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How to Select a Fire Extinguisher - Free from EHSO

Fire Inspection Selection

See this page for a quick and easy comparison of the different types of fire extinguishers for home and small offices.

Fire Extinguishers for Business Occupancies

Types of Fire Extinguishers Required - Many city and local Fire Codes requires fire extinguishers to be provided in all business occupancies to protect both the building structure and it's contents. For this reason, extinguishers suitable for use on Class A, B and C fires must be provided. 1 The minimum fire extinguisher rating acceptable for use in business occupancies is 2A-10BC. Extinguishers with higher ratings may be used. Pressurized water type extinguisher are only rated for use on Class A fires. For this reason their use shall be discontinued unless special circumstances exist.

Distribution of Fire Extinguishers - Three factors must be considered in determining the proper distribution of fire extinguishers: the floor area of the protected space; the maximum travel distance to a fire extinguisher; the location of extinguishers in relationship to normal paths of exit travel.

  1. In office areas, fire extinguishers with a minimum rating of 2A-10BC shall be provided at the rate of one unit of "A" rating for every 3000 square feet.
  2. In mercantile, service, and production areas, fire extinguishers with a minimum rating of 2A-10BC shall be provided at the rate of one unit of "A" for every 1500 square feet.
  3. In storage areas, fire extinguishers with a minimum rating of 4A-40BC (usually 4A-60BC are available) shall be provided at the rate of one unit of "A" rating for every 1000 square feet.

Extinguishers shall be located along normal paths of exit travel so that no part of the area protected is more than 75 feet from an extinguisher. Contact the Fire Department prior to occupancy for approval of number, location, and type of fire extinguishers to be installed.

Inspection, Maintenance, and Recharging of Fire Extinguishers - A thorough maintenance check of each fire extinguisher must be made on an annual basis. This maintenance in most states must be performed by someone licensed to do so by the State Fire Marshal. After the annual maintenance, a tag indicating the date of the maintenance and the license number of the person performing the maintenance will be attached to each extinguisher. Please note that new extinguishers will require service if they were not manufactured during the current year. For example, if the label on the extinguisher indicates the date of manufacture to be 1991, the extinguisher, even though just purchased, would require an immediate maintenance check. Additionally, a maintenance check and recharging is required after any use of an extinguisher. The maintenance check and recharging is required even if the extinguisher is only partially discharged.

A monthly inspection of the fire extinguisher is also required. The monthly inspection can be performed by any competent individual and shall include a check of at least the following items:

  1. Located in designated place.
  2. No obstruction to access or visibility.
  3. Operating instructions on nameplate legible and facing outward.
  4. Determine fullness by weighing or "hefting."
  5. Seals of tamper indicators not broken or missing.
  6. Examine for obvious physical damage.
  7. Pressure gauge reading in the operable range.

A record of the monthly inspections of the fire extinguishers shall be kept on the premises for a period of not less than one year. The record shall indicate at a minimum, the date of inspection, the person performing the inspection and any deficiencies noted.

Special Circumstances - Businesses that use hazardous materials such as flammable metals or flammable and combustible materials have additional fire extinguisher requirements. Any area where flammable or combustible liquids are used must be within 30 feet of an extinguisher having a minimum rating of 40-BC or 50 feet of an extinguisher having a rating of 80-BC. These extinguishers may be used to satisfy the general extinguisher requirements if they also have a minimum "A" rating of 2-A.

Flammable metals require special extinguishers. If you are using these materials please call the Fire Department for specific requirements.

Businesses with commercial-type food heat processing equipment shall have the same rating and spacing as for flammable or combustible liquids. Extinguishers used for the protection of cooking grease fires shall be only of sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate dry chemical types.

Providing properly maintained and distributed fire extinguishers is an important first step in establishing a safe environment in which to live and work

1 Class A fires are those occurring in normal combustibles. Class B fires are fire involving flammable or combustible liquids. Class C fires are those involving electrical equipment. Using a fire extinguisher with the wrong rating may actually spread a fire or result in injury to the person using the extinguisher (in the case of electrical fires).

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