Hey Mom, what’s this do? Fire Extinguisher Components and their Function

  • February 12, 2021
  • Blog

Most adults know what a fire extinguisher looks like. They’re in every business and commercial residence you enter. Some people even know the basic operational procedures: 1. Break the tamper seal. 2. Pull the pin. 3. Aim the hose at the fire. 4. Squeeze the handles. 5. Point and sweep side to side at the base of the fire. But maybe you’re interested in the engineering of a fire extinguisher. Or maybe your twin toddlers have asked you 70 questions about them in the last 3 minutes and you told them you’d look it up. Either way, read on to learn more about the parts and pieces of a fire extinguisher.

Fire extinguishers show the great diversity of world. They come in different shapes, colors, and sizes. Some have wheels, some have hoses, and others have horns! If you live in North America, you are likely familiar with the ABC models. These are the most common due to their design and effectiveness. They are safe to use on Class A, B, and (you guessed it) C fires. This means that your standard ABC model is ready for action against ordinary fires, flammable and combustible liquid fires, and even electrical fires. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration, or OSHA gives a great visual and further information on fire extinguisher usage https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/evacuation/portable_about.html.

Remember seeing the red extinguisher on the wall at work? If not, look around. Odds are an ABC fire extinguisher is visible or nearby. These fire extinguishers and most others are comprised of a cylindrical tank to contain the extinguishing agent, a valve system to release the agent, rubber o-rings to hold the extinguisher’s pressure, a hose to direct the agent, and a safety mechanism to protect against user error. When I handle an extinguisher, I like to be safe. Silly mistakes result in a user spraying themselves in the face with extinguishing chemicals! The safety mechanism of an extinguisher consists of the tamper seal and the pull pin. The tamper seal wraps around the release valve (top handle) to visibly ensure the fire extinguisher has not been opened or tampered with before use. It can also keep the pull pin in place. At All Florida Fire, service technicians mark these tags with the year of service. Customers can easily look at their extinguishers and knew when the cylinder received its last service. The pull pin looks like a silver key on a circle. It holds the valve handle together. Furthermore, it keeps the extinguisher from expelling by accident. This would result in a big and costly mess.

The tamper seal and pull-pin are attached to the carrying handle and valve system. The carrying handle is, well, just that. It looks like the bottom portion of the release lever. If you hold it, it will not release the extinguishing agent unless the pin is pulled and the top portion, or squeeze grip, of the lever, is depressed in conjunction. Attached to the lever is the valve system. This is where the magic happens. The valve system extends inside the cylinder and touches the extinguishing agent. It allows the compressed gas or liquid to expel when a person squeezes the grip. It also connects to the hose. The hose directs the flow of the extinguishing agent and helps the user extinguish the fire. How do you know that the fire extinguisher will function as advertised? Check the pressure gauge. This beauty marks the internal pressure. Not sure what it should be? Check the color-coding. Green means good, or in the appropriate range, red means bad, or call your local fire extinguisher dealer.

Everyone likes the hose, it’s fun and self-explanatory. No one likes the hose dangling about and knocking into things. This is why fire extinguishers have a band around the outside. This allows the hose to stay safely in place and not become damaged. Accessories like these are where function meets fancy in the fire extinguisher industry. Once the fire extinguisher is assembled it must be installed. Some extinguishers use a hanger, or mounting device, that attaches to a stationary vertical surface. You’ll generally see these in your workplace. If a technician installs an extinguisher in a moving environment, like a vehicle, they use a bracket. These incorporate releasable straps or bands to keep the extinguisher in place. They keep the cylinder from becoming a missile in case of a car accident. Other extinguishers receive a tiny home, known as an extinguisher cabinet. The cabinets are designed to help protect fire extinguishers from extreme heat, insects, water, and tampering. However, the extinguisher can still be viewed and used as needed.

Now, I know you’ve already come back to read the article. But maybe you should examine that fire extinguisher again. There a few more accessories to jazz up the excitement. Some have a necklace! These are also known as verification of service or VOS collars. Anytime a fire extinguisher is opened for service, the collar verifies the proper service has been completed. They come in different colors to upgrade the look of the cylinder (or are chosen by fire dealer preference). If you’re still looking, you should see some fun stickers too. The manufacturer label provides visual instructions for users, in case you missed the first segment. They also give the ratings of the fire extinguisher. They can be labeled A, B, C, D, or K according to which class of fires they will best extinguish. Symbols for the different types of fires can be seen too, check out Port Ludlow’s Fire & Rescue education website at http://plfr.org/public-education/fire-safety/fire-extinguishers-2-labels.php to see more. Additionally, the manufacturer label contains the pressure the extinguisher was factory tested at, an ingredient list, DOT or Marine compliance, and some warning for your health and safety. Redundant, but fire extinguishers really love safety; So, do we.

Hopefully, your children are so blissfully informed with fire safety knowledge they had moved on to taking a nap. Or maybe, you have further questions. If you have fire extinguisher questions or service needs, contact us. All Florida Fire is a family-owned business, locally servicing the greater Tampa Bay area since 1999. We enjoy customer education and providing our customers and community with excellent service. Please give us a call.


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