Choosing the right fire extinguisher is vital. There isn't a single type of fire extinguisher that is right for every type of fire, so you will need to make sure that you have access to the right type of extinguisher in the event of a fire. You could choose to buy your fire extinguishers or to rent them depending on your circumstances. You will also need to consider the cost of future servicing to maintain your fire extinguishers in good working condition.
The type of extinguisher you should choose will depend on where you want to place the extinguisher and what types of material are present in that area. There are six categories of materials to think about, and each requires a particular type of fire extinguisher.
Type A is materials such as wood, paper, and textiles.
Type B is petrol, diesel and other flammable liquids, with the exception of cooking oil.
Type C is for gases like methane, butane and propane
Type D is metals such as magnesium, lithium and aluminium
Type E is electrical equipment
Type F is cooking oil and other fats.
Water fire extinguishers are the most common type of fire extinguisher. They the the easiest to maintain. They deal with the fire by spraying it with water. These are suitable for type A fires.
Water mist extinguishers exude a fine mist comprised of demineralised water particles. These are safe to use on fire types A-C & F. They work by reducing the oxygen supply to the fire. Being suitable for multiple types of fire often means that only one type of extinguisher is needed for a building.
Foam extinguishers can be used on fires of type A & B. These work by smothering the fire.
Dry powder extinguishers will work on fire types A-C, and sometimes on type D fires. They work by smothering the fire. They should only be used in well-ventilated areas, not in offices or homes.
CO2 extinguishers can be used on type B & E fires. They work by suffocating the fire without damaging electrical equipment.
Wet chemical extinguishers are the best solution for type F fires. This is the extinguisher most commonly found in restaurant kitchens, where deep fat fryers are present.
Knowing the right type of extinguisher to use in your environment will help to keep you safe and prevent you making a bad situation worse. Remember you should only use an extinguisher if you can do so safely, and you should always ensure that the Fire Service has been called first.