4 Factors to Consider When Determining the Right Size Fire Extinguisher for Your Facility
- Fire extinguisher size ratings
- Potential fire risks
- Size of the room and fuel load
- Employee capabilities
Fire extinguishers — and employees properly trained in their use — are vitally important for protecting lives and business assets. Yes, your business needs portable fire extinguishers, even if you have a sprinkler or fire suppression system.
Portable fire extinguishers are designed to allow building occupants to fight incipient-stage fires to prevent the fire from spreading or to escape to safety. However, fire suppression systems and sprinklers are often activated when the fire has already begun its growth stage. By then, it’s most likely too late to prevent costly damage.
Fire extinguishers come in all different types and sizes. So how do you determine the suitable size fire extinguisher for your business? Here is a concise guide to fire extinguisher sizing considerations.
How to Determine Fire Extinguisher Sizing for Your Facility
Fire extinguisher sizing depends on various factors. Here are four factors to consider when determining the right size fire extinguisher for your facility.
1. Fire Extinguisher Size Ratings
Fire extinguisher ratings indicate the fire size they can extinguish effectively. For Class A fires, this rating is expressed as a number from 1-40. For Class B fires, it is expressed as a number from 1-640. The higher the numbers, the larger the fire that can be extinguished. Higher numbers will generally be found on larger extinguishers.
2. Potential Fire Risks
Every business faces different hazards and fire risks. Remember your business environment and fire hazards when choosing a fire extinguisher size. For instance, the size and type of fire that is likely to occur in an office building is much different than one that could arise in an industrial workplace.
3. Size of the Room and Fuel Load
Do you have an average-sized room with limited combustible materials or a large warehouse where the fuel load is more significant and a fire has more room to spread? Room size and fuel load can mean the difference between a 5-lb extinguisher and a 30-lb extinguisher.
4. Employee Capabilities
A large, high-capacity fire extinguisher will be of no use unless employees can lift and use it. If your extinguisher is too heavy or bulky, depending on the capabilities of the average employee, you could be creating a dangerous situation. Generally, people will have no trouble using a 5-lb extinguisher. However, once you get heavier than that, it may start to become more difficult for some.
How to Use a Fire Extinguisher
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Choosing a Suitable Fire Extinguisher Size for Your Business
Many businesses struggle with important fire extinguisher questions: What size do we need? How many do we need? Where do we place them and how far apart do they need to be?
Fire extinguishers are complex, but the good news is that you don’t have to figure out sizing on your own. If your company needs further help selecting and installing the right type and size, it’s best to consult a fire protection company specializing in portable fire extinguisher equipment to ensure you’re well prepared. Our licensed technicians will identify, install, and maintain the correct type of fire extinguishers for your facility per NFPA codes and local AHJ requirements.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published on March 3, 2019, and has been updated for accuracy and current best practices.