Last updated: August 16, 2021

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Today we are going to talk about fire extinguishers. As the name suggests, fire extinguishers are devices that serve to extinguish fire. These devices can save your life or your property in case of fire.

As we know, "prevention is better than regret", so it is essential to acquire a fire extinguisher, as far as fire protection is concerned. It is advisable to try to extinguish a fire with a fire extinguisher only if it is an incipient fire and not life-threatening.

When purchasing a fire extinguisher, it is necessary to establish what needs are to be covered. Its proper use can extinguish a small fire, but if it is handled inexpertly, it can be dangerous. Here are the criteria that should be taken into account when choosing a fire extinguisher.




Summary

  • Many of the fire-related accidents could have been avoided. Fire not only causes severe material damage but also puts human life at risk, so a fire extinguisher at home, at work and in places where there is a risk of fire is essential as a means of prevention.
  • A fire extinguisher is a device that serves to extinguish an incipient fire, but it must be used properly, otherwise it can be counterproductive.
  • The type of extinguishing agent is one of the main factors you should pay attention to when purchasing one of these elements, in addition to the size and type of fire they extinguish.

The best Fire Extinguisher: Our Picks

Buying Guide: What you need to know about Fire Extinguishers

A fire extinguisher is a device used to put out an incipient fire, but it must be used properly, otherwise it can be counterproductive. (Photo: rioblanco/ 123rf.com)

What is an extinguisher?

It is a metallic container that contains an extinguishing agent, i.e. a liquid, solid or gaseous substance that, when in contact with a combustion material, extinguishes the fire. It is capable of fighting or extinguishing an incipient fire. When its valve is opened, the extinguishing agent exits through a hose that must be directed to the base of the fire.

A fire extinguisher also has a safety device that prevents accidental actuation. They should be placed visibly in educational institutions, workplaces, commercial premises such as restaurants and hotels, as well as in public or private offices.

Is it advisable to have a fire extinguisher?

Fires can cause severe material damage and even put human life at risk. It is therefore recommended to have a fire extinguisher at home, at work, in the car, as well as in places where there is a risk of fire.

What are the advantages of fire extinguishers?

By law, fire extinguishers must have a label indicating what type of fire they are intended for, as well as operating instructions and information about the amount of extinguishing agent they contain.

Portable extinguishers are the most commonly used, as they are easier to use, and there are different types depending on the extinguishing agent they contain. Here are some of their advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages Disadvantages
Extinguishers containing water as an agent have a great cooling power. The agent is quickly exhausted, the continuous discharge time lasts only about twenty seconds.
Another advantage of water as an extinguishing agent is that it is an environmentally friendly and non-toxic option. The main disadvantage is that water conducts electricity, so it should NEVER be used on electrical fires.
The powder extinguisher is the most common and cheapest extinguisher, used to fight type A, B and C fires.   Its use produces a very fine cloud of powder.
The CO2 extinguisher is used for fires in the presence of electric current and for fires caused by liquid fuels as CO2 is a non-combustible gas and reacts chemically with other substances. They are more expensive than powder extinguishers.

Portable or mobile fire extinguishers - what should you pay attention to?

In order to choose the right extinguisher, we must first familiarise ourselves with the different types of extinguishing agent they contain and the classes of fire. There are different types of fire extinguishers, mainly classified according to their size, as well as by the type of extinguishing agent they contain. These devices are divided according to their size into portable and mobile:

Portable Mobile
It is an extinguisher designed to be transported manually, it has a weight equal to or less than twenty kilograms. they are placed in a visible and easily accessible place. Their weight is greater than twenty kilograms, so they have wheels so that they can be transported.

What is the legislation for fire extinguishers?

The following are the four different types of extinguishing agents that current Mexican legislation provides for:

Clean extinguishing agent Wet chemical extinguishing agent Special extinguishing agents Carbon dioxide
Solid, liquid or gaseous substance capable of extinguishing fire Liquid chemical solution with potassium acetate, potassium carbonate, potassium citrate or a combination of the above Type D fire extinguishing products, i.e. combustible materials Extinguishing agent that works as a gas under pressure by displacement of oxygen in the air

The type of extinguishing agent is one of the main factors to pay attention to when purchasing an extinguishing agent. (Photo: Nimnakorn/ 123rf.com)

Buying Criteria

Here are a few things to consider when choosing the right fire extinguisher for your needs:

Size

As mentioned above, fire extinguishers are classified into portable and mobile extinguishers according to their size. Portable extinguishers can weigh as little as 1 kg, while larger extinguishers (50 kg or more) are equipped with wheels so that they can be moved quickly and easily.

Likewise, an extinguisher weighing more than 20 kg must have a dorsal support. Carbon dioxide extinguishers usually weigh between 2 kg and 5 kg. Powder extinguishers usually weigh 25 kg and foam extinguishers 6 kg.

The portable extinguisher is mainly used to extinguish incipient or small fires, and is frequently found in many premises and buildings, public or private health institutions, as well as in the workplace.

The type and size of the extinguisher will depend on the activity carried out in the building, premises or area to be protected.

Type of fire they extinguish

There are four types of fire: class A fires are those related to solid fuels such as wood, cardboard or plastic; class B fires, where the fuel is liquid, such as oil, petrol or paint; class C fires, i.e. those generated by gases such as butane, propane, etc.

There are also those of class D, where the fuel is a metal: magnesium, sodium or powdered aluminium; and finally those of class K which are produced in cooking appliances involving combustible cooking media such as oils and fats, whether of animal or vegetable origin.

Before using an extinguisher, it is necessary to identify the type of fire it is, because if it is a class A fire, you should aim at the base, but if it is a type B fire, the correct thing to do is to aim at the top.

Extinguishing agent

There are extinguishers with different types of agents, we are going to talk about the main ones, which are water, powder extinguishers, CO2 extinguishers and extinguishers for special fires.

Water extinguishers are the most appropriate for extinguishing type A fires. It is very important to know that this type of extinguishers should not be used in places where there is electricity to avoid the risk of electrocution. They are an environmentally friendly and toxic-free option.

Powder extinguishers are very effective for types A, B and C fire. They are also the most commonly used extinguishers in homes, businesses, public and private buildings. They are made of solid pulverised chemicals. They usually contain metal salts, in the form of alkaline phosphates.

There are also powder extinguishers made with special chemicals that are used to fight class D fires, which act by forming a layer that isolates the particles from the metals, preventing combustion.

C02 extinguishers are extinguishers that are equally suitable for type A, B and C fires. They work at low temperatures and solidify on contact with surfaces

Their use is recommended, especially if there is delicate machinery or electrical equipment in the room where they are to be placed. They are also effective when the fire is caused by gases such as butane, methane, propane and acetylene.

It must be taken into account that it is a chemical element, so, in order to avoid intoxication, it is very important to get out once the fire has been extinguished.

Finally, we have extinguishers for special fires, which are used to extinguish fires caused by metals such as magnesium, aluminium or titanium, among others.

Although some of these devices are only authorised in some military applications, for areas without the presence of life or at least without personnel in the area, there are also portable extinguishers with long-range hoses.

This element, when it comes into contact with the surface of the oil or grease, reacts with it, producing a saponification effect, that is, it turns into a kind of soapy foam that seals the surface, separating it from the air.

For class k fires, i.e. those caused by oils and fats from industrial fryers, cookers, etc., extinguishers containing potassium acetate are used. (photo by pixabay.com)

We hope this information will help you to choose the extinguisher you need and we thank you for taking the time to read this content, see you next time!

(Featured image source: Sasidis Sasisakulporn/ 123rf.com)

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