Fire Extinguisher Ratings

Understanding the different ratings of fire extinguishers is crucial to using them safely and appropriately. Not only will using the wrong extinguisher not help to subdue the fire, it can also endanger the user and the people around them.

In this article, the experts at Elite Fire Protection will detail fire extinguisher ratings and answer some of the most common questions around them.

What are fire extinguisher ratings?

Fire extinguisher ratings are used to determine which fire extinguisher is suitable for certain types of fire. Fires containing different materials require specific types of extinguishers to help a trained person control them – this is where the ratings come into effect.

What are the different fire extinguisher ratings and what do they mean?

Predominantly, there are six different ratings for fire extinguishers, and they are as follows:

Class A

Class A extinguishers are used to combat paper, wood and textile fires. Types of fire extinguisher that can be used are water, foam, dry powder, and wet chemical.

Class B

Suitable for flammable liquids. Fire extinguishers that fall under Class B are foam, dry powder, and carbon dioxide (CO2).

Class C

Fire extinguishers for flammable gases. Dry powder extinguishers are suitable for the Class C rating.

Class D

Class D extinguishers are used for fires involving burning metals. Powder extinguishers are suitable for Class D fires.

Class F

Class F extinguishers are used for fires involving cooking oils and fats. Wet chemical extinguishers fall into this category.

Electrical fires (‘Class E’ is not used; a picture of a spark is used instead)

For electrical fires – fires involving electrical equipment – dry powder and CO2 extinguishers should be used.

Does the rating impact how an extinguisher should be maintained?

Yes, maintenance requirements change depending on the type of extinguisher.

All extinguishers require regular inspections and the replacement of service items such as hoses and seals – the typical lifespan of an extinguisher is between 5 and 10 years before testing and refilling or replacement is required.

It can be more cost-effective to replace an extinguisher rather than test it and refill it – all time-served extinguishers are returned for environmentally-friendly disposal and recycling.

How do we identify each type of fire extinguisher?

In the past, each type of fire extinguisher had its own colour, depending on the type. In 1997, this changed, and fire extinguishers were required to be mainly red, with a coloured band signifying the type. All new fire extinguishers need to be manufactured in accordance with BS EN 3. The colour coding system works as follows:

  • Water extinguisher – red
  • Water mist extinguisher – red and white
  • Foam extinguisher – red with cream panel above operating instructions
  • Dry powder extinguisher – red with a blue panel above the instructions
  • Carbon dioxide extinguisher – red with a black panel above the instructions
  • Wet chemical extinguisher – red with a yellow panel above the instructions

Are UK fire extinguisher ratings the same as in other countries?

Some fires are categorised differently in Europe, the USA and Australia.

  • In the USA, flammable liquid and flammable gas fires both fall under Class B – in the UK and Australia, these are Class B and C, respectively.
  • Electrical fires are Class C in the USA and Class E in Australia, whereas they are simply called electrical fires in the UK.
  • Fires involving cooking oils and fats are Class F in the UK and Australia but are categorised as Class K in the USA.

No matter the type of fire at hand, it is imperative that you only attempt to extinguish small fires and only if you have the right extinguisher. By trying to combat a fire beyond your capabilities, you’re putting yourself at risk of serious injury or even death.

This guide to the different types of fire extinguishers should have provided you with the information you need to know to ensure you’re prepared for fires of any type.

Elite Fire are proud to provide the installation, maintenance and repair of all types of fire extinguishers

Using BS EN3-compliant products and working to BS5306, our BAFE-trained technicians can ensure that any business is fully prepared to combat a fire on site. For more information, please contact us today and we’ll be happy to help.

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