Is it Bad to Inhale Fire Extinguisher Residue Dust?

Recently, I spoke with a lady who had the unfortunate experience of a kitchen fire occurring in her home. Luckily for her, they had a portable fire extinguisher in the kitchen and knew how to use it.

After the fire, they were faced with the issue of safely cleaning up the fire extinguisher residue. One such question was the dangers of inhaling the fire extinguisher residue dust.

So, is it bad to inhale fire extinguisher residue dust? Moderately yes. The dry chemical powder in standard ABC class fire extinguishers and others will irritate the respiratory system if it is inhaled making breathing difficult.

Before you go calling an extremely expensive cleaning crew to come in and clean up the extinguishing powder, it would be helpful to know what type of fire extinguisher was used to extinguish the fire and what personal protective equipment (PPE) is needed to clean up the mess yourself. 

The Type of Fire Extinguisher Used Matters

There are different types of fire extinguishers on the market today. An understanding of the different types of fire extinguishers and the agents used to extinguish the fires is important. This information will help determine the level of harm that could be experienced if exposure to the agent occurs, as well as the best methods for proper cleanup.

Class ABC Fire Extinguishers

This is the most common fire extinguisher on the market, used in both residential and commercial settings. The extinguishing agent used is monoammonium phosphate. Monoammonium phosphate is considered an irritant to the respiratory system and therefore indicates that you should use proper personal protective equipment to protect yourself during clean up.

Class BC Fire Extinguishers

Designed to extinguish Class B and Class C fires, the BC fire extinguishers use Sodium Bicarbonate as their extinguishing agent. The agent is in a powder form and can also irritate the respiratory system if exposure occurs and you do not have the proper personal protective equipment.

Class K (Purple K) Fire Extinguishers

Class K fire extinguishers use a blend of potassium acetate and potassium citrate forming what is known as a potassium bicarbonate-based agent. This too is a dry chemical powder and will irritate the respiratory system if exposure results you do not have the proper personal protective equipment.

Halotron and Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishers

Halotron I and II, and Carbon Dioxide fire extinguishers are designed to be used on sensitive electrical equipment and are known “clean agent” fire extinguishers. They are known as “clean agent” extinguishers because they leave no residue/powder behind after the fire extinguisher has been discharged in suppressing the fire, but rather the agent dissipates into the air and no clean-up process is required. The residue of other discharged fire extinguishers can corrode and damage sensitive electrical equipment and are therefore not recommended for use on these types of fires.

How to Safely Clean Up After Using a Fire Extinguisher

If you have discharged a dry chemical fire extinguisher and are now preparing to engage in the clean up process, read our other article titled, “How to Safely Clean Up Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher Residue”.  The article details the steps and guidelines to properly and safely clean up the residue powder left behind from the extinguishment, as well as the necessary Personal Protective Equipment that may be recommended to protect yourselves from inhaling the powder, or from experiencing exposure to your skin or eyes.


What is the Difference Between a Wet and Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishing Agent?

Advances in fire protection technology have resulted in the development of fire extinguishing agents that are custom designed to suppress different types of fires based on the fuel type that is being consumed by the fire. Further, the Fire Triangle illustrates the three elements (heat, fuel, and oxygen) a fire needs to ignite and continue to burn, and different fire extinguishing agents interrupt the triangle in different ways to suppress the fire.

A wet chemical fire extinguishing agent is a liquid substance that extinguishes a fire by cooling or removing the heat and prevents the fire from reigniting by creating a barrier between the oxygen and fuel elements. A dry chemical fire extinguishing agent is a powdery substance that extinguishes a fire by smothering it and interrupting the chemical reaction by creating a barrier the fuel and oxygen.

Wet chemical fire extinguishing agents include a blend of potassium acetate and potassium citrate and are used on Class K fires. Class K fires involve flammable cooking media such as vegetable oils, animal fats, and greases. Therefore, this type of fire extinguisher and agent is typically used in restaurants, kitchens, and food busses. The liquid chemical, upon contact with the cooking media, reacts and produces a foam to cool and also prevent reigniting.

Dry chemical fire extinguishing agents include sodium bicarbonate, potassium bicarbonate, and monoammonium phosphate and are used to combat Class A, B, and C fires. Class A fires involve ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, and trash. Class B fires involve inflammable or combustible liquids such as oil, gasoline, greases, solvents, alcohol, and lacquers. Class C fires involve energized electrical fires that can occur from overloaded electrical circuitry and cables, and short-circuiting in certain equipment and machines.  


What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Wet and Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishing Agents?

Wet Chemical Advantages

  • This extinguishing agent is the best choice for use on kitchen fires because of the duel mechanisms to disrupt the Fire Triangle. It also is effective in preventing the fire from reigniting.
  • The fire extinguishers that discharge the wet chemical do so with a lower pressure so as not to risk splattering the burning oil or grease which could spread the fire to other locations.

Wet Chemical Disadvantages

  • The wet chemical suppression systems that are built into commercial kitchens require a significantly larger amount of space for installation and the associated construction costs.

Dry Chemical Advantages

  • The most common dry chemical fire extinguisher is the ABC Dry Chemical. This one extinguisher is effective for use on three types (fuel source) of fires – Class A, B, and C.
  • The dry chemical can be used in areas where wet chemical would cause significant damage, such as electronics.
  • A dry chemical suppression system will require less storage space than a wet suppression system.

Dry Chemical Disadvantages

  • The agents used are corrosive and must be scrubbed off surfaces after a fire.
  • If the dry chemical is used in a suppression system, it requires being refilled and recharged after each time the system is activated.

·       Note: Wet chemical suppression systems are required to comply with NFPA 17A (Standard for Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems) and NFPA 96 (Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection for Commercial Cooking Operations).

·       Note: Dry chemical suppression systems are required to comply with NFPA 17 (Standard for Dry Chemical Extinguishing Systems) and NFPA 33 (Standard for Spray Application to Safely Use on Flammable and Combustible Materials)

What are the other types of fire extinguishing agents?

In addition to the wet and dry chemical fire extinguishing agents listed previously, other types of extinguishing agents include:

Click on the images below to view a helpful chart on the different characteristics of the various Classes of Fires and a listing of the various types of fire extinguishers and agents used to combat the different Classes of Fires.

What are the Top Causes of Kitchen Fires?

What are the Top Causes of Kitchen Fires?

What are the Top Causes of Kitchen Fires?It is in the kitchen, the garage, and workshop that most home-based fires originate. A household fire that originates in the kitchen is the most common type of fire in the United States. This is significant and important to understand as the number of civilian deaths that occur by fire in the United States each year totals approximately 2,500 and 78% of those deaths occur in home structure fires. Further, 71% of all civilian injuries by fire, totaling approximately 13,000 per year, occur from home fires. 

Considering that most home fires begin in the kitchen, what are the top causes of these kitchen-based fires? The most common kitchen fire is a grease fire and the underlying cause of this is when a person leaves a frying pan on the stove unattended and the grease catches fire. The kitchen is also home of several electrical appliances where faulty or damaged components, their electrical wiring, inadequate circuit capability or excessive wattage to appliance capacity can cause shorts or sparks and triggers a fire.

As with any topic when trying to address a question, there are other associated factors that need to be addressed to help the individual better apply the information or newly acquired knowledge in their personal lives. Let’s look at some of those other factors that in the case of our question, contribute to an increased risk of causing a kitchen fire.

  1. Some foods are easier to catch fire than others. Cooking with oil or grease, both of which are flammable, increases the risk.
  2. How you cook the food. Statistics indicate that frying poses the greatest risk for fire initiation. This, of course, makes sense as frying typically involves the use of oil or grease.
  3. The clothing you wear while cooking. It is rare that a person’s clothes catch fire directly from an open flame and results in a kitchen fire. However, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the clothing a person is wearing that subsequently catches fire from an oil or grease-initiated fire contributes significantly to the risk dying from the fire.

What should you do if a fire starts in your kitchen?

Should a fire start in your kitchen the most important thing to do is to ensure your safety and that of your family members. That may require that you attempt to extinguish the fire in its infant stage and prevent it from spreading to other items or locations in the kitchen. To perform this initial fire combating strategy, you need to:

  1. Ensure that you have a properly functioning and appropriate type of fire extinguisher located in the kitchen, but away from the typical origin of a fire – the stove or oven. Because kitchen fires usually involve a cooking fuel source such as oil, grease, or animal fat, a Class K fire extinguisher with mono-ammonium phosphate agent is the recommended choice.

2. Know how to properly employ the fire extinguisher so ensure effective smothering of the fuel and do so without splashing the oil or grease from the pan and onto nearby items or structures that could catch fire.

You may want to read our other article titled, “How to Operate a Fire Extinguisher” and “How to Safely and Effectively Put out a Kitchen Fire – Three Simple Methods!

Cooking for some is a favorite activity, possibly even hobby, and something that brings joy to the chef as well as the beneficiaries of the chef’s abilities to create foods that taste great. Because the art of cooking carries with it a certain level of risk for fire, it is important to ensure that your kitchen appliances, cooking skills, and fire prevention and intervention strategies are up to date and up to speed for the cooking, you will be doing. It is recommended that you analyze your kitchen and fire protection equipment as specified in this article along with a well-designed and practiced fire response process to reduce the risk of fire in your kitchen and enhance your ability to effectively combat a kitchen fire should it occur.

What Not to Do if There is a Fire!

What not to do if there is a fire!

Have you ever been in the kitchen and had a washrag or other piece of kitchenware material catch fire, or maybe even the food you are cooking? I have, and it is a bit of an adrenaline rush! Your mind starts to race, and your brain starts sending so mixed signals as to the best way to handle the situation… At least that was the case for me when I was 10 and placed a small hand rag on a hot stove and it quickly caught fire. As I was telling my kids this story and what you should never do in the event of a fire, I decided to write my top 10 things no one should do in the event of a fire.

NOTE: Some of these are a bit silly, but as I read the news about some of the choices made by a few of the rising millennials, (Eating Tide Pods, Bird Box Challenge) I thought all is fair game and that this could be a perfect article to offer some helpful advice.

So, what should you not do if there is a fire?
1- Take a selfie
2- Update your status (Social Media)
3- Throw water at an oil or grease fire
4- Spend time collecting family photos or Heirlooms or other important documents
5- Play hide and seek from the fire
6- Try to extinguish an out of control fire yourself
7- Quickly call the insurance company and sign up for fire insurance
8- Know where your fire extinguisher is located
9- Read the back instructions of how to use the fire extinguisher
10- Use the Wrong Type of Fire Extinguisher 

If you have read up to this point and still have some curiosity as to why these things were included in the list, allow me to explain a little as to why each of these was included.

Take a Selfie
While I consider this a silly one to add to the list, I was surprised and somewhat alarmed to see some of the selfies people have taken while in dangerous situations. When a fire breaks out, whether in your own home or while in a public building, taking the time to snap a picture or film the incidence can put yourself in danger and maybe also those around you who may look to you for help and guidance in responding to the emergency situation.

Because seconds matter in the event of an unexpected fire emergency, your focus needs to be on assessing the situation and making the decision as to if the fire could be effectively dealt with using a fire extinguisher (assuming you know where it is located) or if evacuation is the only logical and safe action to take. Based on your analysis and decision made, the execution of that decision must now take priority.

Update your Status (Social Media)
I know, sounds preposterous to even think that someone would update their social media status, but as mentioned above, bizarre things have happened and because they have happened, an article has appeared highlighting the foolishness that resulted in an unfavorable outcome as the delayed response proved to be very costly, to both person and structures.

Rather than either of these previously outrageous events being allowed to occur, quick response to obtain a nearby fire extinguisher is where those precious seconds should be spent.

Throw Water at an Oil or Grease Fire
I’m sure you have seen it, a YouTube video of a person pulling a burning pan from the oven or cooking with oil or grease on the stove when a fire suddenly erupts, sending flames into the air and causing the individuals in the kitchen to panic. Rather than placing a lid on the fire to deprive it of oxygen to cause it to become extinguished, they pour water on the fire which results in the fire being splashed to cover an even greater area and reacting rather aggressively by sending flaming oil onto the countertops and cupboards.

If you would like to learn more about what to do in the event of a kitchen fire, read our other article titled, “How to Safely and Effectively Put out a Kitchen Fire”.

Spend Time Collecting Family Photos, Heirlooms or other Important Documents
While these articles are precious to all individual family members, spending time collecting them and thus placing your life in jeopardy is an unwise decision and unfortunately, has been made by more than a few homeowners. I assume they are making the reasoning that their entire lives of memories are packed in the storage room down in the basement or closet. Objects can be replaced, loved ones cannot. Spend whatever amount of time you have getting yourself and those loved ones out of the home safely.

You may want to consider investing in a fireproof lockbox for your truly valuable documents and other items, or an online photo storing service to ensure that you do not lose those precious keepsakes. Below are some great options for fireproof boxes and web-based file storage options.

Play Hide and Seek From the Fire
Regardless where you hide, an out of control and unchecked fire will eventually find you. If you truly have no escape, and they’re literally is no other options available to you, an alternative but risky option is to fill the tub with water and immersing yourself as possible. However, you will not only be risking the effects of the heat of the fire, but also its associated smoke.
When a fire breaks out, get out of the building as soon as you can and call 911.

Trying to Extinguish an Out of Control Fire Yourself
Portable fire extinguishers are designed to extinguish small, early-onset fires. The larger the fire extinguisher is, the larger the fire that can be extinguished in its early stage. Fire extinguishers can range from 1 pound all the way up to 350 pounds (Wheeled Fire Extinguishers).
If the fire is too large to extinguish yourself, leave the building or home and call 911. Far too many people are killed or injured each year because they attempted to extinguish a fire with a fire extinguisher that was either not designed for the type or size of the fire and often because the fire was too large to combat with a fire extinguisher.

Quickly call the Insurance Company and Sign up for Fire Insurance
OK, so this is thrown in here to encourage all to either review our fire insurance policy to see if it is up to par with the value of your home and possessions, but also to strongly encourage those who do not have sufficient home insurance to get it – before the unthinkable happens and the time to take care of this important “to-do-item” has passed. Some insurance companies require you to be enrolled in their plans for at least 3 months before they will cover damage due to fire. So, either review your existing insurance to ensure sufficient coverage or get the coverage and enjoy a little peace of mind knowing you are protected.

Know Where Your Fire Extinguisher is Located and How to Use It
If a fire were to break out right now, would you know exactly where your fire extinguisher is located? Has it been inspected within the past month or even year? How hard would it be to get to it? These are questions you should ask yourself as a homeowner well before a fire starts.

If the fire extinguisher doesn’t work then it is useless, even if readily available. If you are unable to reach it promptly because it is in a high cupboard or behind several boxes, cups or bowls, you may not be able to extinguish the fire quick enough before it grows beyond the fire extinguishers capabilities.

Fire extinguishers need to be inspected at least once a month by the homeowner. Ensure that the tamper seal is still intact and that the pressure gauge is pointed in the green zone indicating that the extinguishing agent is occupying the canister and ready for use. A professional fire extinguisher inspector should inspect the fire extinguisher and reservice it every 6 years.

Read the Back Instructions of How to Use the Fire Extinguisher
Learning how to use a fire extinguisher should be an exercise and ongoing event for all capable family members. A fire can take over the kitchen in a matter of minutes, certainly faster than you can read all the instructions on the back of the fire extinguisher.

Learning the P.A.S.S. method is extremely important and will help you properly and effectively extinguish the fire. To learn more about the PASS method, read our other article titled, “How to Operate a Fire Extinguisher

Use the Wrong Type of Fire Extinguisher  
Not all fires are burning the same fuel source and as such, not all fire extinguishers contain the same type of fire extinguishing agent. Depending on the fuel source of the fire, you’ll need a specific extinguisher to extinguish the fire. Below is a chart that shows the different types of fire fuel sources and the type of fire extinguisher that should be used to extinguish the various types or classes of fires.

Fire Extinguisher Tamper Seals: A Complete Guide

Fire Extinguisher Tamper Seals- A Complete Guide

Have you ever wondered what the colored plastic strip that goes through the safety pin and around the handle of a fire extinguisher is for? It’s the safety tamper seal that plays a very important role in ensuring that the fire extinguisher is safe and ready to go in the event of a fire.

Fire extinguisher tamper seals are plastic strips that are 9” to 10“ long and wrap around the safety pin of a fire extinguisher to ensure that the pin doesn’t drop out. Additionally, the tamper seals will have the date of the last service indicating that the fire extinguisher has been serviced.

NFPA 10 and Tamper Seals
Tamper seals need to be designed to ensure the fire extinguisher is properly serviced and ready to be deployed in case of fire. According to the NFPA 10 states that if either a non-rechargeable or rechargeable fire extinguisher is found to be missing the tamper seal or the tamper seal is otherwise broken, the fire extinguisher is to be removed and properly inspected and serviced by a licensed professional in which a new tamper seal will be added to the fire extinguisher as required by the NFPA 10. Additionally, every time a fire extinguisher is serviced, the tamper seal is removed, and a new tamper seal is replaced.

Consider reading our other article titled, “What is the NFPA 10? Understanding Portable Fire Extinguisher Safety Requirements”.

Types of Fire Extinguisher Tamper Seals

There are several different colors and styles and sizes of tamper seals that are approved under the NFPA 10 guidelines. Tamper seals are used by businesses, government agencies and organizations that use fire extinguishers and as a result, rely on approved tamper seals to ensure that they are in accordance with fire safety laws and regulations as well as the safety of those who use the fire extinguishers.

Large-Black-Dated-Tamper-SealsDated Tamper Seals

Tamper Seals may have the date (year) imprinted on the broad flap end of the tamper seal indicating when the fire extinguisher was last serviced. These are extremely helpful in quickly and easily identifying when the fire extinguisher was last serviced. On the other side of the tamper seal flap, the inspector can write the month it was inspected. While dated tamper seals are extremely useful in quickly identifying the date in which a fire extinguisher was last serviced, they are only useful for the year in which the fire extinguisher was imprinted. A 2019 dated tamper seal is considered out of date on January 1, 2020.

NOTE: Dated tamper seals do not replace the inspection card!
You can click HERE to view dated tamper seals.

Yellow-Black FT Tamper Seals for Fire ExtinguishersNon-Dated Tamper Seals
Non-dated tamper seals have blank tabs on both sides of the tamper seal end. They are designed to allow the inspector to write the date (year/month) on the tamper seal. This allows the tamper seal to be useful year-round, and from year to year.

You can click HERE to view non-dated tamper seals

Custom Fire Extinguisher Tamper SealsCustom Tamper Seals
Custom tamper seals are designed to have a logo, or wording of your choice imprinted on one side of the tamper seal flap. This is great for professional fire extinguisher inspectors who service fire extinguishers in public places or in large businesses such as malls, or restaurants. The tamper seal can be used as a means to display their business logo, or to simply provide the location for the inspected the fire extinguisher to be identified. In essence, this could serve as a business card providing a great way for an inspector to advertise and build up a reputation among your community as the “go-to” fire extinguisher inspector.

NOTE: The image used must be at least 300 dpi and have a print area of 0.75” x 0.63”. Online Safety Depot’s custom tamper seals have an initial set up fee of around $280 with a minimum order of 10 packs. There are 1,000 tamper seals per pack.

The image or logo will remain on file so that there is no setup fee on any subsequent future orders.

Tamper Seal Size
Tamper seals are available in Standard, Medium and Large sizes. Depending on your business needs, you will want to select the tamper seal size that best fits the dimensions of the fire extinguishers employed at your business.

Tamper Seal Colors
Tamper seals, dated, non-dated and customized tamper seals are available in the following colors: red, white, black, yellow, blue, green and orange.

Can I Use My Own Zip Tie or Twist Tie for a Tamper Seal?

NO! Using a zip or twist tie can result in wasted time to untwist and remove the tie and could spell the difference between being able to extinguish a fire in its infancy stage versus allowing it to grow in size and be unable to extinguish with the fire extinguisher. When a fire breaks out, it may be literally seconds that determine if the fire can be quickly and effectively extinguished. If you are unable to quickly and effectively remove the zip tie and pull the pin, the zip tie has proven to be a hindrance instead of a quick response mechanism. With so much at stake, always use approved tamper seals on fire extinguishers for the peace of mind of knowing you are prepared should the unthinkable happen.

Does the Color of the Tamper Seal Matter?

The color of the tamper seal doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you have the approved tamper seals on all fire extinguishers, and they have been used properly. Some businesses and organizations will use different colors as a way to track or organize the inspection system within the organization.

Can Dated Tamper Seals Replace Inspection Cards?

No. Because fire extinguishers are inspected regularly, all fire extinguishers need to have an inspection card/tag attached to the fire extinguisher that records the fire extinguisher number or description (year, make and type), service date (year/month), and some inspection cards/tags may include the inspectors name or initials, or the general condition of the fire extinguisher.

Check out all of our Tamper Seals by clicking HERE.

What are the Fire Safety Items Each Home Should Have?

What are the Fire Safety Items Each Home Should Have?

What are the Fire Safety Items Each Home Should Have?Sustaining burns or dying in a fire, or watching your home destroyed by fire is reported to be one of the most terrifying and devastating events a person can experience. Of all the civilian deaths that occur by fire each year in the United States (approx. 2,500), 78% of those deaths occur in home structure fires, and 71% of all civilian injuries by fire (approx. 13,00 annually) occur from home fires.

So, when considering a home fire safety program, what are the important fire safety items that every home should have? Each home should have properly installed and functioning smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms, appropriate type or class fire extinguishers, fire blankets, fire escape ladders, exterior water accessibility, and a well-planned and written fire emergency and escape plan.

Let’s examine each of these individually as to the important role they plan in a home fire safety program.

Smoke Detectors. Properly installed and working smoke detectors provide early warning of a fire in your home and have shown to decrease the risk of dying from or being injured by fire. National guidelines mandate that newly built homes have smoke detectors installed in all levels of a home, outside each sleeping area, and inside each bedroom. The smoke detectors are to have both hardwire interconnection (if one detector is triggered then all sound the alarm) and be supported with battery backup should electricity not be working.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms. The incomplete combustion of wood, coal, gas, oil and some other fuel sources can produce carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, and tasteless and consequently an undetected gas that can be lethal at certain amounts. This same incomplete combustion of fuels commonly used to run home appliances such as water heaters, central heating systems, cookers, and boilers. These devices are therefore also a part of an early warning system of a home safety program.

Fire Extinguishers. There are a variety of types of classes of fire extinguishers available to combat fires of different fuel sources. It is recommended that every home have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, garage, and workshop if applicable. In the kitchen where the type of fire that is likely to occur is one that involves a fuel used in cooking such as vegetable oil, animal fat, and grease. These types of fires are best extinguished using a Class K fire extinguisher with a mono-ammonium phosphate agent. The other recommended home fire extinguisher is a dry chemical Class ABC fire extinguisher. This multi-purpose fire extinguisher contains an extinguishing agent designed to effectively combat fires fueled with ordinary combustibles like wood, paper, trash, and clothes; flammable liquids like gas, oil, solvents, alcohol, and lacquers; and energized electrical fires caused by short-circuiting machinery, overloaded electrical cables, and outlets.

Fire blankets. Made of fire-retardant material, a fire blanket can be used to 1) smother a small kitchen fire of burning grease or oil, 2) wrap around an individual who must escape a fire area by reducing the heat they will be exposed to or to prevent their clothes from catching fire, and 3) smother the flames of individual whos clothes who are on fire.

Fire Escape Ladders. If a fire is blocking an escape path, then a window escape may be the only and best option available. Fire escape ladders can be mounted below window frames or stored in a bedroom closet. While they are certainly indicated for two and three level homes, they can also be useful and make a difference in a single-story home when descending from the window may be difficult for an individual with physical limitations.

Exterior Water Accessibility. While a 911 phone call to summon emergency personnel is one of the first things to do when safely away from fire danger, your ability to fight a home fire with your own water hoses until the fire department arrives is important and can help reduce the amount of structural damage as well as give you the option (and maybe peace of mind) to engage in trying to put out the fire yourself. Having exterior water faucets on the front and back of your house gives you this option regardless of where in the house the fire is located. It is also helpful to have a water faucet located a distance from the house, like in a garden area, to also use in combating a fire or for soaking nearby structures in the hope to prevent them from catching fire.

Fire Emergency and Escape Plan. Every home should have a well-planned, written out (including maps, diagrams, icons) fire emergency and escape plan that is reviewed and rehearsed on a consistent basis, ensuring that each member of the household knows his or her responsibilities and can effectively execute them. Specifically, the emergency plan should include the following:

  • An emphasis on what is more important. Safely escaping from a fire is the first and most important task of every family member, not saving a property or personal belongings.
  • Emergency 911 number. This nationwide emergency number should be big and bold and placed near the top of the page to emphasize its importance in the case of an emergency after all have been safely evacuated.
  • Locations of fire extinguishers, fire blankets, and fire ladders. Whether these items be highlighted for location on a map of the house or their location explained in written form, each family member should know exactly where these important fire safety items are located. Of course, only those mature enough to be instructed in their use and physically capable of handling a fire extinguisher would be expected to use them.
  • Escape routes. Escape routes should be known for each bedroom and other areas of gathering within the home. A map of each level of the house is helpful to help individuals see the path they should take to escape. Some families choose to have an escape route map prominently placed in the bedroom of each child.
  • Navigating through smoke-filled areas. Train family members in how to effectively navigate escape routes that may be filled with smoke – dropping to your knees and crawling on all fours helping to reduce the inhalation of smoke.
  • The Stop, Drop, and Roll Technique. If clothes catch fire, teach this technique to help smother and extinguish burning clothes.
  • Escape meet up location outside. Your escape plan should include a predetermined area that is outside the home and positioned safely away from the house where family members should meet up after escaping the burning structure. This allows for an inventory count of family members, important information for family and rescue personnel to know.

Being prepared for a fire emergency is simply the right thing for a family to prioritize and can provide some peace of mind that you have done what you can to help family members be prepared to safely respond to a fire emergency. It can also provide the family with an enjoyable family experience as you teach and explain the importance of effective execution of its contents in a hands-on way as you engage in teaching these important emergency skills.

If you would like to read more on fire safety click HERE.

Are There Different Fire Safety Regulations for Prisons?

Are There Different Fire Safety Regulations for Prisons?

Are There Different Fire Safety Regulations for Prisons?The art and science of fire protection has evolved over the years as catastrophic fires have claimed the lives of those trapped and unable to escape, effectively mandating that new and improved prevention, detection, and fire extinguishment policies, protocols and equipment be implemented. A fire that occurs in a prison or other correctional facility has inherent challenges as the purpose of a prison is to keep the occupants inside, and the typical goal of the immediate evacuation of all occupants from a facility does not apply to prisoners. Because of these inherent uniqueness’s, prisons have some regulations that differ from the standards set for other structures and settings.

So, what are the fire safety regulation differences for prisons and other correctional or mental facilities who house inmates or patients? There are three main regulatory differences (or exceptions to normal rules) which include “of-a-necessity” variances due to the unique challenges of a prison setting and the need for security. They are 1) doors can be locked from the inside, 2) normal escape route may be obstructed, and 3) specific placement of heat and smoke detectors.

Doors locked from the inside. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that building exit routes be unobstructed and includes that no door be locked from any inside. However, with correctional and mental facilities doors may be locked along the exit route or routes. Consequently, also required is that guards or supervisory personnel be continually positioned along the path of escape and properly trained to efficiently execute emergency evacuation procedures, including the opening of locked doors, to allow prisoners or patients a fast and unobstructed exit.

Obstructed escape route. OSHA requires that all public places (community, workplace, entertainment, etc.) have a clearly marked, easily accessible and navigable emergency escape route from the building to the outside. However, correctional facilities are allowed to have, in addition to locked doors, guards placed along the path and other deterrence devices or strategies in place. Consequently, because of the need for heightened security and to resolve this apparent conflict, correctional facilities adhere to a “protect-in-place” strategy where all exit routes direct the inmates to an area away from the origin of the fire to a secure area that is still within the prison facility, and not to the outside of the institution.

Heat and smoke detector and sprinkler positioning. The regular inspection and testing of heat and smoke alarms and sprinkler systems required by OSHA guidelines are still applicable in a prison setting, with state and local regulations mandating the number and type of detectors, sprinklers, and fire extinguishers that must be onsite. However, a correctional facility has inherent challenges due to the nature of its occupants as it related to fire and smoke detector and sprinkler system safety and vandalism.

What are some of the unique challenges with fire and smoke alarms and sprinklers in the prison setting?

  1. Vandalism and tampering. Prison life can be very difficult, and boredom and frustration can cause inmates to seek ways to alleviate that boredom and/or express their frustrations. Tampering with alarms may be the result of curiosity or simply something to do to combat the effects of boredom. Causing damage to fire and smoke alarms in an expression of anger or frustration is an easy target to commit malice. Therefore, detectors and sprinklers must often be protected with strong stainless steel coverings or placed in locations that are virtually inaccessible to inmates.
  2. Weaponry. For reasons of self-protection or violence against another inmate, parts of sprinkler and alarm systems have been used to create weapons. The destruction or dismantling of these systems can be very expensive and cause significant disruptions to efforts of trying to maintain calm in what can be a very volatile setting.
  3. Suicide. Prison systems have reported that several suicides and attempted suicides take place by inmates using a sprinkler as an anchor or securement point from which to hang themselves. As a result, many facilities have opted for specially made sprinklers that release when certain poundage of pulling force is applied as in a hanging mechanism. This too is costly to implement and yet a necessity for this population.
  4. Riots. Riots commonly occur in correctional facilities. Prison guards combat these riots with smoke tear gas bombs. The release of these substances can negatively impact the normal functioning of most fire alarm systems. Because of this, the design of certain areas within a prison must work to clear away the smoke quickly and efficiently.

What are the major causes of fire in correctional facilities?

It is estimated that in the United States 7 out of every 10 fires occurring in prisons or jails are intentionally set, my inmates. Further, correctional facility authorities estimate that half of all fires go unreported and undetected by guards or other supervisory personnel. Most of these fires are set by an inmate within his or her cell. Those who study the psychology of prison populations offer the following reasons or “triggers” that lead to inmate initiated arson.

  • To draw attention to themselves or a complaint they want addressed
  • As a means of revenge against another person or the system in general
  • As simply as a means to help reduce either stress or boredom or “escape” their situation
  • In seeking revenge against another inmate
  • To intimidate another person – inmate, guard, or prison official
  • As a means of protest prison policies or living conditions (including being overcrowded)
  • One way of committing suicide
  • An individual’s manifestation of a severe mental problem

The other leading causes of fires that occur in prison facilities include clothes dryers, cooking, smoking caused mattress fires, and electrical and heating equipment malfunctions.

What are some additional unique fire safety features being implemented in prisons?

  1. Location of the fire safety control system. Of necessity, the location of any prison facility fire safety system, which includes the ability to open and close doors, must be housed in a secure location where the electronics and control mechanisms are safe from damage and access by unwanted or hostile individuals. And, this system must be able to be maintained by someone onsite in case the need for immediate repair or reprogramming is required.
  2. NFPA 101 and Facility Construction. The NFPA Life Safety Code calls for new jails and correctional facilities be constructed of limited or non-combustible materials and includes automatic fire sprinkler and detection systems. In addition, advanced high-tech computer-aided technology that offers immediate fire point or zone detection including in individual cells, prompt detection, and notification systems, and individual or pod structure coverage where buildings are independent of each other, yet effectively interfaced and connected with security and fire detection systems.

It should be noted that correctional facility fire safety officials strongly recommend that the contractor of a correctional facility be familiar with and have good experience in the myriad of details involved in designing and constructing a modern and regulatory code compliant prison or other correctional facilities. It facility must have appropriate provisions for early warning of fire, appropriate and efficient means of escape for inmates to a secure location outside the building and yet on prison grounds and officials to a safe and separate secure location, effective smoke evacuation from the building, and built affordable as the number of incarcerated offenders continues to grow and facilities to house them increased.

What are the recommended fire extinguishers for prisons?

As previously mentioned, the most common cause of fires in prisons occur in inmate confinement cells and are started by the inmates themselves. Located in the cell are: a sleeping mattress and the inmate’s personal belongings such as clothing, books, videos, trash items, etc., all of which are known as ordinary combustibles. Fire involving these types of materials is known as a Class A fire.

Other types of fires that are common in the prison setting are clothes dryers, cooking, and electrical and heating fires. Cooking fires usually include grease fires, a type of Class B fire. Prisons often have workplaces that produce items and involve the use of electrical equipment and machinery in the process. An energized electrical fire from overloaded electrical cables or short-circuiting equipment is known as a Class C fire.

An ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher with an extinguishing agent such as mono-ammonium phosphate will effectively combat Class A, B, and C fires.

Modern prisons are required to be designed using sophisticated and sensitive electrical equipment including computer operated security functions for early fire detection and notification systems and enhanced security features in the control of inmate movement as in the case of a fire. These types of fire are best fought using an extinguishing agent that will not corrode the sensitive electrical equipment. As such, a Halotron or carbon dioxide agent fire extinguisher is best suited for these types of fires.

What is the NFPA 10? Understanding Portable Fire Extinguisher Safety Requirements


Since the creation of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 1896, the organization has grown and expanded and develops new and improved safety codes, standards, recommended practices, and guides for fire safety protection on an ongoing basis. One of those safety standards is the NFPA 10.

What is NFPA 10? NFPA 10 provides the minimum requirements for portable fire extinguishers to ensure they are maintained and are ready to be used as they are intended for, to extinguish fires. These minimum requirements apply to the selection, installation, inspection, maintenance, recharging, and testing of portable fire extinguishers and Class D extinguishing agents.

Let’s look at each of them a little more closely.

Selection of Portable Fire Extinguishers: The selection of a portable fire extinguisher is based on the applicable requirements of chapter 5 of the NFPA standards. Below are some highlights.

1- Classification of the Fire

  • Class A Fires (Common combustibles, i.e. paper, wood, cloths, etc.)
  • Class B Fires (Flammable liquids, i.e. petroleum, grease, tars, oils, etc.)
  • Class C Fires (Energized electrical fires)
  • Class D Fires (Combustible metal fires, i.e. magnesium, titanium, sodium, etc.)
  • Class K fires (Combustible cooking media, i.e. Vegetable or animal oils and fats)

2- Selection by Occupancy

  • The greater the occupancy, the more fire extinguishers needed.

3- Selection for Specific Hazards

  • Pressurized flammable liquids and pressurized gas fires (See manufactures recommendations for each brand (Class B fires). *Other Class fires have selection differences.

4- Selection for Specific Locations

  • Where portable fire extinguishers are required to be installed. (See NFPA Codes/Guidelines of chapter 5 of the NFPA Standards Sheet)

Installation of Portable Fire Extinguishers: Fire Extinguishers are to be placed in highly visible locations of a building where individuals can quickly and easily access them in the event of a fire. Below are some of the general guidelines to be aware of and they can be found in section 6 of the NFPA Standards Sheet.

1 – Number of Extinguishers

  • The minimum number of fire extinguishers needed to protect property. Determining factors include:
    – Extinguisher size
    – Extinguisher rating
    Building size
    – Building type or use

2 – Extinguisher Readiness

  • Portable fire extinguishers must always be well maintained and in a fully charged and operable condition. This includes a yearly maintenance check.

3 – Placement of Fire Extinguishers

  • Fire extinguishers must be conspicuously located where they can be accessible and immediately available in the event of a fire.

4 – Visual Obstructions

  • Fire extinguishers shall not be obstructed in any way or placed out of view.

5 – Installation Height of Fire Extinguishers

  • Fire Extinguishers weighing Less than 40 pounds shall be installed so that the top of the fire extinguisher is no more than 5 feet above the floor.
  • Fire Extinguishers weighing greater than 40 pounds shall be installed so that the top of the fire extinguisher not more than 3.5 feet above the floor.

6 – Label Visibility of Fire Extinguishers

  • Operating instructions must be located on the front of the fire extinguisher.
  • Other labels such as the Hazardous material identification systems, 6-year maintenance labels, hydrostatic test labels shall not be located on the front of the fire extinguisher.

7 –Fire Extinguishers Cabinets

  • Cabinets housing fire extinguishers shall not be locked.
  • Located where they can be easily viewed and accessed in the event of a fire.
  • Clearly marked with no obstruction to the view.
  • Shall not be exposed to temperatures outside of the manufacturer’s recommendations.

8 – Antifreeze

  • Fire Extinguishers containing only plain water shall have antifreeze added by a trained professional to protect against temperatures as low as -40°

9 – Installation for Fire Classification Types

  • Special requirements for Class A, Class B, Class C, Class D, and Class K fire hazards.

Inspection of Portable Fire Extinguishers: The owner, company or occupant of the property/building in which fire extinguishers are located are responsible to conduct proper inspections, maintenance checks, and recharging processes. See chapter 7 of the NFPA Standards sheet.

1 – Personnel

  • Persons performing inspections must be a professionally trained and certified individual.
  • Passed required testing and be awarded a certificate or document stating such.

2 – Replacement While Servicing

  • Any fire extinguisher removed for repairs or maintenance must be replaced with a suitable fire extinguisher that is designed to protect against the hazards of that area and rating must meet standards to protect that area.

3- Tags or Labels

  • Tags or labels must be affixed to the fire extinguisher to record maintenance or recharge dates.
  • Tags or labels must not obstruct or limit the use of the fire extinguisher.

4- Inspection Frequency

  • Fire extinguishers shall be inspected regularly according to the type of fire extinguisher it is.
  • Must follow inspection procedures as outlined by in NFPA.

Maintenance of Portable Fire Extinguishers: Portable fire extinguishers are required to be maintained and ensure that the mechanical parts of the fire extinguisher, extinguishing agent, expelling means of the fire extinguisher and physical condition of the fire extinguisher is in good condition and working as it is designed to. You can read these standards in chapter 7 of the NFPA Standards sheet.

Hydrostatic Testing: Pressure vessels used as fire extinguishers and specified components of fire extinguishers shall be hydrostatically tested by specifically trained individuals in accordance with guidelines in chapter 8.

1 – Test Equipment

  • Test pressure gauges shall be certified accurate to +5%, or better, of the full range of the gauge.
  • All hydrostatically tested cylinders and apparatus, except water-type extinguishers, shall be thoroughly dried after testing.

2 – Frequency

  • At intervals not exceeding those specified in Table 8.3.1 of chapter 8, fire extinguishers shall be hydrostatically retested.
  • Cylinders and cartridges and hose assemblies shall also be tested according to guidelines outlined in chapter 8.
  1. Extinguisher Examination
  • If, and any time, a fire extinguisher shows evidence of dents, mechanical injury, or corrosion to the extent as to indicate weakness, is shall be condemned or hydrostatically retested subject to provisions outlined in chapter 8.

4- Testing Procedures

  • The pressure in the hydrostatic test of a cylinder shall be maintained for a minimum of 30 seconds, but for a time, not less than is required for complete expansion of the cylinder and to complete the visual examination of the cylinder.
  • Low-pressure cylinders, high-pressure cylinders, and hose assemblies shall also be tested according to guidelines outlined in chapter 8.

5- Test Pressures

  • Low-pressure stored pressure fire extinguishers shall be hydrostatically tested to the pressure specified on the extinguisher nameplate.
  • High-pressure cylinders that are used with wheeled extinguishers shall be tested at 5/3 the service pressure stamped into the cylinder.
  • Hose assemblies shall be tested at pressures according to the contained extinguishing agent (CO2 – tested at 1250 psi, dry chemical, dry powder, water, foam, and halogenated agent discharge shall be tested at 300 psi)

6-Recording of Hydrostatic Tests

  • The record of a hydrostatic test shall be maintained by the organization that performed the test until either the expiration of the test period or until the cylinder is again tested, whichever occurs first.

May be interested in our other article titled “National Fire Protection Association – NFPA

What is the Difference Between Codes and Standards in the Fire Safety Industry?

What is the Difference Between Codes and Standards in the Fire Safety Industry?

Starting a new business can be stressful enough dealing with inventory, managing personnel, keeping track of taxes, marketing your goods or services, customer service after the sale, and really the list goes on. If your business is a brick and mortar facility, then you will also have to learn and apply various guidelines that may govern your type of business, including codes and standards within the safety industry. When an employee or customer enters your facility, you have a degree of responsibility for their safety when in your business.

So, what are the differences between Codes and Standards?

Codes are:

  • WHERE safety guidelines are to be applied, and
  • WHAT kind of guidelines are required to be applied

Standards direct:

  • HOW the codes are to be applied.

Let’s look at how the codes and standards related to the safety industry, and specifically fire safety protection are applied, or the where, what, and how of these codes and standards.

Fire Safety Codes

Note: Fire Safety Codes stem from a model building code developed by the International Code Council (ICC) and adopted for use as a base code standard by most jurisdictions in the United States.

WHERE: All public buildings and places such as office buildings, hospitals, retail facilities, malls, warehouses, etc. In these locations fire protection is mandated.

WHAT: Depending on the building type, size and location, there will be different requirements for the type of fire protection that will be required. For example, some buildings will require there be portable fire extinguishers, other may require wheeled fire extinguishers, and some standpipe and hose systems.

In addition, a different extinguishing agent (wet or dry chemical) may be required based on the potential fuel sources that are in the areas where a fire extinguisher is located.

Fire Safety Standards  

Note: The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a trade association that creates and maintains private, copyrighted standards and codes for use and adaptation by local governments.

How: Standards are set for how portable fire extinguishers, wheeled fire extinguishers, standpipes and hose systems, dry and wet chemical extinguishing system are to be installed.

  • Portable Fire Extinguishers: NFPA 10 sets forth requirements for the placement, signage, and use of portable fire extinguishers to ensure that they function as intended as the first line of defense for fires found and acted upon when the fire is of a limited size.
  • Wheeled Fire Extinguishers: Wheeled fire extinguishers are standard equipment for many commercial and industrial settings that are larger in scale and require a greater fire fighting capacity to help keep fires that could originate in these facilities before they get out of control. Examples are large construction sites, chemical plants, storage facilities, refineries, ship docks, and offshore facilities.
  • Standpipes and Hose Systems: NFPA 14 sets forth requirements for the installation of standpipes and hose systems so that when activated the system will work as described to deliver adequate and reliable water supplies when combating a fire.
  • Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishing Systems: NFPA 17 sets forth minimal standards to ensure that dry chemical fire extinguishing systems will perform as intended for the duration of their use, or life.
  • Wet Chemical Fire Extinguishing Systems: NFPA 17A sets for standards applicable to the design, installation, operation, testing, and maintenance of wet chemical fire extinguishing systems, and includes minimal requirements for restaurant and institutional plenums, hoods, ducts, and associated cooking appliances.

11 Interesting Facts About Fire Extinguishers

11 Interesting Facts About Fire Extinguishers

Fire extinguishers are a part of our daily lives. Most homeowners will have one in their kitchen, landlords will have them inside their rental units for their tenants, store owners will have then placed in several places around the store to meet OSHA and NFPA standards and guidelines, and car owners may have them in the trunk of their cars.

With how integrated fire extinguishers are in our lives and how little the general public knows about fire extinguishers, I thought I would share with you 11 interesting facts about fire extinguishers.

1- The concept of a fire extinguisher has been around for a very long time. Two thousand, two hundred and nineteen years to be exact. Ctesibius of Alexandria invented a hand pump that, among other things, was used to pump water to extinguish fires.

It wasn’t until years later, when Ambrose Godfrey, a German chemist invented a fire extinguisher that used gunpowder and fuses to expel the water out of the “fire extinguisher”.

The modern fire extinguisher was invented in 1818 by a British Captain named George William Manby. The fire extinguisher was made from copper, held 3 gallons of extinguishing agent potassium carbonate solution (dry chemical), and contained compressed air.

2- Not all fire extinguishers are built the same. Fire extinguishers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The smallest fire extinguisher is a 1.5-pound portable fire extinguisher that can be fitted on ATVs or in the car, and the largest fire extinguisher is a 350-pound wheeled fire extinguisher that is designed for fighting fires on oil rigs and boat docks.

3- There are several different “brands” of fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers are made by several different companies. Company will design extinguishers with a variety of components, delivery systems, agent solutions, and whatever unique features that can help them distinguish themselves from the competition.

4- There are several different types of fire extinguishers on the market today. In today’s world, fire extinguishers are used in a variety of places, and as such, they are designed to work in different settings. Here is a list of the types of fire extinguishers that are used today.

Dry Chemical Extinguishers are the most common type of fire extinguishers. They are found in homes, businesses, and public settings. Dry chemical fire extinguishers are not designed for fires that involve sensitive electrical equipment as the agent used in dry chemical fire extinguishers is not a “clean-agent” chemical and may damage the electrical equipment, and the dry chemical leaves a residue, which must be cleaned up after it has been discharged. These are:

– Multipurpose (ABC) Dry Chemical Extinguishers
– Ordinary Dry Chemical Extinguishers
– Purple K Dry Chemical (PKP) Extinguishers
– High-Flow Dry Chemical Extinguishers

Foam Extinguishers are designed for flammable liquid fires.

 A Pressurized Water Extinguisher contains tap water, which is under pressure inside the fire extinguisher. These types of fire extinguishers are designed to be used on common combustible fires.

Loaded Stream Extinguishers are water extinguishers with an anti-freeze additive. Used for Class A fires.

Water Mist Extinguishers contain de-ionized water, which does not conduct electricity. These extinguishers are used for Class A fires.

Clean Agent Extinguishers use Halon 1211 or a halocarbon. These clean agent fire extinguishers leave no residue and are designed to be used on electronic equipment.

Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers are rated for flammable liquid fires but are also effective on Class C fires that involve sensitive electrical fires.

Class K Extinguishers contain wet chemical. They are commonly found in commercial kitchens for appliance fires involving cooking oil.

Dry Powder Extinguishers are designed for Class D fires, so they are intended for combustible metal fires only.

Offshore Fire Extinguishers are designed to be used on oil rigs, boat docks, or marine settings. They have a special galvanized coating that prevents rust and damage from the harsh sea, sun, and salt environment that is common in those conditions. These extinguishers are available in dry chemical, and Halotron models.

5- Fire extinguishers save lives. Each year, it is estimated that thousands of lives are saved due to the quick and effective use of fire extinguishers. Whether a kitchen fire in the house, a car engine fire, storage warehouse fire, or a fire from caused by the fury of mother nature, fire extinguishers save lives.

6- Designed so that even kids can use them. Fire extinguishers are designed in such a way that anyone can use them, even kids. Outreach programs sponsored by OSHA and the NFPA have taught individuals from all walks of life and a large spectrum of ages to follow the P.A.S.S technique when using a fire extinguisher. See below:

P: Pull Pin
A: Aim at the base of the fire
S: Squeeze the Lever
S: Sweep from side to side

If you want to learn more about how to properly use a fire extinguisher to extinguish a fire, read our other article titled, “How to Operate a Fire Extinguisher”.

7- Fire extinguishers have become fashionable. Many homeowners and artist will use old classic fire extinguishers, now empty, as household decretive artwork. A quick search on Esty or Pinterest will show several redesigned fire extinguishers used as decoration in the home and even offices.

8- Fire extinguishers need to be inspected regularly. Fire extinguishers need to be serviced on a regular basis in order to comply with today’s safety standards and ensure that the fire extinguisher is in good working order.

9- Water won’t extinguish all fires. Water is great for extinguishing Class A fires (wood, paper, common combustibles) but should never be used on Class B, C or D fires.

10- Fires that involve sensitive electrical equipment require a specific type of fire extinguisher. Electrical fires (Class C Fires) especially the ones that involve sensitive electrical equipment, need to be extinguished using a specific fire extinguisher so that the agent doesn’t damage or destroy the equipment.

The best types of fire extinguishers to use when fighting a fire involving sensitive electrical equipment is the Halotron fire extinguisher and the Carbon Dioxide fire extinguisher.

11- AFO Fireball fire extinguisher. A new type of fire extinguisher that is on the market today is the AFO Fireball fire extinguisher. It is different in that it is not a canister configuration that holds the agent under pressures and discharges it when activated via squeezing the hand lever and pointing the hose or nozzle toward the base of the fire. As such the “PASS method” is not utilized. Rather, the AFO Fireball works by throwing an agent containing ball directly into the fire where it will explode, sending the extinguishing agent flying in all directions to effectively extinguishing the fire.