Fire extinguishers are essential pieces of safety equipment in any office. However, not all fire extinguishers are the same, so what kind of extinguisher does your office building need? Each place a fire might occur requires an extinguisher specific to that location and potential class of fire. There’s a lot to know about choosing the right office fire extinguishers for your building’s needs, so be sure to make an informed choice to keep your property and your associates safe.
Fire extinguishers are designed to combat fires of different classes. Fire classes are determined by what fuels the fire, so you will need to assess your environment for potential risks of each fire class.
For example, if you are in a design studio that houses large amounts of paint, a Class B fire (fire fueled by flammable liquid or gas) is a possibility. In that case, a standard water extinguisher made for a Class A fire (fire fueled by paper, wood, straw, etc.) would not be suitable. You would need a foam extinguisher made to fight Class B fires.
Reading up on fire classes and extinguishers can help you determine what fire classes are a risk in your office.
How many extinguishers you need and what size they should be is determined by the size of your space, level of hazard, and the recommendations of local and national fire codes. You will need to know the square footage of your office area in order to purchase the correct number of extinguishers and situate them properly.
Each type of fire extinguisher is designed to put out a specific class of fire. Some extinguishers are made to fight more than one class of fire. This is why it is vital to assess the types of fires you could potentially face in your office environment. There are five main types of fire extinguisher. Each is designed to cope with a specific fire hazard, but some are combination and can be used for more than one type of fire.
Water extinguishers are used for Class A fires. Class A fires are fueled by ordinary combustibles such as paper, wood, fabric, trash, and plastics. Offices tend to have a lot of Class A fire sources including paper recycling bins, wooden furniture, curtains, and carpets.
While they are made to fight Class A fires, foam fire extinguishers can also be used against Class B fires. Class B fires involve flammable liquids and gases, such as gas and paint. Class B fire sources are usually found in offices in the form of cleaner and furniture polish.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) fire extinguishers are made to fight electrical fires (Class C) and Class B fires fueled by flammable liquids. Electrical fires are an obvious risk in the typical office since sources can include computers, printers, photocopiers, speakers, and electric heaters.
Fire extinguishers that emit powder are versatile. They can extinguish Class A, B, and C fires. This may be a good choice for an office environment containing risks for all three fire types.
Fires fueled by cooking oils and fat (i.e. build up in a grease catch), Class K fires, require a wet chemical fire extinguisher. Wet chemical models are effective against Class A fires as well. These extinguishers are most often found in commercial kitchens where grease fires are more likely to occur.
The 3 most common types of fire extinguishers needed in an office are Water, CO2 & Foam.
The fire hazard level of your building depends on the quantity and type of combustible materials housed there. This rating determines which kind of extinguisher you need as well as how far apart they should be stored.
Most offices fall into this category. Light hazard spaces do not contain many combustible materials. Water and foam extinguishers designed to fight Class A and B fires is the logical choice for this level of hazard. They should be stored no more than 75 feet apart.
Spaces at this level present more of a risk because they have a small quantity of flammable liquid on the premises and a greater amount of combustible materials (e.g. a laundromat). The greater risk of electrical fires in this environment may require CO2 extinguishers as well as water and foam extinguishers. Extinguishers here are stored every 75 feet.
These locations contain a considerable amount of flammable liquids without being high risk. Examples include manufacturing plants and hardware stores. Extinguishers capable of fighting a Class B flammable liquid fire (foam, CO2, or powder) should be stored every 30 to 50 feet.
Facilities with printing presses, saw mills, or plastics processing equipment are at a high risk for fire. They should be equipped with large CO2 or powder extinguishers capable of fighting multiple types of fires. Extinguishers must be stored 30 to 50 feet apart.
The fats, oils, and open flames in a commercial kitchen present the greatest risk of fire. They also require wet chemical fire extinguishers capable of putting out Class K fires. Because of the increased risk, commercial kitchens need to store fire extinguishers every 30 feet.
Even in a low hazard environment, fire extinguishers should be stored nearest to the greatest fire risk. The required distance between extinguishers takes into account how far an employee might be from reaching one. In an office, this means you will need to situate extinguishers no less than 75 feet apart and no further than 75 feet away from where employees work.
Fire extinguishers should be stored in wall cabinets or mounted on the appropriate brackets. The handle should be placed about 3.5 to 5 feet from the floor. Larger extinguishers may be placed with their handles about 3 feet from the floor. All portable fire extinguishers should be labeled as approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.
Once you determine which Office fire extinguishers you need, how many are required, and how they should be stored, be sure to train your employees on how to locate and use fire extinguishers. After all, what good is safety equipment if you don’t know how to use it? By having the right fire extinguishers on site ready for use, you ensure the safety of your building and its occupants.