ABC Fire Extinguishers & How to Use Them
Learn all the crucial, life-saving information about ABC fire extinguishers in our comprehensive guide.
Dry powder fire extinguishers (also known as ABC fire extinguishers) are, perhaps, the most versatile. Sporting a blue label for easy identification, these extinguishers contain a non-combustible powder-type substance that can completely smother an outbreak of fire.
How to Recognise an ABC Fire Extinguisher
As with all fire extinguisher protocols, you can recognise the type of extinguisher by the colour of its label: in this case, the colour of an ABC fire extinguisher is blue.
For extra peace of mind, you will find the word “POWDER” written within the blue label on ABC fire extinguishers.
Though UK-based fire extinguishers are usually red in colour, you may sometimes find they can wear a polished gold casing for a more ornate appearance. Although the appearance may differ, the functionality and labelling will be the same: a blue label for a powder extinguisher to tackle A, B and C type fires.
As Simple as ABC: An Explanation on Fire Classes
As ABC fire extinguishers offer a wide range of applications, it is best practice to explain exactly what fire types can be tackled, so that you are fully aware of their application and prepared.
Read on for a thorough briefing on the A, B and C fire class types:
- Combustible Material: A Class A type fire is one caused by easily identifiable flammable solids such as paper, textiles and wood
- Flammable Liquids: A Class B type fire is caused by flammable liquids, such as turpentine, paint or petrol. Though NOT cooking oil
- Flammable Gasses: Common flammable gasses such as methane, butane and hydrogen which cause fire are Class C-type fires
Though primarily used to combat A,B and C classification fires, the ABC dry powder extinguishers can be applied to a number of other fire classes and types, particularly because the content does not contain water.
- Class D: These are fires caused by flammable metals – such as lithium, magnesium and potassium – and can be extinguished by dry powder, ABC fire extinguishers
- Class E: E for electrical equipment fires. Commonly used electrical (up to 1000 volts) items such as computers, hairdryers and small heaters are tackled using an ABC fire extinguisher. Remember, only fires caused by electrical items with a power rating of 1000 volts should be handled with an ABC type fire extinguisher
How to Use an ABC Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher – Step By Step
- Always ensure that you are safe from any immediate threat of fire, debris or dangerous people before attempting to extinguish a fire. Situational awareness is paramount.
- Inspect that the ABC fire extinguisher has full charge capacity (contents) and that the safety pin has no damage.
- Maintain a reasonable distance from the fire to ensure your own safety, then remove the safety pin.
- Aiming the extinguisher:
- Combustible Material: Aim hose at base of flames, ensuring you move across the area of the fire
- Flammable Liquids: Take aim with the hose at the nearest edge of the fire, then, with a rapid sweeping motion begin to aim towards the furthest edge until all flames are extinguished
- Flammable Gasses: Turn off electrical power, as this could further fuel the fire. Aim at the base of the fire, sweeping upwards until all fire is extinguished
- Flammable Metals: Target the base of the fire, use a sweeping motion to smother the fire until completely extinguished
- Electrical Equipment: If safe to do so, switch off all electrical power to the location of the fire. Aim hose directly at the fire and the electrical equipment that caused it
- Maintain composure and squeeze the extinguisher’s lever slowly, approaching the fire as it becomes smaller in size.
- Confidently ensure that all fire has been extinguished. Re-ignition could occur at any time if the fire has not been completely extinguished.
How Does an ABC Fire Extinguisher Work?
As ABC fire extinguishers use a non-water-based dry powder solution, they are capable of tackling a diverse range of fire types.
A dry powder fire extinguisher works to completely smother and submerge the fire and its source in order to starve the outbreak of oxygen, preventing it from growing or maintaining itself.
The dry powder solution also has the benefit of absorbing the heat from the flames, meaning it has the potential to mitigate extensive heat damage to items, humans or animals in the near vicinity.
The DON’TS of ABC Fire Extinguishers
Though diverse in the application of tackling fires, there are a number of things you must consider.
Read on to discover the definite don’ts of using an ABC fire extinguisher.
- Never attempt to extinguish a fire that is caused by cooking oil – such as chip pans or deep fat fryers – instead use a Class F, wet chemical fire extinguisher (yellow label).
- Fires caused by electrical equipment over 1000 volts are not to be extinguished by an ABC class fire extinguisher.
- Ideally, you will not use a dry powder extinguisher within tight, enclosed spaces – such as domestic buildings, small retail establishments, motorhomes or offices – as the powder is easily inhaled and highly difficult to clean completely. A CO2 extinguisher or fire blanket may be more advisable in such settings.
Legal Requirements and Who Should Own ABC Fire Extinguishers
Though there are no specific legal requirements specifically addressing who should have a dry powder fire extinguisher (ABC), every UK building is legally required to have at least two Class A fire extinguishers on each floor. Those could be water fire extinguishers (red label), foam fire extinguishers (cream label) or ABC fire extinguishers.
Each fire extinguisher must be securely fitted to the wall or stored within special safety cabinets to prevent tampering or damage and they must be installed by a competent person: the installation will be thoroughly inspected by a trained fire safety engineer to determine whether it is safety compliant and implemented in line with all relevant government regulations.
It is advisable for various types of industry to own dry powder ABC fire extinguishers, they include:
- Vehicle mechanics, petrol stations and garage forecourts.
- Factories and engineer shops where welding or flame cutting is regularly performed.
- Premises containing large boiler rooms.
- Vehicles carrying dangerous goods or materials.
- Organisations who regularly use flammable gasses.
- Home enterprises that rely on large amounts of computer technology and other electrical equipment.
ABC Fire Extinguisher Sizes
ABC dry powder fire extinguishers are sold in a multitude of different sizes to tackle a variety of different business sizes.