Fire extinguishers are portable, hand-held devices that are used to control and eliminate small fires around the home or workplace. All extinguishers are charged to maintain a certain internal pressure and can provide between five and ten minutes of firefighting capabilities.
Having easy access to these extinguishers is considered mandatory in many building safety codes and they must be easily accessible in public institutions such as schools, hospitals and restaurants.
While these extinguishers come in quite handy, individuals should be aware that they should not be used in fires that have reached the height of a ceiling or in environments where their use may endanger the user (visibility, lack of oxygen and other instances).
There are many different types of fire extinguishers; each designed to combat a specific situation. So, let us have a brief look at some of the most common fire extinguisher types.
Carbon Dioxide (Colour- Black)
Also called clean agents, these fire extinguisher types remove oxygen from the surrounding area, thus inhibiting the growth of a fire. Carbon dioxide extinguishers can be commonly found in cooking areas, these types of extinguishers should not be used in confined locations, as the lack of oxygen may cause asphyxia.
Water (Colour- Red)
Regular water extinguishers are the oldest type and hold an advantage because they will not leave any residue nor will they deprive the user of oxygen. These types of fire extinguishers can commonly be found in areas that contain combustible materials such as wood or fabrics and can also be used outdoors.
The main concern with water extinguishers is that they will disperse certain fires such as those caused by grease; allowing the fire to spread. Additionally, these extinguishers may present an electrocution hazard if used on or around electrical devices.
Wet Chemical (Colour- Yellow)
This type of fire extinguisher will normally contain compounds such as potassium acetate and are intended to form a protective layer over burning liquids; depriving the fire of oxygen while lowering the liquid’s flash point.
These are particularly useful on aircraft and in kitchens where the fire should be smothered. Also, wet chemical extinguishers are highly effective in controlling grease fires. As with the water types of fire extinguishers, contact with live electrical devices can cause electrocution and should be avoided at all costs.
Foam (Colour- Cream)
Foam extinguishers are widely used in industries that deal with combustible and flammable mixtures of fuel. The foam is intended to smother the fire and provide an airtight seal over the burning fuel.
Additionally, foam extinguishers will generally prevent flashback (the fire starting again) and can be used around electrical equipment. As there are many chemicals within the foam, these extinguishers are rarely used around areas that store food or other perishables.
Dry Powder (Colour- Blue)
Dry powder fire extinguishers are excellent at fighting all forms of fire and can be used in nearly all environments. However, they do little to cool the heated material and there is a chance that the fire may reignite.
Additionally, inhalation of the powder may cause respiratory distress and this extinguisher should only be used in a well-ventilated area.
These are the five main types of fire extinguishers that are currently available to the public. Knowing which one to use can help save time, property and most importantly your life.