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Choosing Fire Extinguishers
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Identify the type of materials in the area
Class A: SOLIDS such as paper, wood, plastic etc
Class B: FLAMMABLE LIQUIDS such as paraffin, petrol, oil etc
Class C: FLAMMABLE GASES such as propane, butane, methane etc
Class D: METALS such as aluminium, magnesium, titanium etc
Class E: Fires involving ELECTRICAL APPARATUS
Class F: Cooking OIL & FAT etc
Water Fire Extinguishers:
The cheapest and most widely used fire extinguishers. Used for Class A fires. Not suitable for Class B (Liquid) fires, or where electricity is involved.
Foam Fire Extinguishers:
More expensive than water, but more versatile. Used for Classes A & B fires. Foam spray extinguishers are not recommended for fires involving electricity, but are safer than water if inadvertently sprayed onto live electrical apparatus.
Dry Powder Fire Extinguishers:
Often termed the ‘multi-purpose’ extinguisher, as it can be used on classes A, B & C fires. Best for running liquid fires (Class B). Will efficiently extinguish Class C gas fires, BUT BEWARE, IT CAN BE DANGEROUS TO EXTINGUISH A GAS FIRE WITHOUT FIRST ISOLATING THE GAS SUPPLY. Special powders are available for class D metal fires.
CO2 Fire Extinguishers:
Carbon Dioxide is ideal for fires involving electrical apparatus, and will also extinguish class B liquid fires, but has NO POST FIRE SECURITY and the fire could re-ignite.
Specialist extinguisher for class F fires.
For Metal Fires: A specialist fire extinguisher for use on Class D fires - metal fires such as sodium, lithium, manganese and aluminium when in the form of swarf or turnings.
Prior to 1st Jan 1997, the code of practice for fire extinguishers in the UK was BS 5423, which advised the colour coding of fire extinguishers as follows:
Water - Red
Foam - Cream
Dry Powder - Blue
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) - Black
Halon - Green (now 'illegal' except for a few exceptions such as the Police, Armed Services and Aircraft).
New extinguishers should conform to BS EN 3, which requires that the entire body of the extinguisher be coloured red. A zone of colour of up to 5% of the external area can be used to identify the contents using the old colour coding shown above.
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