Your 101 Guide To Fire Extinguisher Servicing
Imagine the horror.
Part of your building catches fire. It starts small, fires always do.
You’ve noticed it straight away though and feel confident you can put it out before it escalates. You reach for the fire extinguisher that’s been positioned on the wall for several years.
You follow the instructions and…nothing happens! Your fire extinguisher has let you down when you need it the most. You’re left with the sinking feeling that this small fire will develop fast. You’d better evacuate and hope the fire crew can get there quickly, otherwise the whole place will go up.
When Did You Last Have Your Extinguisher Serviced?
Without a robust servicing schedule, the doomsday scenario detailed above could become a reality.
We all hope we’ll never have to use a fire extinguisher, however it’s imperative that it works properly if we ever do.
If you’re the business owner or the fire marshal responsible for keeping your extinguishers in good condition, it’s your responsibility to ensure a servicing plan is put in place.
Hiring a professional engineer or technician to service and maintain your fire extinguishers is crucial to any business’s health and safety plan.
It is also a requirement for majority of insurance companies out there, that a certificate is valid covering the annual inspection of the fire extinguishers.
Different Servicing For Different Types Of Fire Extinguisher
There are two main types of extinguisher; stored pressure fire extinguishers and cartridge operated fire extinguishers.
Here is what you can expect from both basic and extended services, carried out by a professional engineer, for each different type of extinguisher.
Stored Pressure Fire Extinguishers
These extinguishers are always pressurised with dry air or oxygen free compressed nitrogen. These are usually water, powder or foam.
They are the most commonly available fire extinguishers on the market and can be used on a range of different fires, depending on the specific type of stored pressure extinguisher you have.
A basic service should be carried out once a year by a qualified engineer and will consist of the following:
An extended service for a stored pressure extinguisher
Should be conducted once every five years and consists of a basic service as above, but includes;
Cartridge Operated Fire Extinguishers
The difference with cartridge operated extinguishers is the cylinder itself (which still contains an extinguishing agent like water, foam or powder), isn’t pressurised.
They come with an additional gas cartridge which contains highly pressurised CO2.
This pressure is released once the handle is squeezed which, in turn, pierces through the gas cartridge.
Servicing a cartridge extinguisher is the same as stored pressure, but instead of recharging the extinguisher with compressed gas, the internal co2 cylinder is simply replaced for new.
Cartridge extinguishers do not have a pressure gauge this is how you can tell the 2 apart.
Should You Service Or Get A New Extinguisher?
This is something that your engineer or technician will be best advising you on. Often, a five-year extended service can be a lot more cost effective to a customer than replacing extinguishers.
Various things like the regularity of basic services, whether the extinguishers have been used and how they have been historically maintained can all have an impact on which option is safest and most cost-effective.
It’s worth noting that, as a guideline, all extinguishers should be replaced after 20 years. (co2 extinguishers would be 10 years) If in doubt, speak to a fire safety specialist.
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