Fire safety for business owners: fire extinguishers

October 30th, 2014

According to the Alberta Fire Code, fire extinguishers are required in all commercial buildings. Their selection, installation, and maintenance should conform to the National Fire Protection Association Standard 10 (NFPA 10), “Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers”. These types of extinguishers are designed to control and extinguish small burning fires, they are not designed for large fires. If you cannot control a fire with a single fire extinguisher, exit the building as this fire will spread and grow out of control.

Before you can select an extinguisher, take a minute to familiarize yourself with the different types of fire classes.

Class A:  fires in ordinary combustible materials such as: wood, cloth, paper, rubber, and many plastics.

Class B: fires in flammable liquids, combustible liquids, petroleum greases, tars, oils, oil-based paints, solvents, lacquers, alcohols, and flammable gases.

Class C: fires that involve energized electrical equipment.

Class D: fires in combustible metals such as: magnesium, titanium, zirconium, sodium, lithium, and potassium.

Class K: fires in cooking appliances that involve combustible cooking media (vegetable or animal oils and fats).

Each class of fire can only be extinguished with the appropriate type fire extinguisher. For example: a Class A water-based fire extinguisher would be harmful to the user and not be effective in extinguishing a live electrical Class C fire.

The most common extinguisher available is the multi-purpose ABC extinguishers that are effective against all Class A, B, and C type fires. These extinguishers use a dry chemical compound to smother the fire by separating the burning fuel from the oxygen.
Portable fire extinguishers should be installed on the hook provided by the manufacturer or inside cabinets or wall recesses. These mounts or cabinets should be located along normal paths of travel including exits from areas. Nothing should be placed in front of the fire extinguishers that would obstruct the view or access to the extinguisher.

Do not place fire extinguishers inside a hazardous area. For example, if fires are foreseeable in the commercial kitchen, do not place extinguishers under the cooking apparatus; this would put the user at risk when reaching for it.

If a fire is detected:
• Sound the alarm
• Begin evacuating the building
• Call the fire department

If the use of a fire extinguisher is possible and safe, here are some tips:

• Know your escape route. Do not trap yourself with the fire between you and your exit. Keep the exit at your back so you can leave if the situation changes.
• Stand 8 Ft. (2.4m) back from the fire.
• Remember ‘PASS’

P ull the pin on the handle of the fire extinguisher
A im the nozzle at the base of the fire
S queeze or press the trigger with even pressure
S weep the extinguisher from side to side

If the fire does not extinguish and you are running out of extinguishing agent, then leave the area immediately. It is likely the fire is too large for your extinguisher and you will not be able to control this fire as it spreads

Fire extinguishers should be manually inspected every 30 days and an inspection record should be kept by personnel trained and certified to perform the inspection.

While performing an inspection, look for the following:

• Is the extinguisher still located in the designated place and hasn’t gone missing?
• Are there any obstructions to access the extinguisher?
• Is the pressure gauge reading in the operable position?
• If you’ve got an extinguishers with a hose, is the hose obstructed?
• Is the pin seal still in place and not broken?

Unless the monthly inspection identifies a problem, fire extinguishers should be maintained on an annual basis.

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