The number and type of fire extinguishers you require depends on the nature of your business and the risks involved. The best way to evaluate these risks is to undertake a Fire Risk Assessment, which is also part of your legal obligation as a business owner. Click this link to read more about the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 or how to undertake a cost effective Fire Risk Assessment .
The how many is not always easy to gauge but, as a general rule, you will need one water-based extinguisher such as water, water additive (the best option for most) or foam (3 litre or bigger) for every 2000 square foot or 200 square metres of floor space. This is per floor.
The extinguisher must have a minimum fire rating of 13A and this will be near the top of the front label on any approved extinguisher - so 21A or 34A is even better than 13A.
Once you have a water-based one, you are likely to have electrical risks such as computers, retail lighting, fridges, machinery, servers, electric forklifts, etc. This will need a CO2 extinguisher and it makes sense to have a pairing of CO2 and water-based for every fire point. The 2kg is by far the more popular but the 5kg CO2 size would be better for server rooms, machinery, industrial, etc.
What Types Of Fire Extinguishers Does My Business Need?
As above, this depends on the type of business you undertake, but here are a few examples to help you start assessing the range required.
For larger premises such as a car dealership that has a showroom, office, workshop, store and flammable storage, you need to break this down and consider each area on its own. So here you have office, showroom and store that probably have similar needs whereas the workshop and flammable areas have different needs.
However, it is best not to have too many different types on the same premises if possible as this adds to confusion in a panic. So, if you have foam in the workshop, use foam as the water-based one in the office area.
If you mave multiple risks such as a garage workshop, powder may be better as your fire may include wood, paper, paint and fuel all at the same time. In a garage workshop we would recommend powder for general use and CO2 for small welding fires but the office area would still need water-based ones as powder will make a mess. In an office or hotel or nursing home, powder would make a dust cloud that may stop people from finding exits.
kitchen should have a combination of fire blankets, wet chemical extinguishers for any deep fat dryers, plus C02 for electrical fires. If you have a kitchen on your business premises, you should read our article on commercial kitchen fires - the BS7937 Class F Wet Chemical Fire Extinguisher .
An office would have the same risks as most shops, salons, hotels, residential homes, shopping centres, etc so the requirements would be a water additive extinguisher with a CO2 at each fire point.
Construction sites would have multiple risks so powder and CO2 would be a good option.
And don't forget fire extinguishers in company vehicles - every vehicle should have a 2kg powder extinguisher in the driving area, and larger vehicles carrying dangerous goods require further fire extinguisher provision. Read more about fire extinguishers for vehicles carrying dangerous goods
Another consideration is the temperature. So, if they are stored outside on a petrol station forecourt or building site, powder would be best as it can be used down to minus 30 degrees. Foam and water would bee antifreeze but this reduces the fire-fighting ability and, by the time an engineer visits, discharges and refills with antifreeze, will probably cost more than you paid to buy a new extinguisher!
Fire extinguishers For The Home
There are many different sizes and types of home but the risks are similar being mainly electrical, cooking, garage and furniture or material.
In an ideal world, a 3 litre or 6 litre foam combined with a 2kg CO2 extinguisher would be best. If you enjoy a fry-up in the kitchen, a fire blanket is the only way to fight a chip pan fire.
Space may be at a premium and, for that reason, the 2kg ABC powder fire extinguisher is the most popular one for the home as it fights all fires. Powder or foam would also be good for the garage.
Again, in an ideal world, you would have something on every floor so the another foam extinguisher would also be good for upper floors or basements.
Remember that the 1kg powder and 2 litre foam extinguisher are designed for car fires and are too small for the home.
Fire extinguishers are for small fires and are useless without a smoke alarm to tell you there is a fire in the first place. Install either mains-operated or 10-year battery smoke alarms on every floor.
Your priority at all times, whether at home or at work, is to get everyone out safely. Only fight small fires if you think it is safe to do so and leave the others to the professionals.