What Is A Fire Extinguisher?

Fire extinguishers are used to extinguish or control small fires. They are not meant to fight large or growing fires. Only attempt to fight a fire if the flames are shorter than you, and if the flames are contained in a small space.

There are two types of fire extinguishers: those with internal stored pressure and those where a cartridge system is used to deliver pressure.

Both variants work on the basic principle, when activated the extinguishing agent is released in a rapid burst, removing any of the three basic elements needed for combustion—oxygen, heat or fuel.

Why Do Buildings Have Fire Extinguishers?

The Building Code of Australia volume 1 parts EP1.2, E1.6 and H3.11 detail the mandatory requirement for fire extinguishers to be provided in various classes of buildings.

Where Should Fire Extinguishers Be Located?

Australian Standard AS2444 specifies the criteria for the selection of portable fire extinguishers and the requirements for their application, location and distribution.

There are no simple rules to follow because each building is different, both in its layout, and fire risks. The hazards must be assessed and rated either light, ordinary or high. The class of fire, hazard rating and the extinguisher performance rating are matrixed to provide travel distance from the extinguisher to the hazard and the maximum floor area to be covered by each extinguisher.

Types Of Fire Fuel

Fuels are divided into six classes. This method of categorising fuels into classes assists you to identify of the type of extinguishing agent required to extinguish a particular class of fire.

Class A  Combustible materials.

Class B Flammable liquids.

Class C Flammable gases.

Class D Flammable metals.

Class E Electrically energised equipment.

Class F Cooking oil and fats (kitchen fires).

How Do I Operate A Fire Extinguisher?

There are 4 steps to operating a Fire Extinguisher; The easiest way to remember this is PASS.

Maintenance, Inspection & Testing

Western Australia’s building legislation requires owners of Class 2 to Class 9 buildings (which includes residential apartments) to ensure the building’s firefighting services and equipment are maintained.

This is to ensure that safety systems remain capable of performing to a standard not less than they were originally required and commissioned to achieve.

There is a financial penalty for noncompliance with the building legislation.

The Building Commission considers the adoption of Australian Standard AS1851-2012 Routine service of fire protection systems and equipment as good practice and a means for owners to ensure fire safety measures are serviced at regular frequencies to demonstrate suitable operation, and rectified or repaired if necessary to meet their regulatory obligation on maintenance.

AS1851 requires fire extinguishers to be inspected every six months. There are additional inspection and test checklists required to be undertaken yearly and five yearly.

Fire Extinguisher Ratings

Australian standard AS/NZS1850 Portable fire extinguishers- Classification, rating and performance testing sets out test methods to rate product performance.

The standard classifies extinguishers according to the general classes of fires for which they are suitable. Tests for fire classes A,B,C,D,E and F are included.

Where an extinguisher is classified with more than one letter, it means it is effective on more than one type of fire. e.g 2A:30B:E extinguisher, could be used on a type A, B, or E fire.

The number in front of the letter is used to compare the performance of extinguishers. For class A fires the numbers range from 1 to 10, for class B they are from 2 to 80, and for class f they go from 1 to 4. Except for water extinguishers, all the other extinguishers can put out more than one type of fire.

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