What are the benefits and risks to different types of fire extinguishers?

Dominic Farrer
23rd November 2022

Gone are the days of the need for one fire extinguisher to fight a specific fire type.

If you are unaware of the different types of fire extinguishers and what they can be used for, the ‘powder type’ is the most effective. It can extinguish the vast majority fires, so why, in most office do we have water and CO2? This is because a powder fire extinguisher creates an almighty mess. Don’t get me wrong, it will do the job in spectacular passion, but it comes with a price to pay. It is like letting a toddler loose in the house for 15 minutes unsupervised. Utter devastation doesn’t come close. Therefore, we usually have specific types of extinguishers positioned in each location to deal with the most likely class of fire type that is most likely to occur.  

This is not an endorsement for the companies that make these fire extinguishers.

The P50 fire extinguisher come in a full range of types, including ‘water mist’. They have gained in popularity due to the lack of maintenance that is required. These fire extinguishers only 'require' a 10-year service, not an annual service, and then a discharge/refill at 20 years. They do require an annual inspection, but this can be carried out in-house as instruction is provided by the manufacturer. They are more expensive to purchase than the normal extinguishers we expect, and I’d be asking the question, how comfortable would you be knowing that you have fire extinguishers in your building that won’t be serviced for 10 years?

All fires
The ‘all fires’ fire extinguisher has been designed by a producer in the UK which is claimed to be able to fight all types of fire, no matter their origin. According to their website, the real benefit of these is that there is no thinking time involved in which extinguisher to select when tackling a fire. There is also the added benefit of having half the number of extinguishers around the office. I’ve never seen these in action, however, I have seen these situated next to a ‘water mist’ fire extinguisher in buildings, so there are potential problems for confusion.

Water mist
The ‘water mist’ fire extinguisher is an enhanced version of the standard water fire extinguisher. They are highly effective at fighting Class A solid material fires due to the enhanced spray system and can also be used on Class B, C and electrical fires. I know what you are thinking, water and electricity…it goes against everything we are ever taught! This is because the extinguisher is charged with de-ionised water, which does not conduct electricity. I can see the benefits of this type, although could it lead to a delay in an emergency due to someone being hesitant to use it when required?

All the above extinguishers have their pros and cons but making sure that your staff are suitably trained in the portable firefighting systems you have is fundamental. If you need any help with your fire safety management - please get in touch