QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Here are some answers to questions we are regularly asked :
Q : What is the best extinguisher to use for Electrical fires?
A : The best extinguisher is a Carbon Dioxide, often referred to as C02 which has a black label. The C02 gas quickly extinguishes the flames of a fire by removing the oxygen whilst also cooling. The benefit of using carbon dioxide over a power is, it will not cause any electrical items to malfunction, also there is no residue as the C02 gas dissipates in the air.
Q : What is a Yellow fire extinguisher used for?
A : Canary Yellow labels on a fire extinguisher means it is a wet chemical extinguisher. This type of fire extinguisher can only be used on cooking oil fires, or chip pan fires. Therefore, you would typically find these extinguishers in commercial kitchens, chip shops, cafes, hotels and restaurants or anywhere you would expect to find cooking oils.
Q : Which extinguisher is best for flammable liquids?
A : The best extinguisher is a carbon dioxide which has a black label, C02 will quickly extinguish the fire leaving no residue. A foam can also be used on flammable liquids, foam has a cream coloured label. Foam is water-based which also leaves little residue but be careful if spraying foam near to live electrics.
Q : What is the best extinguisher for home?
A : Subject to the size of your home, we suggest a 2 litre foam for a kitchen, however the British fire authority stipulates that homeowners should not purchase fire equipment, unless they are fully trained in their usage. In the event of fire, evacuate as quickly as possible. Dial 999. Do not stop for personal belongings! Do not re-enter under any circumstances until the fire brigade have stated that it is safe to do so!
Q : What fire extinguisher should be used for fabrics ?
A : The best extinguisher would be water, or water with an additive, or water-mist, these typically have a red label. Foam may also be used, however this may damage any garments, but it would work just as effectively.
Q : How do I use a fire extinguisher?
A : Every fire extinguisher will have instructions (in the native language) on the body of the extinguisher. There are many different manufacturers who have distinct methods of operation but the rule of thumb is: Firstly remove the tamper-seal and the safety pin (or mechanism which prevents accidental usage). Then what we advise is to place the extinguisher on the floor especially if it is very heavy. Remove the hose from the base of the extinguisher or direct the horn so that it is pointing away from you. Squeeze the two handles together directing the hose or horn to the base of the fire. Using a sweeping motion, try to encircle the fire if possible.
Q : What is a Dry Powder extinguisher used for ?
A : It is multi-purpose and can be used on all types of fire, however due to a change in the (RRO) regulatory reform (Safety) order in 2015 - ABC Dry Powder must only be used in outdoor settings, it is no longer safe for indoor use.
Q : Do fire blankets expire ?
A : Yes, fire blankets have a life expectancy of about ten years, after which time they should ideally be replaced for a brand new one. This is due to the fibres used in their production which deteriorate over time and prevent them extinguishing flames. If your blanket is was installed earlier than 2015 you should request an inspection due to changes in the law, making a large number of fire blankets obsolete.
Q : What is the advised distance to use a fire extinguisher?
A : It depends upon which type and size extinguisher you are using. Ideally as far away from the fire as possible. Carbon Dioxide has a much shorter range and therefore you must be within 7-10 feet from the fire. All other extinguishers have a range of throw, of at least 10-15 feet. Unless you're fully trained you should not attempt to use a fire extinguisher if you can, evacuate and raise the alarm. If you find yourself tapped by fire then try and remain a safe distance from the fire and evacuate as soon as practical. Do not stay to fight a fire! Go to an assembly point and await further instruction from the emergency services.
Q : How do you get rid of, or dispose old fire extinguishers
A : You cannot simply dispose of pressurised containers. They must be ecologically recycled, for example, the powder in an ABC dry powder fire extinguisher makes a very good fertilizer and therefore can be donated to farmers who have arable farms. Water based extinguishers and C02 must be emptied and then stripped of all their moving parts. Then the bodies can be recycled. We try to re-use as many parts as possible, where we cannot, we scrap metals at scrap merchants which are then smelted down to be reused again and again. We do offer a disposal service for anyone local to our offices and there are other companies who offer the service around the country.
Q : How often must fire extinguishers be maintained in the UK?
A : According to the current legislation all fire extinguishers must be serviced at least annually by a competent person, that is, someone who has the correct tools, training and experience. A weekly visual check must be performed by the "responsible person", in every organisation. This to ensure they have not been tampered with.
Q : What is the meaning of "One fire - One extinguisher"?
A : "One Fire - One Extinguisher", is a brand-new approach to fire safety in the UK.
These extinguishers are called "WATER-MIST" and have been manufactured with the idea that there should be only one fire extinguisher to deal with all types of fire. Rather than having different extinguishers for electrics, wood, paper, and textiles, flammable liquids, metallic fires, gaseous fires etc.. A "Water-Mist" fire extinguisher does it all. It can deal with any type of fire with ease, it does this by using de-ionized water which is pressurised with nitrogen rather than standard H20 pressurised with oxygen configuration. On top of that there is a very clever type of sprinkler system in the hose which changes the pressure of the water. This creates a vapour rather than a jet of water and when all of this is put together you have a miraculous extinguisher which will deal with any source of fire! for further information click HERE
Q : What height should a fire extinguisher be mounted ?
A : The current British legislation stipulates that any extinguisher which has an overall weight heavier than 5 kilograms must be hanged with the carrying handle at 1 metre from the floor. This is to prevent causing injury if it were dropped when removing it from a wall bracket. Extinguishers with an overall weight lighter than 5kg can be a little higher, at eye level but no higher.
Q : When is it appropriate to smother a fire with a fire blanket?
A : A fire blanket should be used on a chip pan or deep fat fryer, to prevent the spread of fire. Pull the tags from the bottom of the box, holding the blanket up level with your nose, lay the blanket away from you over the top. Leave it in place for at least a four hours. If you remove the blanket before the oil is fully cooled, the ensuring oxygen may cause further ignition. A fire blanket can also be used for someone whose clothing is on fire. Instruct the person to lie on the ground and wrap them up in the blanket and roll them over and over, this will cause the fire retardant material to quickly extinguish the flames. This person should then be rushed to hospital.
Q : Why are fire extinguishers placed near fire exits?
A : For a few reasons, primarily in the case of a fire exit being blocked by fire, an extinguisher can be used to extinguish the fire enabling an efficient evacuation. If extinguishers are always by an exit, people tend to remember where they are, where as if they're situated in the middle of a corridor, there is a tendency to try and fight the fire, rather than evacuate as quickly as possible. Never tackle a fire that is out of control. Raise the alarm. Evacuate as quickly as possible. Dial 999 and follow the instructions of the emergency services.
Q : What are the different types of fire extinguisher and what are they used for?
A : "Water", "Water with Additive", "Watermist", "Carbon Dioxide", "Foam", "Dry Powder", "Wet Chemical", "Class D, M28 or L2".
Water is for wood, paper, plastic, textiles, straw and hay. Red label.
Water-Mist is a multipurpose and can tackle all of the above risks and could potentially take over the future of fire protection. Red label.
Carbon dioxide is for electrical Items and flammable liquid. Black label.
Foam is for flammable liquids, wood, paper, textiles, plastics, straw and hay. Cream label.
Dry Powder is multipurpose, can be used on all fires but it cannot be used indoors. Blue label.
Wet Chemical is ONLY for use on cooking oil fires, such as chip pans, deep fat fryers, restaurants and chip shops. Canary-yellow label.
Class D, M28, or L2 is ONLY for use on metallurgic fires and metallic substances such as magnesium. Blue label.
Q : Who is responsible for fire safety in the workplace ?
A : Within each place of work there should be appointed a "responsible person" who is trained in efficient evacuation. This person should also be responsible for checking that the fire escapes remain clear, extinguishers have not been set off or tampered with. They should also know where the assembly points are and how to keep a register within the fire-log book. A weekly check is advised to ensure the safety within a workplace.
Q : Which part of the fire should a co2 extinguisher be aimed at?
A : Always aim (all fire extinguishers) at the base of the fire. Carbon Dioxide very quickly extinguishes flames by removing the oxygen and cooling the heat of the fire and it will extinguish an electrical fire or a flammable liquid fire almost instantly.
Q: How should you determine which type of fire extinguisher to use ?
A : It depends what is on fire and how the fire started. Above every fire extinguisher there should be an identity sign depicting what it is and what it can be used on. Try and match the extinguisher to the "Fuel" of the fire, for instance if a sofa is ablaze it is mainly wood and textiles therefore you need either Water or Foam. If it is an electrical circuit or device, use Carbon Dioxide. (for more information see the questions opposite which relate to each extinguisher). If a fire has spread beyond control, raise the alarm, evacuate the building and dial 999 and follow the instructions of the emergency services.
Q : What class of fire would a paper fire be?
A : Paper, wood, plastics and textiles, straw, and hay are all 'Class A' fires and therefore, can be extinguished with a water based fire extinguisher. Most water based fire extinguishers carry a 13A rating.
Q : Is there such a thing as an automatic fire extinguisher?
A : Not as such, there are fire suppression systems which automatically activate when flames are detected these are commonly known as sprinkler systems but they are hard to install and maintain. We recently began featuring a new product called "Fire Knockout", on our website which instantly attacks fire without the need for human interaction. Click here for further information.
Q : What is the best extinguisher for fireworks?
A : CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) extinguishers are good responses to problems with fireworks and pyrotechnics. C02 leaves no residue and can be used repeatedly until they run out. But they only work for small fires. It is wise to have a bucket of kiln-dried sand for sparklers and a bucket of water or a water based fire extinguisher would also be beneficial to cover all bases.
Q : What is the British Standard for fire extinguishers?
A : The standard for portable fire extinguishers is BS 5306 part 3 which was most recently updated in 2017
Q : Can you use Water to extinguish a fire containing Flammable liquids?
A : ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! Never use water on a fire containing flammable liquids. It will make the problem worse and can possibly create a fire-ball - The correct extinguisher would either be a Carbon Dioxide or Foam. For cooking oil fires, such as a chip-pan, there is a specific fire extinguisher called a "Wet Chemical".
Q : What are the dangers of using a C02 extinguisher?
A : There is relatively low risk of danger providing there is a "horn" connected to the head of the extinguisher. The horn diffuses the pressure out of the body of the extinguisher, if a horn is not attached it could cause severe injuries and possible death. NEVER remove the head of a C02 extinguisher (or any other pressurised canister). C02 extinguishers are filled with 2 or 5 kilograms of carbon dioxide gas, this very quickly starves a fire of oxygen and also has a rapid cooling effect, as a result there is little to zero residue as the gas dissipates in the air and therefore, it is a very safe extinguisher to use on electrical fire and also flammable liquid fire. C02 should not be used on wood, paper, textiles, plastics, hay and straw as it can spread the fire rather than extinguish it.
Q : Why is it that ALL fire extinguishers are now red coloured?
A : There are a number of reasons for this, the main reason is to comply with the European union. All fire extinguishers within Europe (should) comply to EN3 standard which means that all fire equipment must be red in colour with a coloured coded label depicting what extinguisher it is. Having all fire extinguishers one solid colour does also make sense on another level, as a red fire extinguisher is far easier to spot out of the corner of your eye, whereas black, blue, cream and yellow coloured extinguishers often blended into the colours of the background environment. Also the colour red is associated with danger. Statistically, red extinguishers are less tampered with.
Q : Is it possible to refill C02's ?
A : Yes, in fact all sizes and types of fire extinguisher are refillable unless they are damaged beyond repair or they are too old and therefore obsolete.
Q : Where can I buy fire extinguisher signage from?
A : Official fire and safety signage can be purchased from many different websites and online shops as well as some good stationery shops. We sell a large range of signs on our website too. Click here to browse and gather information.
Q : Do fire extinguishers expire?
A : In theory they do not expire, providing that they are maintained at least once a year.
After five years of being in service they can be discharge tested, which is now called an "extended service", this means that the extinguisher is set off, as if in an emergency to prove it would work as it should, it can then be refilled, re-pressurised and placed back into service for a further five years. However, without regular maintenance fire extinguishers soon begin to falter as algae can build up inside the body of water based extinguishers, along with other issues which can arise. Therefore, we recommend that all fire extinguishers are maintained at least annually, under a Midland Fire ltd service agreement contract.
Click here for further information or, click here to book if you require a (free) site-survey of your establishment.
Q : What should fire blankets be used for?
A : Fire blankets can ONLY be used on clothing fires, or to assist with the cooling down of a chip-pan. Never remove a fire blanket from a chip pan until the oil in the pan is completely cooled, this can take at least three hours.
Q : What fire extinguisher should I use on my Narrow boat, or Cabin Cruiser?
A : If your boat is sea-going you must have a marine-rated Class B fire extinguisher. This is usually a water based foam extinguisher which can be coupled with a marine rated c02 . It a good idea to have a fire suppression unit in the engine bay too, which instantly attacks fire without the need for human interaction. If your vessel is for inland waterways, rivers and canals, you do not need it to be marine rated to get a certificate of maintenance, therefore AFFF foam is ideal.
Q : What is a Green Fire Extinguisher for ?
A : An extinguisher which is green in colour is filled with a liquid gas called "Halon", which when set off, extinguishes any type of fire very quickly.
However, on 1st January 1994, Halon extinguishers were banned in the UK to comply with the "Montreal Protocol" and the "U.S. Environmental Protection Agency".
The this reason, when Halon is used to put out a fire, a gas which is harmful to the environment is burnt off, however, when it is not sprayed on a fire this harmful gas can add to the hole in the ozone layer. Therefore, for Halon to be tested we would first have to create a fire to prove it would work in an emergency.
It is still being produced for Airlines and the Ministry of Defence, but you must hold a special licence to obtain and maintain it. If you have a Halon extinguisher it must be replaced with an alternative fire extinguisher.
Q : How many extinguishers are required in a business in the UK?
A : There is a minimum requirement of at least two. It does entirely dependant upon the size of your premises and the type of risk your business represents. Every entrance and exit must have at least two fire extinguishers of different types and you must also cater for any additional risks there may be. The best thing we can suggest is to have a site survey completed by Midland Fire, from this inspection, a bespoke quotation can be provided.
Q : What do fire extinguishers do?
A : They protect life, from the threat of fire and assist in the evacuation from areas which may be blocked by fire leading to a fire escape or other means of escape. Essentially they extinguish (or put out) small fires which could otherwise spread and threaten human life.
Q : what fire extinguisher for welding?
A : Carbon Dioxide is best for welding as it can be used repeatedly until it runs out. It is advisable to have a water based extinguisher nearby too, in case any material catches alight from the sparks of the welding machine, particularly when welding vehicles.
Q : Where should you aim to be most effective when using a fire extinguisher ?
A : Always aim the hose or horn at the base of the fire, if possible walking around the base of the fire to attack it from as many angles as possible. This will lay down a barrier preventing the spread of fire and quickly attack the heat of the flames which is the best way of extinguishing a fire. It is not always possible to walk around the fire, if in a corridor for example, in this instance continue to spray the base, knocking the fire back and building up an area which is safe to pass.
Q : What fire extinguisher should I use on a Lithium-ion battery?
A : As it stands, at the time of writing there are no extinguishers which can be used effectively on a lithium-ion battery. There are extinguishers which are made specifically for the purpose which have a lime-green label and are called "Lithex" however, these extinguishers have never met with the government approval that they can put out a battery fire. The best advice is to let the battery-powered item smoulder but keep checking to ensure it does not ignite another source of fire.
NEVER pour water on this type of fire, a toxic gas which can be poisonous to the user will be released with the addition of water.