Fire is a fierce nature’s element that can bring comfort to our lives, and yet it can break out of control any second and bring forth a disaster. Back in 2014, there were nearly 1.3 million fire outbreaks in the United States. This led to the death of over 3,000 people and caused at least $1 billion in damages.
Humans conquered fire almost 1.5 million years ago. However, in the mere last 100 years, people have made such a step forward: we invented electricity, the automobile, computers, as well as some tools for rapid reaction to spontaneous ignition, known as fire extinguishers. They became our first line of defense against fire and our insurance against unfortunate events.
Yet just like any other tool, the fire extinguisher is only effective when it’s properly maintained. Most houses, businesses, and buildings are equipped with a fire extinguisher, but too often it’s tucked away and forgot about — until the fire erupts.
Fire extinguishers should be serviced frequently. Here’s what you need to know about keeping your extinguisher in a good shape to be your trusted lifeguard:
Why Do I Need to Service My Fire Extinguisher?
Leave your car parked too long somewhere, and you’ll likely have it towed, or at least in a dire need of maintenance. Like a car sitting too long unused, your fire extinguisher may not be functional when you need it if you’ve ignored maintaining it.
Depressurization Of A Fire Extinguisher
The number one reason you’ll likely need your fire extinguisher serviced is depressurization. Similar to an old tire, an aging fire extinguisher can develop a small, unseen leak that will eventually drain the gas. This gas is responsible for discharging the substance that combats fires.
Imagine standing face to face with fire, extinguisher in hand. You pop the pin, pull the trigger and — nothing. The gas which would have propelled the water/foam/powder is all gone, and now you’re at risk of a small fire becoming an uncontrollable blaze. This is a very real situation that people who don’t check their fire extinguisher frequently face.
Discharging Of A Fire Extinguisher
In case of an unfortunate event when your fire extinguisher has seen some action it is time to take it for a check-up. A fire extinguisher is the tool of immediate response to ignition, therefore, its main aim is to fight either small or only starting fires. Most of the time, reacting to the starting fire fast means defeating it within the first few minutes. In such cases, fire extinguishers won’t be able to waste much of its agent. However, it doesn’t mean that you can put it back on the shelf with a clear conscience till the next time you need it. Your fire extinguisher served you well and in order to keep it this way, you need to reward this faithful tool with a service check.
First of all, the fire extinguisher has to be recharged with an extinguishing agent. No fire extinguisher is transparent and it’s hard to judge by its weight how much more of an agent is left. Even if the last fire your fought was small and it seems you haven’t used much to combat the blaze, the next time you’ll need it the absent amount of the agent can play a crucial role in saving your life and property. It’s not only that the amount of extinguishing agent is important, but another essential part of extinguisher functionality is also pressure. When it comes to battling fires every bit of pressure counts. No matter how long was the first time you used the fire extinguisher, it can still compromise the tool’s highest performance; with the majority of fire extinguishers, the pressure is the only thing that dispenses the firefighting agent.
Fire Extinguisher Service Time Just like your car after having been driven for so many miles, your fire extinguisher needs a check-up every now and then. For fire extinguishers, the indicative “miles” is the time passed. Depending on the type of fire extinguisher, there are different checkup milestones.
● Annual maintenance of fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers require maintenance once a year if they are using dry powder, dry chemical or wetting agent. Also, the same terms are true if fire extinguishers are cartridge and cylinder-operated with mild steel shells.
● Every 5-year maintenance of fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers have to be service checked with a 5-year interval if they contain stored-pressure water or a dry chemical with stainless steel shells, carbon dioxide or wet chemicals.
● Every 6-year maintenance of fire extinguishers. Once every 6 years, you should perform a maintenance check on your fire extinguisher if it contains dry chemical stored-pressure, with mild steel shells, brazed brass shells, and aluminum shells. Such time intervals are also relevant for halogenated agents and dry powder, stored-pressure, with mild steel shell models.
AFFF and FFFP fire extinguishers deserve a special mention. In case they use liquid agents they have to be refilled and checked every 3 years, while solid agents need a 5-year-interval check-up.
A good rule of thumb is to ensure your fire extinguisher is functional yourself once a month.
Examine if the pressure gauge is at a normal level.
Check the external characteristics of a fire extinguisher. Inspect the valve for breaks and tears and the shell for damage or rust.
Inspect the hose, horn, and nozzle for any breaks, bumps, or tears.
In case you spot any of these flaws, it is time to call a specialist. A professional fire inspection company can provide the answers you need to have peace of mind.
Remember — servicing your extinguisher can mean the difference between putting out a fire and ending up being a part of an unfortunate statistic. To protect your property, yourself and your family, it’s important to maintain your fire extinguishers according to their specifications with some professional help. Don’t hesitate to reach out to request a professional look at your extinguisher today!