we sell a fire extinguisher, the commissioning is part of the overall cost, reflecting our overheads and the training costs of our staff. If we are presented with an extinguisher that has been purchased very cheaply elsewhere, we have to make a service charge to come and commission it, as would anyone else.
Maintaining Fire Extinguishers
Under the relevant British Standard, all fire extinguishers require an annual inspection by a qualified technician and an extended discharge recharge test every five years. These tests are recorded on the labels and represent a history of the unit. The label is a legal document and should not be covered over if you change service providers.
Using Fire Extinguishers
All staff should be trained and competent to select and use a fire extinguisher. We offer three training packages to suit your needs. These start from a straightforward one to two hour Fire Awareness Training Session, and include added components such as fire extinguisher training with live fires, through to full Fire Marshall and Warden training, which is a one day course.
For more information visit our Training Page.
There are several different types of fire extinguisher and staff should understand the appropriate choice to make for the type of fire they intend to use it on. There can also be safety issues relating to their use, for example -
- On Carbon dioxide-type extinguishers you must not use it if the horn is loose, as the horn safely disperses the force of the expanding gas. Whilst using a carbon dioxide extinguisher, be aware there will be some backward force and DO NOT TOUCH or grip the horn – as its temperature drops well below freezing and it could damage your skin.
- Dry powder extinguishers can obscure vision and be a safety issue if escape from the building becomes necessary. So be aware of your escape route before discharging one.
Abusing Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are heavy objects which can be used as weapons. They can also be used to damage property, either by virtue of their weight, or by the discharge of their contents. If you are placing fire extinguishers into a building, you should carry out a risk assessment of how likely they are to be tampered with and take the necessary steps to minimise the likelihood of this to avoid injury and also potentially, to avoid an insurance claim against yourself. Clearly an empty fire extinguisher is worse than useless.
There are various devices and options to make tampering with fire extinguishers less likely and we are happy to give advice regarding an appropriate solution.