There are five main types of fire extinguishers including wet chemical, CO2, dry powder, foam and water. In order to meet the current regulations it is important for you to have the exact type of fire extinguisher that is needed for your premises.
The need for different types of fire extinguisher arises from the different types of fuel that may start a fire. For business premises what type of extinguisher you need depends on the fire risk identified in your fire risk assessment (FRA).
Even though the fire extinguishers are classified into five main types, the dry powder and water extinguishers have different versions which means there are a total of eight different types of fire extinguishers to choose from. The eight types of fire extinguishers include:
- Specialist dry powder
- Standard dry powder
- Water spray
- Water mist
- Water spray
- Wet chemical
- Carbon dioxide
There is no single fire extinguisher that can be used on all classes of fire.
There are six fire classes:
- Class A caused by combustible materials including paper, fabric, wood and other flammable solids
- Class B caused by flammable liquids such as paint, turpentine or petrol among others
- Class C caused by flammable gases including methane, butane or hydrogen among others
- Class D fires caused by combustible metals including potassium, aluminium or magnesium among others
- Class F caused by cooking oils such as a chip-pan fire
- Electrical Fires - fires involving electrical equipment
Types of Fire Extinguishers
Foam extinguishers are the most common type of fire extinguishers used for Class B fires. They are water-based which means that they can also be used for class A fires. The label is cream coloured.
Foam extinguishers can be used for fires caused by various organic materials including wood, coal, textiles, fabrics, cardboard and paper among other things as well as flammable liquids including petrol and paint.
This type of fire extinguisher should not be used for fires caused by flammable metals, kitchen fires and fires that involve electrical equipment.
Foam extinguishers should be placed by the exits on floors that have been identified as a class A or class B fire risk.
Water extinguishers are mostly used for class A fire risks. In most premises, it is necessary to have either foam or water extinguishers. It has a bright red label.
This type of extinguisher is used for fires caused by various organic materials including fabrics, textiles, coal, wood, cardboard and paper among others. It should not be used for kitchen fires, fires caused by flammable gas and liquids as well as fires that involve electrical equipment.
These extinguishers must be placed by the exit on floors that have been identified for class A fire risk.
Dry Powder Extinguishers
This type of fire extinguisher can be used for fires caused by organic materials including wood, coal, textiles, fabrics, cardboard and paper among others. The label colour is blue. It can be used for fires caused by flammable liquids including petrol and paint, as well as flammable gases including acetylene and liquid petroleum gas. Dry powder extinguishers can also be used on fires that involve electrical equipment up to 1000 volts. There are special dry powder extinguishers but these are typically used only on flammable metals such as magnesium and titanium.
This type of fire extinguisher should not be used for fires that involve electrical equipment over 1000 volts and cooking oil fires.
Garage forecourts, welding and flame cutting businesses and buildings with large boiler rooms are examples of premises using flammable gases for chemical processes where this type of fire extinguisher is required.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extinguishers
CO2 extinguishers are mainly used for electrical fire risks and are usually the main fire extinguisher provided in computer server rooms. They also put out Class B fires. CO2 extinguishers suffocate fires by displacing the oxygen the fire needs to burn. This type of extinguisher has a black label.
CO2 extinguishers need to be placed near to the source of the fire risk or near the fire exits such as offices, kitchens, server rooms and premises with electrical appliances and equipment.
Having a robust fire safety programme is an important part of maintaining the health and safety of your employees. When it comes to dealing with small fires, fire blankets are an ideal solution.
While you should not use fire blankets when a large fire breaks out, they can be critical in preventing the spread of small fires, especially those fires caused by fat, oil or grease in cooking areas, such as a kitchen or a canteen. Given their function, fire blankets are also a useful fire safety feature for the home.