Just the Facts: How Fire Extinguishers Protect Lives and Property

Posted on: July 16, 2017

These defense tools prevent more tragedy and expense than you might realize

Everyone knows that fire extinguishers are an essential part of any life safety system, but few people realize just how important they are – and which types of extinguishers are best for dealing with different hazards and environments. Certain technologies are more effective on some fires than others, and it pays to know which are the most appropriate for specific emergencies.

How well do extinguishers put out fires?

If a fire is caught in its early stages, fire extinguishers can be remarkably effective. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), they were reported to have put out 5.32 million fires in 2010 alone.

A UK study performed by FETA (Fire Extinguishing Trades Association) and IFEDA (Independent Fire Engineering and Distributors Association) in 2002 found that portable fire extinguishers successfully put out 80% of all fires, and, in 75% of those cases, the fire department did not need to render assistance.

How much money do extinguishers save?

It’s difficult to determine an accurate total, as almost 2 million fires are handled without the fire department being notified. According to the NFPA, 83% of reported fires in primarily commercial buildings that had sprinkler systems never grew large enough to activate the sprinklers, inferring that they were put out by occupants. Given these statistics and the fact that a commercial fire averages $35,000 in damage claims, fire extinguishers save billions of dollars, and by some estimates up to about $5 billion per year.

Types of fire extinguishers

It’s key to understand which extinguishers will be the most effective at putting out different fires on your property. Here are the major technologies:

  • Dry chemical extinguishers are best suited for situations and environments where a fire can be put out quickly and there are no materials present that could re-ignite it.
  • Clean agent extinguishers use gasses that are non-conduction and leave little-to-no residue, and they are usually selected for the protection of delicate electronics. They’re routinely found in data centers and server rooms.
  • Foam extinguishers are intended for flammable liquid spill fires or pool fires, as foam extinguishing agents spread across the surface of a liquid, preventing the flammable vapors from coming into contact with more oxygen.
  • Wet chemical extinguishers put out cooking oil fires; the chemicals contained in them react with the fats in oil to form a foam that smothers the blaze.
  • Water extinguishers: Specialized types of water extinguishers may be used for blazes involving wood, sawdust, or trash areas, or for putting out electronics fires.
  • Dry powder  extinguishers are the most effective option when a fire involves metals like magnesium, sodium, potassium, and sodium-potassium alloys. Heat from the fire leads the powder to form a crust that smothers it.

The first line of defense is still your best line of defense

No matter what kind of fires you may need to protect your property from, a fire extinguisher is an essential asset that can save your life, as well as thousands of dollars in property damage. If you need to determine the proper types and placement of extinguishers in your building, or meet the requirements for inspections, maintenance, or installation of any component of your life safety system, reach out to the experts of LifeSafety Management at (800) 330-1158 or through our online contact form.