Safety is one of the most important things in life. Fires happen all the time, and it’s important to keep your family and yourself safe from them. It is good practice to store a fire extinguisher in your home, there are cheap and affordable deals these days. A fire extinguisher can be a great way to put out fires, but not all fire extinguishers are created equal!
There are different types of fire extinguishers for different uses that should be used properly when you need them. This blog post will cover types of fire extinguishers and which fire extinguishers to use for electrical fires and flammable liquids. But before then, here is a section on how fire extinguishers work.
How To Use a Fire Extinguisher
The fire extinguishers’ two primary functions are to cool a fire and suffocate the oxygen. The chemicals inside do this by releasing either CO or N02 gas into the air, which will cause it to heat up and turn into a solid substance that can be easily put out with water.
Therefore, it’s important to be well trained when using an extinguisher not to aim at the flames directly, but instead, point towards where you want the flame extinguished so as not to make matters worse!
How are Fire Extinguishers Classified?
Fires are caused by different materials, which dictate the fire extinguishers’ class when fighting it. Below are the various categories depending on the material causing the fire:
- A: Ordinary combustibles, such as wood and paper.
- B: Flammable liquids like gasoline, paraffin, or oil.
- C: Flammable gases like methane, butane, or propane
- D: burning metals like magnesium, aluminum, or lithium
- A fire caused by electrical equipment, usually indicated by an electric spark symbol. The fire may be caused by faulty wiring, frayed cords, and overloaded circuits.
- F: fires caused by cooking oils and fats
It is important to note that fire extinguishers are designed for specific types of fires, so do make sure you know what kind you’re dealing with!
Types of Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguishers are presented in different types depending on the material they are used to fighting fires. These types are:
Water fire extinguishers are the most common type and are suitable for fighting class A fires. They eject water at high pressures to extinguish the flames. In addition, the water brings a cooling effect on the fire, causing the fire to burn slowly till it extinguishes. Water fire extinguishers are labeled in a bright red color.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are mainly used to put out electrical fires. They can also be used to fight fires caused by flammable liquids like petrol, but should never be used in fires caused by flammable metals or kitchen fires. This fire extinguisher forms a coating on the fire to prevent the combustion of oxygen that accelerates the rate of burning. Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are labeled in black color.
Also known as ABC extinguishers, they can be used to fight fires of classes A, B, and C. When sprayed into the fire, the dry powder prevents further oxygen combustion, slowing down the burning rate. Note, dry powder extinguishers should not be used in an enclosed room since the powder can easily be inhaled and is hectic to clean up after the fire is put out. Dry powder fire extinguishers are denoted using a blue color.
Wet chemical fire extinguishers are best suited for category F fires. It contains potassium as a chemical, usually expelled as a fine mist. The chemical reacts with the fat, creating a layer of foam that prevents further burning. The color label for wet chemical fire extinguishers is yellow. Never be use wet chemical fire extinguishers for electrical or fires involving flammable gases or metals.
Foam fire extinguishers work much like water extinguishers and can be used to put out fires caused by organic materials like fabrics, wood, paper, and cardboard. When used on a fire, they create a cooling effect on the object, causing fire, and the aqueous film-forming form contained in the extinguisher creates a barrier that prevents further burning. You can also use foam fire extinguishers for flammable liquids like paint or petrol. They are marked using a cream color.
Which Fire Extinguisher Should be Used for Electrical Fires
Electrical fires can be caused by a short circuit, faulty wiring, or overloaded electrical outlets. When putting out electrical fires, you should use fire extinguishers with non-conductive substances. Class A fire extinguishers contain water, which poses a high risk of electrocution when used.
To put out electrical fires, you can use dry powder and carbon dioxide fire extinguishers. Dry powder fire extinguishers have chemicals such as potassium chloride, monoammonium phosphate, and potassium bicarbonate that suppress the fire by forming a layer over the burning material, slowing down the burn rate, and eventually putting out the fire.
Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers prevent further burning by expelling carbon dioxide gas, forming a layer on the burning material. The gas also has a cooling effect that slows down the rate of burning.
Dealing with electrical fires can be risky. Having a professional firefighter deal with the fire is better since they are well trained and have the necessary equipment.
Which Fire Extinguisher for Flammable Liquids
Fires caused by flammable liquids are categorized as class type B. The flammable liquids include petrol, paraffin, diesel, and paint, among others. These types of fires spread very fast as the molecules diffuse easily in the air.
Fire extinguishers you can use to put off such fires are foam, carbon dioxide, and dry powder types. When sprayed over the flammable liquid, the substances form a protective layer over the liquid, preventing further combustion. When using a dry powder fire extinguisher, use it in an open place to avoid inhaling the toxic chemicals.
How Often Should You Check Your Extinguisher?
It is recommended that homeowners check their fire extinguishers once a year, and professionals should inspect them twice per month to ensure they’re working properly. If the pressure gauge starts reading “empty,” then it’s time for an inspection because the fire extinguisher’s effectiveness has been compromised.
Fires are unpredictable, and they happen when we least expect them. Having a fire extinguisher ready helps prevent excessive damage. There are different fire extinguishers depending on the substance they contain and the type of fires they fight. To avoid mix up and accidents:
- Ensure you use the right kind of extinguisher for each fire type.
- Engage a trained professional to help you in case the fire overwhelms you.
- Remember, safety comes first!