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November 20, 2019

What Kind of Fire Extinguishers Do I Need for My Business?

At Superior, we get lots of calls from new business owners who need to purchase fire extinguishers, but don’t know where to start.

Of course, the easiest thing to do is schedule a service call for a fire extinguisher technician to assess the fire hazards of your individual business location. But why can’t we just tell you what you need over the phone without sending a technician to your business? For those that want to understand what we look at when we assess a business, here are some guidelines for business owners so you won’t be surprised at your next fire inspection.

Choose the right type of fire extinguishers for your business

You’ve probably heard different types of fire extinguishers referred to by letters which represent the types of fire they’re designed to fight. Don’t let the alphabet soup confuse you. The most common type of extinguisher Superior sells are Class ABC extinguishers: a single extinguisher designed for Class A, Class B, and Class C fires. In practice, most businesses will need one or more Class ABC fire extinguishers, and depending on the type of business, you might also need specialty extinguishers like Class K or Class D. Commercial kitchens should add Class K fire extinguishers while facilities that store combustible metals like lithium-ion batteries, magnesium, titanium, sodium, etc. should add Class D fire extinguishers.

Determine the size and number of extinguishers needed

Figuring out how many fire extinguishers you need and what size they should be is trickier. The first step is to identify the hazard level of your business. NFPA 10, the standard for fire extinguishers, classifies areas into three fire hazard levels: light, ordinary, and high. There are also two special hazard classifications: kitchens and areas with combustible metals. The entire business doesn’t have to be the same hazard level. Some areas may be classified higher than others, depending on the risk of fire and what materials are present.

Once you know the hazard level or levels for your business, the number of extinguishers you need is determined by meeting two requirements, square footage limits and the distance one must travel from any part of the building to the nearest fire extinguisher. Although both measurements are important, most businesses would need to add additional extinguishers to meet the travel distance requirements before the square footage limits are reached.

Light Hazard – Areas with only a few combustible materials are classified as a light hazard. This this usually includes offices, churches, classrooms, assembly areas, and the guest areas of hotels. If flammable liquids are present, areas classified as light hazard will have less than 1 gallon per room or area.

For the standard Class ABC fire extinguishers Superior sells, light hazard areas require a minimum of one 5 lbs extinguisher per 6,000 square feet or one 10 extinguisher per 11,250 square feet. If there are any flammable liquids, the travel distance must not exceed 50 feet to a 5 lbs or 10 lbs extinguisher. If there are no flammable liquids, the travel distance must not exceed 75 feet to the nearest extinguisher.

Ordinary Hazard – Areas with a moderate number of combustible materials are classified as an ordinary hazard. This usually includes laundromats, dry cleaners, post offices, fabric stores, hardware stores, and parking garages. If flammable liquids are present, areas classified as ordinary hazard will have less than 1 gallon per room or area.

For the standard Class ABC fire extinguishers Superior sells, moderate hazard areas require a minimum of one 5 lbs extinguisher per 3,000 square feet or one 10 lbs extinguisher per 6,000 square feet. If there are any flammable liquids, the travel distance must not exceed 30 feet to a 5 lbs extinguisher or 50 feet to a 10 lbs extinguisher. If there are no flammable liquids, the travel distance must not exceed 75 feet to the nearest extinguisher.

Extra Hazard – Areas with more combustible materials are classified as an extra hazard. This usually includes printing presses, saw mills, or facilities with plastics processing equipment. Extra hazard areas also include any areas with more than 5 gallons of flammable liquids in the room or area.

For the standard Class ABC fire extinguishers Superior sells, extra hazard areas require a minimum of one 10 lbs extinguisher for every 4,000 square feet. If there are any flammable liquids, the travel distance must not exceed 50 feet to a 10 lbs extinguisher. If there are no flammable liquids, the travel distance must not exceed 75 feet to the nearest extinguisher.

Kitchens – Commercial kitchens present a special fire risk because they often have fats, oils, and open flames. The travel distance from any point in the kitchen to the nearest Class K fire extinguisher must be no more than 30 feet.

Combustible Metals – Businesses with combustible metals like lithium-ion batteries, magnesium, titanium, sodium, etc. must have a Class D fire extinguisher within 75 feet of the combustible metal.

There’s a lot to consider when picking the right fire extinguishers. Let Superior make it easy for you. Give us a call at 706-595-9043 to schedule your on-site assessment.