By Mark Conroy

From time to time, we like to share perspectives from members in our connected communities. We’d like to thank Mark Conroy for his tips on keeping portable fire extinguishers in reliable working order:

, Maintaining Fire Extinguishers in Reliable Working Order, Harrington Group Inc

Portable fire extinguishers are installed throughout buildings for use by building occupants. In order for extinguishers to work properly, they need to be maintained. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your extinguishers are working properly and are ready to use during a fire.

Monthly Extinguisher Inspections

An extinguisher inspection is a quick check that the extinguisher is in its designated place (on a hanger or in an extinguisher cabinet), it has not been discharged or tampered with, and there is no obvious physical damage that will prevent its operation. An inspection can be conducted by just about anyone with minimal knowledge of extinguishers, including building maintenance staff. But, only a trained service technician is qualified to correct deficiencies that are discovered during inspections.

Annual Extinguisher Maintenance

The annual extinguisher maintenance must be conducted by a trained service technician. You can find a company to service your extinguishers by doing an internet search for “fire extinguisher service”. In addition to performing work on extinguishers found to have problems during a monthly inspection, extinguisher technicians perform periodic annual maintenance according to NFPA 10, Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers. At intervals specified in NFPA 10, technicians will hydrostatically test cylinders to assure they can withstand pressurization. Following this test, the technician will recharge the extinguisher according to the manufacturers’ service manual.

Extinguisher Inspection and Maintenance Records

Every extinguisher should have tags or labels that provide inspection and maintenance records. To make sure your extinguishers are up-to-date, periodically check these tags and labels. Only extinguishers that have monthly inspections and annual maintenance are considered to be reliable and ready for use in the event of a fire.

An extinguisher should only be used on a fire during its early stage. At the same time, all other building occupants should be evacuating the premises and the fire department should be notified.

Knowing that care and servicing has been done in accordance with the NFPA criteria will help ensure these fire fighting tools will be operational when they are needed most, during a fire emergency.

Mark Conroy is a fire protection engineer with Brooks Equipment Company of Charlotte, NC and a Principal Member of the NFPA 10 Technical Committee.