When it comes to fire safety, fire extinguishers are the gold standard. They’re compact, easy to use, and, when it comes to a fire emergency, can quite literally save your life. Most people know this, but, what isn’t as well known, is that your fire extinguisher, whether it be at home or in your workplace, needs to be inspected regularly by a certified technician to be as effective as possible. Here are just a few reasons why fire extinguisher maintenance is so important.
How Do Fire Extinguishers Work?
All fires need three things to burn
The job of your fire extinguisher is to take one of these elements away and bring the whole fire triangle tumbling down. They usually aim to remove one or two of these factors in order to put out the fire.
The inside of a fire extinguisher is very much like a big aerosol can, only there are two different substances inside. One is designed for fighting the fire itself while the other is a propellant, or a pressurized chemical that causes the fire fighting substance to shoot out at high speed when you press the handle. Foam fire extinguishers actually have a third chemical inside that creates a larger volume of foam that can easily cut off the fire’s oxygen supply. There are many types of fire extinguishers designed primarily for the type of fire they may be most likely to be used in. The most common type is an ABC which has pretty universal use.
According to the NFPA, up to 30% of portable fire extinguishers in use are not in good working order. This means that, when you need it the most, your fire extinguisher might fail to protect you and your property.
Why Do Fire Extinguishers Need to Be Inspected?
In order to keep your fire extinguisher in the best shape possible, you want to make sure that it is being inspected at least once a month. You should have a certified technician complete an annual maintenance and inspection once a year. Even if you don’t see anything physically wrong with your fire extinguisher, there can be damage present that would make it less effective in an emergency. One example of this is that corrosion can happen inside of aluminum or steel fire extinguishers, weakening the integrity of the extinguisher over time. Getting it checked often prevents corrosion like this from getting too severe. A proper inspection can also identify blockages or damage to the hose of the extinguisher. Bugs and debris can get stuck in there, keeping the extinguishing chemicals from coming out quickly and smoothly.
Even if you haven’t used your fire extinguisher, it can experience wear and tear over time, especially if you have them stocked in outdoor or warehouse settings. If this happens to the label, it could obscure the instructions that the user would need in the case of an actual fire as well as information for fire extinguisher service technicians. In the case that a fire extinguisher has been used, you need to make sure that it has been properly recharged and certified for re-use by a licensed technician and is ready for whenever you need it next.