Five Types Of Fire Extinguishers And When To Use Them

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Fire can quickly claim lives, and even if nobody gets hurt it can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to your home or business. It's best to do all you can to prevent fires in the first place, but if one does happen to break out, having a fire extinguisher on hand allows you to get things under control before too much damage is done.

The thing is, not all fire extinguishers are the same. There are five major types of fire extinguishers, and each has a different purpose. It's important to choose the one that is right for your business' needs. To help you in that regard, here is a look at those five types of fire extinguishers, the types of fires they put out, and how to use them. 

Water and Foam Fire Extinguishers

This type of fire extinguisher releases a stream of water, along with some foam. The water helps douse the actual fire, cooling it down. The foam serves as a barrier between the flaming materials and the air, preventing additional oxygen from reaching the fire. Without oxygen access, the fire stops burning rather quickly.

Water and foam extinguishers are sometimes called Class A fire extinguishers. This is because they only put out fires affecting Class A substances: paper, cloth, plastic, wood, and rubber. 

Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishers

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers work by lowering the temperature of the material on fire. The CO2 is compressed within the tank, and when it is released into the air, it becomes very cold. (It will even form dry ice if you isolate it!). As the burning substance becomes saturated in CO2, its oxygen exposure decreases.

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers work well on fires caused by flammable liquids and also on electrical fires. They are sometimes sold as Class B fire extinguishers. Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers do not work overly well for a material like wood or paper, but they may provide some fire control if you catch the fire early and don't have any other option. 

Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher

This is the most common type of fire extinguisher used in homes, and it's probably a good choice for your business, too, if you are concerned both about fires with Class A materials and electrical sources. Dry chemical fire extinguishers put out most any type of fire.

The chemicals in this type of fire extinguisher are not overly dangerous. Usually sodium bicarbonate, which is baking soda, is used. Some versions use potassium bicarbonate, which is a bit more effective at smothering larger fires. when you spray the extinguisher on the fire, it coats the flaming material with a layer of powder, essentially smothering the fire.

Wet Chemical Fire Extinguisher

A wet chemical fire extinguisher is sometimes called a Class K fire extinguisher. It is primarily effective at stopping grease fires. Though dry chemical fire extinguishers can put out grease fires, too, they are not quite as effective as wet chemical fire extinguishers. So, if your primary concern in your place of business is grease fires (such as if you run a kitchen with a lot of fryers), having a wet chemical fire extinguisher on hand is smart.

Water Mist Fire Extinguisher

This is a very basic type of fire extinguisher that only sprays a fine mist of water at your fire. It might be a good basic choice if you want the ability to put out small fires without having to clean up a big mess afterwards. (Water is easier to clean up than foam or chemical powders.) Water mist fire extinguishers won't put out grease or electrical fires, but they work well for paper, plastic, and other common materials. You should definitely keep another fire extinguisher on hand, too, to ensure you can extinguish more extensive fires that won't respond to plain water mist.

Discover more on sites of local fire extinguisher services.