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Fire Extinguisher Guide

Fire extinguishers help to stop small fires at home or work to become larger and more dangerous fires. In the workplace it is a legal requirement to have appropriate firefighting equipment. The exact nature of your firefighting equipment is determined in businesses' Fire Risk Assessments. Alternatively, BAFE approved service engineers can identify the correct types and quantities of extinguishers required. Fire extinguishers are estimated to save the UK economy £500 million each year in avoided damages and injuries so are worth the small investment for a business giving also peace of mind. This information section provides information on the different types of extinguisher commonly available so you can make an informed choice about what type is best for your particular risks.

There are largely five types of extinguisher, each of which is good for extinguishing specific types of fire. The different types come in the form of: water, foam, powder, CO2 (carbon dioxide) and wet chemical.

Water is the most common and most economical type of extinguisher. It can extinguish flammable solid fires such as hay, wood, paper, sugar and coal. This type of fire is known as class A fire.

An AFFF foam extinguisher is also suitable for extinguishing flammable solids but also extinguishes flammable liquid fires including paint, petrol and diesel fires. Flammable liquid fires are known as class B fires. Please note that foam extinguishers are NOT suitable for cooking fat fires!

Dry powder extinguishers are suitable for multi purpose risks. They can put out flammable solid fires, liquid and gas fires as well as electrical fires. In terms of fire classes, a dry powder fire extinguisher can extinguish class A, B, C and electrical fires. Again they cannot be used on pan fires or deep fat fryer fires.

A CO2 extinguisher is capable of extinguishing flammable liquid fires but is mainly used to safely extinguish fires involving live electrical equipment. Do not use on pan fires and fat fires.

A wet chemical extinguisher is capable of extinguishing cooking fat fires (Class F fires). They can extinguish deep fat fryer fires that occur at home, in restaurant kitchens, cafes, chip shops etc. In terms of fire class, our wet chemical extinguishers are capable of extinguishing class A and Class F fires.

Choose the best location for your Fire Extinguisher

You should site your fire extinguishers in a place where you can see them clearly and reach them quickly in an emergency. Preferably on an exit route or close to a particular risk. Your extinguisher should be fitted to the wall about 1 metre from the ground and should have an extinguisher identification sign mounted above it.

Maintaining your extinguishers

It is recommended that you visually inspect your fire extinguishers monthly and record the information in your fire log book. Look out for any sign of tampering. This may be missing or broken tamper tags or pins. Check or any signs of discharge. This may be water, powder or foam traces in the hose of the extinguisher. Make sure gauges are not showing low or high pressure (not CO2, as CO2 extinguishers do not have gauges). Check of any damage to fire extinguishers such as rust, dents, missing parts etc. Workplaces with a high risk of damage to their fire extinguishers such as those kept on haulage vehicles should be particularly vigilant. Any replacement fire extinguishers, fire blankets or signs can be bought online at discount prices from www.nationwidefirefire

In addition a BAFE certified extinguisher engineer should service your fire extinguishers once a year in line with British Standard 5306 part 3. Ask us for competitive nationwide extinguisher servicing. During this annual service, the engineer carries out various procedures on your fire extinguishers depending on their make and type. Generally, the service includes: Checking all fire extinguisher parts such as: valves, safety devices, gauges, and operating mechanisms. Checking externally for corrosion. The weight is also recorded and checked to fall within the appropriate range. The engineer also compiles a ’Certificate of Inspection’ - a legal record of the maintenance carried out on the fire extinguishers to be kept by the customer and engineer. Again, the service must be recorded in the fire safety logbook.

Every five years (ten years for CO2 extinguishers) an extended extinguisher service must be carried out. This generally involves a test discharge of the fire extinguisher, the checking of internal and external parts and then a recharging of the fire extinguisher to be again ready for use. CO2 extinguishers must be completely overhauled after ten years, as they hold very high pressure. Most companies, rather than refurbishing CO2 extinguishers on site, carry out a ‘service exchange’ for CO2 and even powder fire extinguishers when they are due overhaul or discharge. A Service Exchange is when the servicing company exchanges your old extinguisher for a new or refurbished extinguisher. Buying new fire extinguishers from Nationwide Fire Extinguishers may prove to be more cost-effective than service exchanging old units.

Extinguisher Signs

Each extinguisher should be accompanied by appropriate safety signage. These extinguisher ID signs indicate the type of extinguisher and the safe use of the particular type. Nationwide Fire Extinguishers stocks a wide variety of low cost fire safety signs.

Wall mounting

Fire extinguishers should, where possible, be wall mounted on a suitable bracket or placed on a fire extinguisher stand. Fire extinguishers should never be used to prop doors open - Especially fire doors which should remain shut unless an automatic closing device has been fitted. Our extinguishers are all supplied with wall brackets free of charge. We also sell fire extinguisher stands.

More info

All our fire extinguishers are supplied fully charged and ready-to-use. They are also protected by anti-tamper tags.


Reviewed: 01/02/2020 (doc:495 V1.0). Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. Please note that we provide abridged, easy-to-understand guidance. To make detailed decisions about your fire safety provisions, you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.


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