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How to protect yourself against fire extinguisher vandalism and theft?

Fire extinguisher vandalism, theft and accidental discharge aren’t just a simple nuisance. Tampering with fire equipment can put lives in danger, if the damage isn’t spotted and rectified on time. In addition to that, the cost of repairing and replacing fire extinguishers, combined with the cost of cleaning after an unwarranted fire extinguisher discharge, and with fines looming, can quickly mount up to thousands of pounds in losses for a business every year, especially if you have to deal with repeat offences. 

This is why, we decided to look into the best ways to protect yourself against improper, malicious use of fire extinguishers. 

Is it a criminal offence to tamper with fire extinguishers?

Yes. Under Section 8 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, it is illegal to “intentionally or recklessly interfere with or misuse” any of the fire safety equipment provided, including fire extinguishers, fire alarms, fire blankets and fire exits.

 If you are found guilty of tampering with fire equipment, you can face large fines (from £100 to thousands of pounds depending on the seriousness of the offence) and even be sentenced to up to 2 years of jail time for major offences. 

Why is fire extinguisher vandalism such a big issue? 

Tampering with fire extinguishers is a serious concern in public spaces, such as hotels and educational buildings, including schools and universities. Trains, railway stations and other areas with free access to the public can also be exposed to fire extinguishers vandalism. 

Fire extinguisher vandalism can vary from tampering with the fire extinguisher labels and tags to the unwarranted discharge of a fire extinguisher and theft. Then there’s the issue of fire extinguisher misuse with some people in office buildings casually using fire extinguishers as doorstops. 

Tampering with fire extinguisher tags and labels

Removing or tampering with the tags on the fire extinguishers may seem like a small issue because it doesn’t affect the functionality of the extinguisher However, the person responsible for the fire safety of the premises will have to pay for the vandalised extinguisher to be reinspected to be compliant with the H&S regulations. 

Illegal discharge of a fire extinguisher

In the UK, it is illegal to discharge a fire extinguisher when no fire is present and offenders are subject to monetary penalties and even incarceration. There are many reasons why this is considered as such a serious issue, starting with the most obvious one – an empty fire extinguisher in the event of a fire can cost lives and result in serious damage to property. Additionally, fire extinguishers can cause impaired vision if sprayed directly in the eyes and the fumes from CO2 fire extinguishers can cause asphyxiation, which makes improper use extremely dangerous for everyone involved. 

There is a financial side to this problem as well. Once a fire extinguisher has been discharged, it has to be refilled or replaced, which obviously incurs a certain cost. Also, after a fire extinguisher has been discharged, the area has to be properly cleaned out and if corrosive agents are present in the specific extinguishant, a special cleaning crew has to be called in to sort out the problem. 

Fire extinguishers can also pose a danger to the environment, due to the danger of acute toxicity. Therefore, their use should be limited to when they are strictly necessary, i.e. in the event of a fire.

Fire extinguisher theft 

A missing fire extinguisher is an obvious fire hazard. Not to mention that fire extinguishers in commercial buildings are a legal requirement, so not having one is a finable offence in its own right. This means that a new extinguisher has to be bought and an inspection by a professional has to be done before it’s approved for use. The entire replacement procedure costs money and time, and if it’s something that you have to deal with on a regular basis, due to repeated vandalism, the financial impact becomes even more apparent.  

How to prevent fire extinguisher vandalism and theft 

According to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, you must provide at least two Class A fire extinguishers on every floor of a non-domestic building and those must be either mounted to a wall or placed in a purpose-built stand. Failing to do so may lead to fines, insurance payout refusal in the event of a fire and even imprisonment. 

Even though vandals caught in the act can also pay fines and face jail time, there are no guarantees that they will be and you, as a responsible person, are still liable for the fire health and safety of everyone in the building, including employees, visitors and members of the public. This is why it is well worth investing in fire equipment misuse prevention. 

Traditionally, the safety features you could implement to protect your fire extinguishers include special, reinforced fire extinguisher cabinets and protective covers. However, thanks to the latest advancements in the fire safety industry, the market is seeing the introduction of more sophisticated solutions, such as the X Alert’s Fire Extinguisher Monitoring System

This patent-pending product designed by the fire safety experts at FMC Fire, is the first of its kind, offering a fire extinguisher bracket combined with an anti-theft alarm to deter vandals. The product features include: 

  • Interchangeable bracket types
  • 12 bright flashing SMDs 
  • 100db siren 
  • Built-in spirit level to aid easy installation
  • 9v PP3 battery powered for easy maintenance
  • Up to 9l fire extinguishers supported
  • Secure built-in ON/OFF switch
  • integrated extinguisher support
  • Custom branding options
  • Choice of colours 

Thanks to X Alert, protecting your building from fire extinguisher vandalism has never been easier! For more information, get in touch with the fire experts at FMC fire. 

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