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.

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