Choosing the right extinguisher

Choosing the right extinguisher

11/15/2019 - SPI

In Quebec, in 2015, more than 7% of all reported fires damaged commercial buildings, and almost 6% impacted manufacturing industries. The material losses for these two types of buildings represent more than 41 million dollars for businesses and over 36 million dollars for manufacturing industries1.

There are numerous challenges, impacts and risks. Therefore, it is not surprising that when making decisions related to fire protection, companies are insisting first on quality.

Decision-makers often choose fire extinguishers showing the best rating, which is often very logical. After all, a better-rated extinguisher will fight fires more efficiently. But is it really the case? In high-risk environments, the evaluation of the device must not be the only criteria to consider when selecting an extinguisher.

For some very specific risks, such as pressurized flammable liquids and gases or three-dimensional fires, for example, it is the size and flow rate of the extinguisher that should be at the basis of product selection, not only its evaluation.

In light of this information, it may be complex, even counterintuitive, to choose the right equipment. Still today, there is a lot of confusion about the different types of extinguishers and their proper use. For example, how a lower-rated extinguisher can prove efficient to fight certain fires comparing to a higher-rated extinguisher?

This confusion can lead to an increased risk to profitability, productivity and fixed assets.

How long does it take to empty an extinguisher?

Among the factors used to calculate the rating of a fire extinguisher class ABC, one is the discharge time required to completely empty the dry chemical agent inside the cylinder. Ironically, for some fires, a longer discharge time will achieve better results. A more extended discharge can also be useful for a novice who lacks experience in handling an extinguisher. As a matter of fact, the user will have more time to correct the aim in case of misuse.

However, a long discharge time may become problematic in high-risk environments, such as for pressurized fires, three-dimensional fires or fire with obstacles. Therefore, the user must use an extinguisher that meets or even exceeds the minimum discharge rate of one pound per second.

In case of fire, one thing is certain; the extinguisher must discharge a large quantity of chemical agents very quickly. However, as high-flow extinguishers tend to have a lower rating, they are often overlooked when, in fact, they are the optimal choice for high-risk environments.

All high-flow extinguishers are not created equal

Even though recent tests continue to demonstrate the superior efficiency of high-flow extinguishers in dangerous environments with flammable liquids and gases, these extinguishers are not all equal. Therefore, it is important to select the proper tool, which is the one that will lower the risks, both for the workers and fixed assets, in case of fire while offering great value.

For example, a portable cartridge extinguisher will have a higher acquisition cost than a pressure-stored model. However, the cartridge model has a greater long-term value as it is designed to face operational and environmental challenges in high-risk industries.

The extinguisher availability should not be overlooked

An environment with a greater risk of fire requires that extinguishers must be functional at any time: before, during and even after the work period. If an extinguisher has been used, damaged or completely emptied, the wait time for a replacement or refill may have an impact on productivity, profitability, and especially the safety of activities.

An auxiliary pressure extinguisher can be recharged at the work site in only a few minutes without requiring special tools. So, this type of equipment is ready to contain and extinguish fires, even after being used. On the contrary, stored-pressure fire extinguishers must be refilled by a certified technician with special equipment, which means additional downtime when the extinguisher is not ready to use.

Make durability a priority

In environments where there is a high risk, extinguishers are subject to less than ideal conditions. It is not uncommon that certain parts are damaged. When this happens, it is difficult to know if the unit still complies with operating standards or if it should be removed from the site.

Cartridge extinguishers are leaving nothing to chance. They are more robust and designed to face critical conditions in high-risk industrial environments.

Reliability, simplicity and compliance

Extinguishers must be reliable. Their operation in critical situations is crucial. Therefore, they must be in perfect condition for when their use will be required. In other words, extinguishers must be ready to give their very best, each and every time.

Cartridge extinguishers are designed so that all non-fixed parts can be inspected at any time. With their ease of use and accessibility, these extinguishers are always compliant and ready to use.

Ease of use in critical periods

To fight fires, the user must be able to move easily and stay safe while wielding the extinguisher. It is especially important in critical environments or in locations where the user may not have the option of fleeing from danger. The ease of use becomes a priority for organizations that wish to lower their risks.

Cartridge extinguishers are designed with ergonomics in mind to maximize the user’s performance. The handle is positioned so the extinguisher is inclined at a 45-degree for easy transport on stairs. The nozzle has a specific angle in a way that it points directly at the base of the fire. Hoses are also longer, offering the user greater mobility when handling the extinguisher.

The right tool for a high-risk environment

The cartridge extinguisher offers a few additional advantages compared to more traditional models in high-risk environments, which means less loss, ease of use, durability and reliability.

Remember that in these situations, a high-flow extinguisher (with a lower UL rating) may seem counterintuitive, but is often better adapted.

Don’t hesitate to communicate with our experts to learn more about the different types and models of extinguishers, and find out which ones are better suited to your situation.