Fire Extinguishers

Stay compliant and keep your people safe with fire extinguishers from Cromwell. Choose from a range of extinguisher types and sizes to best suit your business needs. We carefully select our products to ensure quality and reliability from brand leaders, like Moyne Roberts®, Ultimex® and Kidde®.

What are fire extinguishers?

A fire extinguisher is a portable, immediate response device used to put out or control smaller fires until the emergency services can be called. Made up of a pressurised cannister combined with operating equipment, including triggers and nozzles, fire extinguishers can be standalone, or wall mounted.

Fire extinguishers contain a substance or powder specific to the type of fire. Types of fire are broken down into Class, for example, a Class A fire includes materials such as wood and paper and can be safely extinguished using a water extinguisher.

Why buy fire extinguishers?

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), employers must conduct a fire safety risk assessment for their premises. They must use the findings to establish fire safety measures, which will reduce the risk of injury or death should a fire occur. This includes the purchase and placement of fire extinguishers.

Fire extinguisher types

Fire extinguishers are classified according to their contents and the types of fires they are safe to extinguish (types A, B, C or D). Different types of extinguishers are designed to reduce or remove one or both of the oxygen and heat elements from the fire triangle to prevent the spread and kill the fire. There are five main types of fire extinguisher, all should conform to BS EN 3.

Water extinguisher   -   This type of extinguisher is suitable for putting out Class A fires, where the burning material is a solid combustible, such as wood or paper.

Foam extinguisher   -   Often called an AFFF foam extinguisher, which means Aqueous Film Forming Foams, this type of fire extinguisher forms a blanket of foam over the fire to block out the oxygen. This type will safely extinguish Class A and B fires but are most suited to Class B where the foam can spread over burning liquids, such as petrochemicals.

Carbon dioxide extinguisher (CO2)   -   This type of fire extinguisher is ideal for Class C electrical fires and will change from a liquid to a gas upon discharge, which reduces the oxygen around the fire, essentially smothering it.

Dry powder extinguisher   -   This type of fire extinguisher is suitable for use on Class A, B and C fires. The powder is made up of sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate, and, like the CO2 extinguisher, should only be used in open, well-ventilated areas.

Wet chemical extinguisher   -   These extinguishers contain potassium salts which react upon contact with burning liquids, like deep fryer oil to form a soapy film over the surface to cool and extinguish the flames.

Considerations when choosing a fire extinguisher

Types of fire risk - depending on the type of business, there will be different types of fire risk to contend with. Office fires for example could stem from a solid combustible like paper, or faulty wiring on a computer or charger.

Location - the size of the room or outdoor setting will also dictate the type of extinguisher suitable. For example, a dry powder extinguisher wouldn't be suitable in a small, poorly ventilated canteen.

Staff capability - when purchasing fire extinguishers its important to consider who will be likely to use them and whether they're trained to do so. Training groups of staff as fire wardens who can confidently choose and operate an extinguisher should be a priority.

Weight/size - when using a fire extinguisher on a fire, the general advice is to discharge the contents entirely. Therefore, the size of any potential fire should be estimated when purchasing extinguishers to ensure there is enough on hand to prevent a smaller fire turning into a larger one. When purchasing a large fire extinguisher, ensure the staff who will be using it are strong enough to hold and operate it.

Signage - even though fire extinguishers are colour-coded and clearly labelled, signage that can be seen in lower lighting levels should also be located to ensure the extinguishers are easy to find in all conditions.

Fire extinguisher jargon buster

Fire safety is a big responsibility for any employer. So, to help you to better understand our product range, we've outlined a British and European quality standard:

What does the standard BS EN 3 mean?

BS EN 3 is a quality standard applicable to all portable fire extinguishers made in the UK and Europe. It's a multi-part standard which outlines the required performance characteristics, CE markings and toxicology documentation for extinguishers and the test methods used to assess these.

Let's break it down...

• BS - This is an abbreviation for the British Standards Institute, which is the responsible body in the UK for the publication and monitoring of quality and safety standards.

• EN - An abbreviation for European Norm (according to the German translation), this standard has been adopted by the EU.

• 3 - This is the applicable legislation number.

• Parts - Originally published with parts 1 through 10, this standard has been amended and different parts withdrawn and replaced. Currently, the applicable parts of the standard are parts 7 to 10.

FAQs

When is a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher not suitable?

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are ideal for Class B and C fires; however, this is under the proviso that the area of use is well-ventilated. CO2 extinguishers are highly pressurised at approximately 55 bar which ensures a quick and targeted release where the liquid turns into a gas. If the area is small and poorly ventilated, this gas will smother more than just the fire, there's a real risk of operator asphyxiation.

What is the colour code for fire extinguishers?

To make sure fire extinguishers are easy to identify, they're assigned a universal colour code:

• Water - Red
• Foam - Cream
• Powder - Blue
• Carbon dioxide - Black
• Wet chemical - yellow