Sava Fire Equipment Inc. was established in 1988 and has been the exclusive distributor in Canada for Amerex Fire since our inception. Our philosophy has always been to supply the fire extinguisher distributor with quality product at a competitive price. Never to sell direct to any end user but rather to support the distributor in the field and be their partner, not their competitor.
Amerex was quick to recognize the importance of having a Canadian company represent their product for distribution in our country and Sava Fire Equipment was their first choice.
With an educated and knowledgeable staff having almost 100 years of combined experience in the fire extinguisher distribution business, Sava Fire fast became one of Amerex’s largest distributors in the world. We know the distributors in Canada and what they need to be successful.
We represent all the product lines Amerex manufactures – Hand portable extinguishers, wheeled extinguishers, Restaurant Systems (KP), Industrial Systems (IS). Vehicle Fire Suppression Systems (VSS) and of course all the parts and pieces that go along with having a fully stocked distribution centre in Canada. On time delivery is critical to any distributor’s success.
We also represent:
Getz Equipment Innovators – Manufacturers of Fire Extinguisher service shop equipment and mobile fire extinguisher service solutions.
Burner Fire Control – Manufacturers of custom-made skid mount, stationary and mobile fire protection – ABC, PK, Foam, and Twin Agent solutions for special hazards.
Cambridge Seals – Manufacturers of custom extinguisher and sprinkler valve tamper seals
We look forward to becoming your “Source for Amerex, and Getz” in CanadaFred Sava
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Associations and Certifying Bodies
Industry Common Myths
Stored-Pressure Extinguishers compact the dry chemical.
NO! In fact, a case can be made that quite the opposite is true.Consider this:
Stored-pressure fire extinguishers have pressure being exerted in ALL directions within the vessel, not just from the top. This actually helps to keep the chemical fluidized during storage and compaction tests (this is also the reason for always pressurizing units through the valve and downtube).
The pressurizing gas is present between dry chemical particles and when the valve is opened, the pressurizing gas expands –instantly fluidizing the dry chemical.
ALL UL listed extinguishers are subjected to vibration and compaction tests regardless of the design. These tests are meant to try to compact the dry chemical so it won’t discharge. All Amerex stored-pressure extinguishers pass these tests and BSI (British Standards), EN3 (European Standards) and Australianand a host of others.
Cartridge operated extinguishers are not under constant pressure and as a result:
- They can be tampered with, (fill caps loosened, cartridges loosened, hoses loosened), and the chemical may be compromised with moisture or foreign objects.
- They depend upon gas going through a tube and a series of ports and check valves. If this gas tube is not removed during hydrotest you will certainly develop a block. It may also get blocked from chemical moving into the tube if it is not checked during annual maintenance.
- No gas distribution system design in a cartridge operated extinguisher will fluidize cakedchemical, nor will a stored pressure extinguisher operate correctly with caked chemical. Cartridge operated extinguishers, by design, are more susceptible to moisture intrusion than stored pressure extinguishers.
Higher UL ratings will put out more fire.
Depends. A wise instructor at the Texas A & M Fire School has said “UL ratings have never put out a fire, fire extinguishers in the hands of capable operators put out fires.”
UL Class B fire tests are run on only one type of fire, fuel in depth. The larger the pan fire, the larger the rating and the longer the extinguisher must discharge. For a given size extinguisher the resulting effect is a lower flow rate.
Other class B fires such as three-dimensional fires (where fuel is running from one level to another), or liquid fuel fires under pressure (like a failed pump seal or flange), require high flow rates in order to extinguisher the fire. Amerex High Performance Fast Flow extinguishers have higher flow rates that can handle these types of fires, but because of faster discharge times they also have lower UL ratings. These qualities, in fact, make them far more versatile and effective for a variety of fire situations and are even required by NFPA 10, Section 5.5.
When used on fuel in depth fires they are more effective than extinguishers with high UL ratings and low flow rates as long as they are being used by trained operators. The higher flow rate puts more chemical into the flame front and has greater flame “ knock-down”.
In the Annex (for informational purposes only)
A.220.127.116.11 Pressurized flammable liquids and pressurized gas fires are considered to be a special hazard. Class B fire extinguishers containing agents other than dry chemical are relatively ineffective on this type of hazard due to stream and agent characteristics. The system used to rate the effectiveness of extinguishers on Class B fires (flammable liquids in depth) is not applicable to these types of hazards. It has been determined that special nozzle design and rates of agent application are required to cope with such hazards.
A.18.104.22.168.2 A three-dimensional Class B fire involves Class B materials in motion, such as pouring, running, or dripping flammable liquids, and generally includes vertical as well as one or more horizontal surfaces.Fires of this nature are considered to be a special hazard. The system used to rate the effectiveness of extinguishers on Class B fires (flammable liquids in depth) is not applicable to these types of hazards.It has been determined that special nozzle design and rates of agent application are required to cope with such hazards.Caution: It is undesirable to attempt to extinguish this type of fire unless there is reasonable assurance that the source of fuel canbe promptly shut off.
And in the main body (enforceable)
“5.5 Selection for Specific Hazards
5.5.1 Class B Fires.
22.214.171.124* Extinguishers for Pressurized Flammable Liquids and Pressurized Gas Fires.
126.96.36.199.1 Selection of fire extinguishers for this type of hazard shall be made on the basis of recommendations by manufacturers of this specialized equipment.
188.8.131.52.2* Large capacity dry chemical extinguishers of 10 lb. (4.54 kg) or greater and a discharge rate of 1 lb./sec (0.45 kg/sec or more shall be used to protect these hazards.
5.5.2 Three-Dimensional Fires. Large capacity dry chemical extinguishers of 10 lb. (4.54 kg) or greater and a discharge rate of 1 lb./sec (0.45 kg/sec or more shall be used to protect these hazards......
5.5.4 Obstacle Fires. Selection of a fire extinguisher for this type of hazard shall be based on one of the following:
(1) Extinguisher containing a vapor suppressing foam agent
(2) *Multiple extinguishers containing non-vapor suppressing Class B agents intended for simultaneous application
(3) Larger capacity dry chemical extinguishers of 10 lb. (4.54 kg) or greater and a discharge rate of 1 lb./sec (0.45 kg/sec or more shall be used to protect these hazards.
If you look at most situations that require a Class B fire extinguisher, the potential for fires other than fuel in depthor spill firesalso exist. That’s whereAmerex Fast Flow High Performance fire extinguishersprove their superiority, and that’s where larger capacity (20 lb. and 30 lb.) extinguishers with lower UL ratings and greater flow rate are more effective at suppressing these fires.”
CAUTION:The most effective and safest method for extinguishing a pressurized fire is to shut off the source of the fuel. If a pressurized flammable gas fire is extinguished without shutting off the fuel, the potential hazard fire area will increase quickly as a vapor cloud will form and find a source of ignition.
Stainless steel extinguishers won't corrode.
Yes, they can. While stainless steel is LESS SUSCEPTIBLE to corrosionin most environments, and is far superior for construction of water and foam extinguishers, that does not take away the possibility of corrosion.
Quality of water supplies used to refill water and foam extinguishers varies greatly throughout North America and the rest of the world. The amount of Chlorine and Chlorides in these water supplies may have an adverse effect on the life of the shell. As little as 30 Parts perMillion (PPM) of Chlorine will cause stainless steel to corrode.
Installing stainless steel extinguishers in salt atmosphere environments (around coastal installations) may also corrode the outside of the shell over a period of time. It has been our experience that stainless steel extinguishers left OUTSIDE, UNCOVERED IN COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS DO VERY WELL, since rain is allowed to wash off built up salt. If the same extinguisher is put into an UNVENTILATED CABINET OR HAS A COVER IT CORRODES VERY QUICKLY.
Another issue that we find is corrosion of Class K units. This is usually caused by restaurant personnel spraying a chlorine solution on all of the equipment in the cooking area to prevent bacterial growth. However, chlorine will attack stainless aggressively. Should you run across this –look at the restaurants stainless appliances, hood and other surfaces. It is very likely that the corrosion problem is not isolated to just their Class K extinguisher.
Another common occurrence is water extinguishers around oxidizers. Here you are caught between a rock and a hard place. If the oxidizers (which are not usually flammable, but will intensify any fire), are stored in or around Class A material, water based extinguishers are the only thing available to use. Our water mist extinguishers offer some more protection as they have a painted shell.
Something else to keep in mind, corrosion on stainless steel shells works completely different and looks different than on mild steel shells, like dry chemical extinguishers. Instead of spreading out in a pattern and then flaking away layers of metal (such as you may have seen on dry chemical extinguishers), corrosion on stainless steel shells will not spread out or flake. Instead it will bore through the shell creating a pinhole at each spot where corrosion has developed a foothold. Anything that looks like aged line corrosion on a stainless steel shell should prompt you to hydrotest the shell (even if it is not due) or in some cases to condemn the unit without a hydrotest.
Amerex is one of the few companies that havebeen successful in making quality stainless steel water, foam, wet chemical and water mist extinguishers for years. Our vast experience may help you in determining proper inspection, maintenance, recharge and hydrotest procedures for these superior class A, B, C, and K units.
Another little known fact, our model 630 Premix Foam Wheeled Extinguisher is the only foam wheeled unit that uses a painted stainless steel agent cylinder. No interior coatings are necessary,corrosion resistance is superior to any competitive unit on the market –and they are USCG Approved!
It isn’t necessary to clean extinguishers as part of the annual maintenance.
Yes it is.Consider these points:
- Per NFPA 10, and Amerex service manuals, during annual maintenance, a thorough examination of the extinguisher must be performed.
- 7.3.2 requires an examination of all mechanical partsand physical appearance
- “184.108.40.206 Physical Appearance. A visual examination of the extinguisher shall be made to detect obvious physical damage, corrosion, or nozzle blockage and to verify that the operating instructions a present, legible, and facing forward and that the HMIS information is present and legible.”
- If the extinguisher is covered in mud, dust, debris, grease or other things, how can you determine the condition of the mechanical parts, the condition of the cylinder, nameplate and other necessary labels, and thereby comply with NFPA 10 and the service manual?
- If the extinguisher is clean, it won’t blend in with the background and is easier to find in an emergency.
- Periodic cleaning helpsto remove dirt and moisture trapped in the dirt that can lead to corrosion, thus extending the life of the extinguisher.
- Cleaning makes it easier to read manufacturing dates, hydrotest dates, six year maintenance dates, serial numbers, bar codes, correctnozzles, correct parts, weather checking on hoses, proper labels, etc.
- Leaving an extinguisher cleaner than when you found it also lets the customer know that you were there and you did something. Many of your customers are not aware of the extensive maintenance that must be done when you service the extinguisher. All they see is the unit after you’ve left. If all they see is a new seal and a new tag on a dirty extinguisher they might feel slighted.
Think about it. If you had your car worked on, picked itup and paid the bill, but everything looked exactly the same, wouldn’t you be just a little bit suspicious?
We are NOT suggesting that all you do is clean the unit. We’ve all heard enough stories about “rag & taggers.” We are also not suggesting that you get out the polish and put a couple of hand rubbed coats on each extinguisher (although there may be some environments where looks are so important that this could be a valuable service to that customer as well as extra protection from corrosion.) If you take just a little extra time to clean each one up, it could save time in the entire inspection, prevent you from missing some important information and leave you with a more satisfied customer.It could also make you and everyone else more safe by catchingpotential failures that could go unnoticed.
This will also help to set you and your company apart from others.
I can use any foam extinguisher on any flammable liquid.
Yes and No.Amerex is one of the few manufacturers that makesfoam fire extinguishers. We are the only one that makes several hand portable foam extinguishers and a foam wheeled unit. All flammable liquid fires are not alike; neither are all foams. The right foam must be used the right way in order to put out different flammable liquid fires.A foam extinguisher that does not state on the listing label that it is approved for use on polar solvents should not be selected to protect water miscible fuels or polar solvent/hydrocarbon mixtures.
Foam concentrates, such as the FFFP used in the Amerex Model 252, are designed for use on alcohol fires (including other polar solvents such as MEK, methanol and glycol), have an additive called a copolymer. When this type of foam makes contact with a polar solvent, a membrane is formed by the copolymer. You can see this membrane on the surface of the fuel. It looks almost like the skim you would see on milk after it has been heated. It is this membrane or skim that puts the fire out and secures the vapors.
In order to allow this membrane to form, you can’t disturb the fuel surface when the foam is being applied. This means that you can’t just stand back and “lob” the foam in to the middle of the fuel. Instead, the foam must be gently bounced off an object either in back or in front of the fuel and allowed to gently flow over the surface. The more gently the foam is applied, the more likely the membrane will form.As a “rule of thumb” figure that the surface area that may be extinguished with a foam extinguisher on a hydrocarbon fire will be about twice that of what may be extinguished with a polar solvent fire.
The foam will seem to just “disappear” when it hits the surface if the membrane isn’t allowed to form. This is happening because the polar solvent is pulling the water out of the bubbles and breaking down the foam.
On more common hydrocarbon fires (such as gasoline, diesel and oil), Alcohol Type Foams work the same way as other foams. No membrane needs to be formed and the foam may be “lobbed” onto the surface. It is still a goodidea to “bounce” the foam onto the surface if possible to form a more effective foam blanket. Disturbing the fuel surface is not ascritical if only hydrocarbons are involved.
What do you do if both hydrocarbons and polar solvents are mixed together, suchas most gasoline available today with 10% ethanol? If there is more than 10% polar solvent in the mixture, the fire should be treated as if it were all polar solvent
I can use our old extinguishers that have been removed from service for live fire training.
This really isn’t a good idea. In Common Myth #2 we discussed briefly UL ratings and different flow rates. Just as different extinguishers made today have different flow rates and discharge times, extinguishers made 30 to 40 years ago had different flow rates and nozzle discharge patterns. It has not been unusual for us to find old extinguishers with low ratings and strange discharge patterns being used for training.
The problem with doing this is that your customers learn a technique based on extinguishers that they will never use. They are then surprised by the different “feel” of the extinguisher when a real fire incident happens. Different discharge patterns and flow rates make it harder for them to extinguish the fire. A general rule to follow for training is: always use what the customer has in their facility. You are customizing the training to the equipment they will be using and eliminating the possibilities of surprises. Whatever you do, please do not use cartridge operated extinguishers for training if the customers use stored pressure extinguishers. The difference in the operation of these two extinguisher designs is so great that the customer will end up being totally confused.
Also, remember that if you have to use the customers’ extinguishers that must be “pulled off line” for the training session, you must provide extinguishers in the place of the ones you are using while the session is being conducted. The replacement extinguishers must be of equal or greater rating.
I buy “recycled” dry chemical for use in my recharging. It saves me a lot of money and I can claim that I am “green”.
No way!Used chemical that is recovered through unknown means, from unknown sources and undocumented practices should never go back into an extinguisher.Different grinds of chemical, loss of “fines”, different formulations/particle sizing, exposure to moisture/humidityand mixing of different chemical bases (such as ABC with Purple-K or Regular) will compromise the performance of the chemical on the fire.
We have had a couple of instances where our High Performance extinguishershad been filled by local distributors using “recovered” or “scrap” dry chemical. The extinguishers were then discharged on live fires in front of largeindustrial users with poor results.The color of the chemical was non-descript, neither yellow nor white nor purple nor light blue –more of a neutral gray.After much expense we ran the same fires with our standard Regular Dry Chemical and with the customers “salvaged” dry chemical. The results showed that the same operator could put out the fire three times in a row using our regular dry Chemical and could neverput it out with the “salvaged” chemical. The distributoradmitted that they had used salvaged dry chemical for the product demonstration in an effort to save money. They also could not believe the difference between the new chemical and what they had beenusing for training.
If you want to show superior performance with the products that you sell and service, always use new or original (not salvaged) Dry Chemical for training sessions.
NEVER USE RECYCLED OR SALVAGED CHEMICAL FOR PRODUCT DEMONSTRATION ON LIVE FIRES.
NEVER, EVER, USE “RECYCLED”OR “SALVAGED”CHEMICAL FROM AN UNKNIOWN ORIGIN OR PROCEDURE FOR EXTINGUISHERS THAT WILL BE PLACED INTO SERVICE.
This is not to be mistaken with using a closed recovery system, recovering the chemical from a known source and putting back into that source in a timely manner.
It doesn’t matter how I remove an “O” ring.
It does. Even if you plan on replacing the “O” ring, you must be careful how it is removed.
“O” rings require periodic inspection and/or replacement in order to maintain optimum extinguisher performance. Care must be used when conducting this essential maintenance.
Using a sharp object to remove any seal may not only damage the seal, but can cut into the sealing surface of the valve. This may cause a leak, even when a new seal is installed.
Just a little bit of care and caution when removing or replacing seals of any kind will help to eliminate “leakers” caused by seal failure.
I can used two 20B rated extinguishers to meet a 40B requirement.
You can’t if you are using dry chemical extinguishers but you can if you are using foam extinguishers.This is allowed in NFPA 10 Chapter 6 –
6.3.1 Other than for Fires in Flammable Liquids of Appreciable Depth.
220.127.116.11 Up to three AFFF or FFFP fire extinguishers of at least 2 ½ gal. (9.46L) capacity shall be permitted to be used to fulfill extra (high) hazard requirements.
18.104.22.168 Two AFFF or FFFP fire extinguishers of at least 1.6 gal (6L) capacity shallbe permitted to be used to fulfill ordinary (moderate) hazard requirements.
22.214.171.124 Two or more fire extinguishers of lower rating shall not be used to fulfill the protection requirements of Table 126.96.36.199 except as permitted by 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206
6.3.2 Flammable Liquids of Appreciable Depth
220.127.116.11 AFFF-or FFFP –type fire extinguishers shall be permitted to be provided on the basis of 1-B of protection per ft2 (0.09m2) of flammable surface of the largest hazard area. (For fires involving water-soluble flammable liquids, see 5.5.3)
18.104.22.168Two or more fire extinguishers of lower ratings, other than AFFF-or FFFP-type fire extinguishers, shall not be used in lieu of the fire extinguisher for the largest hazard area.
22.214.171.124Up to three AFFF –or FFFP –type fire extinguishers shall be permitted to fulfill the requirements, provided the sum of the Class B ratings meets or exceeds the value required for the largest hazard area.
Dry chemical extinguishers have no “securement” capabilities. When using a dry chemical extinguisher on flammable liquids, the operator(s) will either put out all of the fire or none of it. It is impossible to put out half of the fire and go get another dry chemical extinguisher to put out the other half; the fire will reflash over theentire surface area.
Dry Chemical is also “application sensitive” meaning that it does not matter how much you apply to the fire, it won’t go out if the dry chemical was not applied properly. We have seen one person put out a 60 square foot pit fire (muchlarger than what would be considered to be an “incipient” fire) three times with a single 20 lb. dry chemical extinguisher. We have also seen four people each with a 30 lb. dry chemical attack the same fire simultaneously and fail to put it out (not once but three times!). If you don’t use dry chemical properly on a flammable liquid fire, it won’t matter how much you have; the fire won’t go out.
Foam is “user friendly” meaning that as long as it is put on the fire in nearly any manner (in the case of hydrocarbons) some success will be accomplished. Foam does have some “securement” capabilities. Foam puts out a flammable liquid fire by securing the vapors coming off the fuel and separating them from the ignition source and surrounding air. This makes it possible to put out a portion of the fire and use a second foam extinguisher to extinguish the rest.
Make no mistake, as with any fire, if it is too large, or has been burning too long, it is no longer an incipient fire and therefore it should not be attemptedto extinguish with a hand portable fire extinguisher.
I can make more money by servicing older fire extinguishers than I can by selling new ones.
Maybe you can, but be careful. Many companies have policies regarding the repair equipment. Generally, if the cost of the repairs (or reconditioning) exceeds 50% of the replacement costs, many companies will –by policy –replace the piece of equipment.
If the cost to repair or recondition a piece of equipment exceeds 50% of the replacement cost, the company could spend a lot of money and still be left with an old piece of equipment that can still be damaged. No manufacturer’s warranty will be available, no other guarantees are available and performance will be questionable. Who will back the repairs and/or the reconditioning?
Manufacturers’ warranties are one consideration, and advancement in technologies is another. As an example,the cost to repair or recondition a cartridge-operated extinguisher may be more expensive than the cost of a new stored-pressure extinguisher; perhaps more than 50% of the cost for a superior High Performance extinguisher.
Labor costs are to be considered in the repair and/or reconditioning of older equipment.Are you really making the margins that you think you are once everything is added up?
By replacing the extinguisher you will give your customer the very latest in equipment, backed by the manufacturer with a new warranty. You will get a known profit margin, free of variable labor costs and you will avoid going against the customer’s replacement policy.
Presented correctly to the customer, they may even appreciate your honesty and the opportunity to have an option
Dry Chemical “smothers” the fire.
Only in certain circumstances. On Class B fires, dry chemical interrupts the chain reaction. During the early stages in the development of dry chemical agents, it was thought that the fire was being smothered. Regular Dry Chemical (sodium bicarbonate) and Purple-K (potassium bicarbonate) break down in theflame front to form carbon dioxide and water vapor. However, there is neither enough carbon dioxide to extinguish the fire, nor is there enough water vapor to extinguish the fire.
On a Class B fire, dry chemical interrupts the chain reaction (kind of like a referee breaking up a fight) and extinguishes the fire. This is why it is important to look for a “flash back” when using dry chemical on a liquid fuel fire. There is still oxygen, fuel and hot surfaces present to allow the fire to re-ignite. On Class B fires, Dry chemical does not cool anything down, does not take away the oxygen and does not take away the fuel.
On Class A fires, only ABC or multipurpose dry chemical is effective. ABC dry chemical (mono-ammonium phosphate) will startto break down at between 350 deg. F and 400 deg. F to form a molten residue that will stick to the burning embers and exclude oxygen. This is the only circumstance that dry chemical may be said to “smother” the fire.
It is also important to remember that the ABC dry chemical must be applied to the burning embers in order to have it work. It may be necessary to “break apart” a Class A fire to make sure that all of the burning surfaces are covered.
For more information on extinguishment theory –see our “Fire and Fire Extinguishment” or the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook
It’s OK to continue servicing old extinguishers as long as I can get parts that fit, or figure out how to make it work.
"If there is any doubt in your mind that the extinguisher is going to work, don’t put it into service.”–
This depends upon the availability of parts FROM THE MANUFACTURER. If the manufacturer is no longer in business (Fyr-Fyter , Stop-Fire, Norris, Power-Pak, RC Industries) or if the manufacturer no longer provides parts for that model, it should be removed.
The use of non-original manufacturer’s parts is addressed in Amerex Tech Tip #1. Who is going to warranty these parts? When they fail and an extra trip is required to fix a leaker, what have you gained? If the parts are questionable, how is the extinguisher going to perform? In the end, are you really doing your customer any favors? Are you providing the best fire protection possible?
There are some other issues at stake here. How long is an extinguisher good? 12 years, 20 years, 30 years? At what point has it served its purpose?
NFPA 10 in 4.4.1 requires Dry chemical stored pressure extinguishers made before October 1984 to be replaced. 4.4.2 requires any extinguisher that cannot be maintained in accordance with its manual must be replace. What are the oldest water and CO2 extinguishers that you see out there? Do they have the right valve, siphon tube, gauge, safety disc assembly, UL nameplate?
We have always found it curious that some Fire Departments will spend $300,000 on a new fire truck, complete with gold leaf striping, and put a 30 or 40 year old fire extinguisher on the truck. Meanwhile, we think nothing of spending several hundred dollars every couple of years for a new cell phone –or two to three times that for a new computer.
For whatever the reason, a $150.00 fire extinguisher is expected to last 30 years or more. This is not only illogical, but poor fire protection.
These aren’t expensive pieces of equipment, but when they are needed THEY HAVE TO WORK PROPERLY. Why take the chance on trying to keep old units alive with non-original parts?
I provide my customers with what the code requires, nothing more, nothing less.
“Codes and Standards are often those requirements that are found to be the least offensive to the most people.” –Marv Charney –Kidde-Fenwal
All NFPA standards are minimum requirements by definition. As you look at a customer’s facility, keep this in mind.
Are you doing the customer any favors by going with the minimum requirements? Maybe not. How dangerous is the hazard? What is the fire history for that type of operation or industry? What is the customers history of fire incidents?
How much more does it cost the customer over the life of the extinguisher to have a 10 lb. extinguisher instead of a 5 lb., or a 20 lb. instead of a 10 lb.? Isn’t the cost for annual maintenance going to be the same? How about the cost for six year tear down and hydrotest? If they are worried about recharge costs, then the extinguisher was used and likely paid for itself anyway.
Here are some more things to consider: How do you know how large their fire is going to be? How do you know how many extinguishers and what sizes will be required to extinguish it? If your motivation is to provide better fire protection, can you really be faulted for providing more than what the code or standard requires?
Certainly there isn’t much logic in putting 30 lb. extinguishers every 10 feet in an elementary school. But there also isn’t much logic in having a 6 lb. unit at a gas station or a 5 lb. unit on a tanker truck.
Many of the existing requirements for a 20B:C rating date back to the 1950’s when that was the largest rating any 20 lb. dry chemical fire extinguisher could obtain. Today’s ratings allow that to be achieved with a 6 lb. dry chemical unit or less. Can any 6 lb. dry chemical extinguisher provide as much protectionas a 20 lb. dry chemical extinguisher can –regardless of ratings?
There is also the question of choosing the correct agent –what are the consequences of discharging an ABC dry chemical extinguisher in a hospital? In an assisted living facility? In a veterinarian/boarding facility? How about in a Day Care center or elementary school. Around robotics?
NFPA 10 is very clear that the right extinguisher for the right hazard is required and that extinguishers must be installed to protect the general structure and installed to protect the hazard or process going on within the structure.
Along with that, think of choosing the extinguisher and agent combination that will be efficient at extinguishing or controlling the greatest anticipated hazard while causing theleast amount of loss or interruption from a discharge.
If a cylinder fails the visual inspection requirements, but passes the hydrotest, it’s OK.
Absolutely not! It is possible for a cylinder to pass hydrostatic testing in spite of having disqualifying features,features that have occurred during in-service field use, e.g., cuts.
While this doesn’t seem logical this topic is vital because DOT has been levying fines for visual inspections not being performed. How can this be if the unit passes an actual hydrostatic test? It’s important to remember that because the unit made it to your shop for testing that someone was paying attention to the extinguisher date. But did they do a thorough external visual exam before it arrived in your shop?Also it’s important to remember that the cylinder requalification work that you perform has your name on it and that this cylinder may be in service for another five (5), seven (7), or twelve (12) years.
Cylinder requalification begins with a visual inspection. If this is performedcorrectly, according to Compressed Gas Association (CGA) pamphlet C-6, Standards for Visual Inspection of Compressed Gas Cylinders, you might not even have to perform a hydrostatic test! How can this be you wonder? Visual cylinder requalification proceedshydrostatic testing, it doesn’t replace it. If the visual inspection reveals cylinder features that are severe enough then the cylinder should be condemned and thus a hydrostatic test need not be performed.
OK, how can you tell when cylinder damage is severe enough to remove the cylinder from service without a hydrostatic test? According to CGA pamphlet C-6, , cylinders can be visually condemned for any of the following reasons:
Dents Cuts, Gouges or Digs
Isolated Pitting General Corrosion
Fire Damage Arc and Torch Burns
Line Corrosion Corrosion or Pitting
Neck Defects Crevice Pitting
It is especially important to remember that by applying your stamp and labels you have accepted total responsibility for the safety of the cylinder. Don’t forget that most warranties have expired by hydrostatic test time, leaving you with the entire liability burden.
CGA Pamphlet C-6 is only eleven (11) pages long and is very easy reading. While some of the measurement criteria are tough, the points you must understand are easily grasped by simply reading the document. You will probably welcome the opportunity to use this pamphlet as a tool to condemn your customers’ cylinders. While you are still very likely to run into resistance, this pamphlet is your ultimate guide and must be followed.
Additionally –NFPA 10 has even more stringent requirements fort the visual examination. See Chapter 8 paragraph 8.4.2*. There are nine items listed –the presence of any one of those items is cause for the cylinder to fail the exam and be condemned.
You will still have many difficult occasions when your clients don’t care what the rules are. All they want is their cylinder tested and returned to service! Being a professional in the business of service, maintenance, and testing of fire extinguishers is not tough as long as you remember that even more important than a piece of property is the life of the operator of the fire extinguisher you tested and approved!
I buy all of my “O” rings from an “O” ring supplier – they say they match perfectly and will work just fine.
Absolutely not true. We often get calls from service managers saying that our extinguishers are leaking after a 6 year “tear-down” had been performed.
First of all, if the extinguisher wasn’t leaking before the 6 year “tear-down” was performed, but leaked afterwards, then the recharge procedures are suspect. In most of these cases it was found pressure leaking from the neck of the extinguisher and was caused either by improper removal of the “O” ring or from using a non-Amerex “O” ring.
Further investigation usually reveals that the problem was solved by using original manufacturer’s parts for the seals. If you review our Tech Tip #1, we talk about the importance of using original parts from the manufacturer. At Amerex, we use specific compounds and very tight tolerances for our seals and “O” rings. We also use a trace element in the compound that is unique to our parts. This allows us to determine whether the proper parts were used during investigation of leakers or warranty claims.
If you review our Common Myth #12, you might see that this is another reason not to service extinguishers made by manufacturers that went out of business. If we know that “O” rings and other seals can’t be substituted, why should we take the chance of servicing units that no longer have the original parts available? Think about what you charge for 6 year maintenance or recharge and how fast that can be eaten up with reworking leakers. Is this really worth it?
Before you substitute parts from a supplier other than the Manufacturer, ask yourself if the loss of reliability, warranty, and the possibility of extra costs makes this practice worthwhile. It could cost your company lots of dollars in an effort to save a few pennies.
Remember the old saying if the price is too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.
The gauge is reading in barely in the green on the high/low side. The factory must have over/under pressurized the extinguisher.
This depends entirely upon the temperature of the fire extinguisher. Maybe the extinguisher needs to be fixed – maybe it doesn’t.
Please take a look at our Tech Tip #2. This Tech Tip explains how gauges work and also how temperature may affect the pressure in a fire extinguisher.
During summer months, we get complaints that an extinguisher is over-pressurized. When we investigate we find that the extinguisher was not over-pressurized – it was hot.
During winter months, we get the same number of calls complaining about extinguishers either being underpressurized or leaking pressure. Further investigation proves that neither was the case. The extinguisher was cold. While nitrogen is much more thermally stable than say, carbon dioxide, when you see 195 PSI as the working pressure for a fire extinguisher, that pressure is based upon a temperature of 70° Fahrenheit (21°C). As the extinguisher becomes cold or hot, the temperature shown on the gauge will vary.
Underwriters Laboratory tests are conducted throughout the temperature range that the extinguisher is listed for. Typically you will see next to the UL manifest a temperature operating range of -40° F to +120° F. UL tests the extinguisher for range, flow rates, fire tests etc. at both temperature extremes. This testing is meant to dispel any questions about the extinguisher’s performance under a variety of temperature conditions. This also means that if the extinguisher is not reading in the optimum range because of temperature, it is no cause for alarm.
It may save you time (and therefore money) if you have a means to determine the extinguisher’s temperature in a quick and efficient manner. This will avoid unnecessary work, trips and recharges. Keep in mind that if you try to condition the extinguisher to indoor, conditioned temperatures, this may take some time. Tepending on the size of the cylinder, it may take several days.
Paying attention to the temperature of the extinguisher may save you aggravation and help explain things to your customers during severe spells of either cold or hot weather.
I always recommend an ABC dry chemical since it will be safe to use on any fire they may have.
Absolutely not! We have two different tech tips that point out situations where you cannot use monoammonium phosphate (ABC dry chemical).
Tech Tip #5, talks about oxidizers. One of the more common places you may run into oxidizers would be in pool chemical supplies and waste water treatment facilities. If ABC dry chemical is used around these chemicals, a violent reaction may occur.
Tech Tip #20, talks about aircraft. Mono-ammonium phosphate is acidic in nature. It will cause corrosion on untreated metal like any other acid would if it is not cleaned up quickly after the incident or discharge. The problem with aircraft is that there are so many places for the chemical to hide making complete clean up impossible. It would be necessary (as one airline said a few years ago) to take the airframe apart “rivet by rivet” in order to clean it properly. Without complete clean up, the airframe will corrode over time and (being subject to severe stress during its use) it may fail. NFPA 407 Standard for Aircraft Fuel Servicing issued a TIA (Tentative Interim Amendment) to the 2012 edition stating that ABC dry chemical extinguishers were NOT to be used around aircraft fueling vehicles, fueling ramps, aprons or fuel facilities. The IFC (International Fire Code) in Chapter 11 – Aircraft facilities also requires BC extinguishers and further explains in the commentary why ABC dry chemical is not to be used.
In addition to these cases where ABC dry chemical cannot be used, there are other cases where you should not use it.
ABC dry chemical may have only a limited effect on deep seated Class A fires, or Class A fires that involve burning embers that “burrow” into the fuel such as debris piles, textiles and paper storage. Mono-ammonium phosphate works on Class A fires by melting into a sticky, molten residue at about 350 deg. F. This residue sticks to burning embers and excludes oxygen, thereby extinguishing the fire. In a deep-seated fire, the dry chemical may have trouble penetrating into the material where the burning embers are “burrowing.” Water mist, water spray or foam would be the choice for combating these types of fires.
There is a requirement in NFPA 10 – 2010 edition, paragraph 126.96.36.199 stating that dry chemical is NOT to be used for the protection of delicate electronic equipment. Clean agents such as Halotron I are best suited for this hazard.
There are other considerations – the effect of discharging an ABC dry chemical extinguisher in a hospital, assisted living facility, laboratory, hotel or school. What will the clean-up cost, what reaction will the bystanders have?
Unfortunately, the ideal fire extinguishing agent that can be used on all types of fires and in all types of situations has yet to be discovered. ABC dry chemical is certainly versatile, but it is by no means the answer to every fire hazard.
Cartridge-Operated extinguishers are easier to maintain.
We don’t think so, and if you do it right, you probably won’t either. Take a close look at the manufacturer’s inspection, recharge and maintenance manual. Start counting the steps and tools that are required to perform an annual maintenance according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
There seems to be two very different perceptions about the annual service of cartridge operated extinguishers. On one hand, distributors are given detailed knowledge about how to properly service one of these units. It requires hand held scales accurate to within 1/4 to 1/8 of an ounce and involving up to more than 40 checkpoints along with nearly a tear-down of the extinguisher. On the other hand, end users are told that they can service these extinguishers themselves because they are so simple. “No special tools are required and very little is needed to maintain them.” You can’t have it both ways.
Stored pressure extinguishers represent a much more modern, efficient and simple design. There are far fewer parts, seals and other components involved and therefore fewer items to be checked (and fewer things that can go wrong). With the exception of a one state and a few local authorities, stored-pressure extinguishers do not have to be discharged and recharged in order to accomplish an annual maintenance.
Cartridge operated extinguishers represent technology that dates back to the early 1900’s, use a lot more parts and seals (more on this later). If you look at the manufacturer’s instructions for annual maintenance procedures and requirements, you will see it amounts to an annual tear down regardless of what the local authority dictates.
Cartridge operated extinguishers, like any other piece of emergency equipment, should only be maintained by trained personnel – professionals like yourself – who know what is required by both local codes and the manufacturers’ manuals to assure that the equipment is ready to perform when needed.
You can’t discharge water and dry chemical simultaneously during a fire incident.
This is absolutely wrong. We have always been taught that dry chemical and water don’t mix. This is true if you are going to put them into the same container and store them for a while. This is not true if you are working on a fire.
Dry chemical does not have any cooling properties. On Class B fires it works on a principle of interrupting the chain reaction. We are not going to get into the specifics of how this works in this “Common Myth” but we will tell you how to use water and dry chemical together to have a profound effect on the fire and give you some information to use with training at your customer’s site.
Water provides protection and cooling on any type of fire except Class D fires where it forms hydrogen gas and may create a steam explosion. If dry chemical is passed through a water stream, either full fog or a modified stream, it will not allow the fire to travel through the pattern, back to the fire fighters, and will act like it normally does on the fire. This is particularly useful when dealing with pressurized fires or fires involving lower auto-ignition temperatures.
Because of the moisture repelling properties of dry chemical, the dry chemical stream can pass through the water spray pattern to the fire and accomplish extinguishment while the water spray is still protecting the operators. All of this means less heat, better cooling, faster extinguishment than if water was used alone and greater safety for the operator.
If you want to know how to prove this to your customers and train them in how to handle hose lines safely while using dry chemical, look for a future “Common Myth,” or give us a call.
You cannot use dry chemical with foam.
Not True! For decades, dry chemical and foam have been used in “twin agent” attacks for Air Crash Rescue Fire Fighting. The idea is to use the superior “flame knock-down” of dry chemical (usually Purple-K) with the superior “securement” capabilities of foam (usually an AFFF or FFFP) to cut a path to the aircraft so that rescue operations could be performed quickly.
Multi-person attack: This same principle may be used with hand portables in small-scale situations where two or more individuals are available to attack the fire.
Dry Chemical puts out Class B fire by interrupting the chain reaction in the “fire tetrahedron.” This means that the fuel is not being taken away, the oxygen is not being depleted and no significant cooling is taking place so the possibility of “reflash” is always present. You either put out 100% of the fire with dry chemical or you put out 0% of it. Dry chemical will provide a “heat shield” to the operator and the solid particles will reflect radiant heat away from the extinguisher operator. Dry chemical also has superior “flame knockdown,” having the ability to push the fire back away from the operator.
This is not the case with foam. Foam creates a blanket that separates the fuel, and more importantly its vapors, from the flame, radiant heat and oxygen, causing the fire to go out. Unfortunately, foam only works on two dimensional hazards or fires. The fire must either be a spill or a fuel-in- depth fire in order for foam to accomplish complete extinguishment by itself. Foam also offers no protection to the operator from radiant heat, and does not have the “flame knock-down” characteristics of dry chemical that pushes the fire back away from the operator.
Now, imagine if these two extinguishing agents were used together. The dry chemical operates first, pushing the flame-front away from the people attacking the fire. Foam is then applied behind the dry chemical stream to keep the fire from “flashing back” thereby securing the fuel vapors.
What better way to safely extinguish a Class B fire? Combine any one of our dry chemical extinguishers with one of our foam extinguishers and you have a “one-two” combination “punch” that is unequaled with any single hand portable or any two dry chemical extinguishers used together.
The quickest method is the best method for cleaning valve seats.
No, not really. It all depends on the “cleaning” method being used. Does the valve you are “cleaning” need to be cleaned or scoured? Does dirt, grime, epoxy adhesive, or some other foreign substances have to be removed? Does cleaning the valve include cleaning the valve stem or do you replace those automatically (as recommended in our maintenance manuals)?
A soft bristle brush is fine if you are merely cleaning loose particles on a smooth surface to ensure a proper seal.
If a soft bristle brush isn’t working and you are considering using steel wool, emery cloth, or sandpaper – replace the part! You can call Amerex about specific instances but you must understand that the engineering tolerances include surface finish smoothness. The use of any abrasive will radically alter any metal surface that is cleaned this way and diminish the quality of our product, your service and the end user’s property!
If all of the valves you check are extremely dirty you should advise the customer that in order to prevent future maintenance problems he should consider some other preventative steps such as covers or cabinets. Additionally, brass valve extinguishers should be used in harsh environments. This would help protect the fire extinguishers, save on repair costs, and ensure proper functioning of the fire extinguishers.
As a last note, though service vehicle space is limited, don’t try to employ one tool for all cleaning jobs. The tendency is to go to the tool that will work in all cases – namely steel wool or sandpaper – DON’T! Use the right tools every time. Do not try to use one universal tool.
There is no substitute for care and following manufacturer’s instructions
Fire extinguishers are not needed if sprinklers are present.
This is absolutely not true. Sprinklers and fire extinguishers perform separate and distinct functions as part of a “defense in depth” concept towards fire protection. Sprinklers cannot have the mobility, speed and versatility of a fire extinguisher to suppress a fire in its incipient stages. Extinguishers require the presence of someone “present, willing and able” to extinguish the fire, while sprinklers do not. If the fire occurs when no one is present, or if the fire grows too quickly for the safe use of an extinguisher, sprinklers become the next effective layer of defense.
Only hand portable extinguishers and wheeled extinguishers are capable of extinguishing fires quickly during the initial, incipient stages of a fire. They are the only devices that can handle hazards that are outside the design of a fixed system – i.e. a vehicle fire on a loading dock, a forklift fire in the yard, fires caused during remodeling or maintenance operations. There are also situations where undocumented alterations have taken place, the occupancy use has changed or new hazards have been brought in such as Class D hazards where the sprinkler design has been unwittingly negated.
Finally, no one can predict how people will react in a fire situation. We are all afraid of fire and will revert back to natural instincts, “fight or flight.” Without modern, well maintained, hazard specific fire extinguishers at their disposal, people may try to fight with anything available – buckets of water, blankets, sand, even their own hands and feet.
Hand Portable Extinguishers, Fixed Systems Sprinklers, Smoke Detection and Alarm Systems, Building Codes and Fire Departments are all required in order to have a good Fire Protection Program that will handle any foreseeable hazard. Each element in the program is essential, each element has its place and each element cannot take the place of another.
Perhaps we as an industry have not kept track of how much good we have done.
Just recharge the extinguisher, don’t ask questions.
You just received a call from a good customer to recharge fire extinguishers. Or, on the way to or from another job, your technician stops in unannounced at a good customer to see “What’s up?” and finds extinguishers needing recharge. What now? Do you just recharge them and leave? You can but there may be much to learn!
By asking some questions when recharges are needed, you may find some sales opportunities, but more importantly, you may find ways to give your customer better protection and help the industry.
Your technicians, even the most shy, have some conversation at the time of the fire extinguisher recharge work mentioned in paragraph one. What you need to do is help focus the direction of their conversation and ask some specific questions that will lead to more information:
1. Did you have a Fire? (As opposed to vandalism, horseplay, or cooling a 6-pack)
2. Was anyone hurt during the incident? (Any other safety items needed?)
3. Were all the units to be recharged used on the same fire? (If yes, you’re leading to the need for larger units, or more units – are spares a good idea?)
4. Was the fire extinguished by plant personnel? (Do they need more or different training?)
5. Was the fire department called? (If not, this is one of many unreported fires)
6. How (where) did the fire start? (Is there a new hazard or potential hazard that had not been noticed before?)
7. Were other units partially discharged and placed back on the wall? (That one’s ok, I only used a little bit)
Did anything unusual or unexpected happen? (This can lead to what their expectations of the fire extinguishers were, and if the type of extinguisher was appropriate for the hazard, situation and environment)
Finally, if you are not reporting these things to NAFED (National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors) then you should start reporting. NAFED is attempting to capture these incidents, which often go unreported, in an effort to confirm the effectiveness of fire extinguishers in small, unreported fires. It will also demonstrate the need for both fire extinguishers and fire extinguisher maintenance. Not a member of NAFED? Then you should think about joining.
All Class B fires are the same.
Not at all. Covered under Class B fires are a variety of fuels and situations. If you look in NFPA 10, Class B fires are divided into several categories.
Pressurized Flammable Liquids
Pressurized Flammable Gases
Three Dimensional Class B Fires
Water Soluble Flammable Liquid Fires (Polar solvents)
Flammable Liquid Fires of Appreciable Depth
Class B Fires Other than Appreciable Depth
Each one of these categories represents different agent application technique, different types of extinguishers and different methods of extinguishing the fire. The only UL test fires are categorized as Flammable Liquid Fires of Appreciable Depth using N-Heptane as fuel.
Fires involving Pressurized Flammable Gases usually should NOT be extinguished unless the fuel source can be shut off (if these fires are extinguished and gas is allowed to flow a greater hazard will be created).
Kitchen Grease Fires have been considered a separate classification of fire for over a decade – Class K being introduced in NFPA 10, 1998 edition.
We will discuss each of these situations in different “Myths”. Some of this was discussed in “Common Myth #2” which dealt with agent flow rates and NFPA 10 requirements.
I found this great water-based agent to put in your foam and water units.
NO! We often receive requests to alter an extinguisher from its original design. This cannot be done.
Every extinguisher with a Listing, Rating, or Approval from an independent test lab, Government or Agency has undergone extensive design and testing. To alter any part of the extinguisher voids all of the design work, the testing and therefore the Listing, Rating and Approvals. It also voids the manufacturer’s warranty and relieves them of liability.
There is just no way around this. All of the pieces and parts are tested together, including the agent – change one thing and you have sacrificed everything. Performance, reliability and safety can no longer be guaranteed or even known. The use of counterfeit parts from unknown sources will have the same effect.
If you get a bulletin from us saying that one part can be substituted for another, that is your assurance that it has been fully tested by all parties and therefore will not affect the warranty, reliability, safety or performance of the product. This is also assurance that the Listings, Ratings and Approvals remain intact.
Without such information, alterations such as changing agent, changing hoses or nozzles (See Common Myth #25), changing nameplates or putting in additives that are not specifically approved means that you have just made your own extinguisher. No Listings, no Approvals, and no Ratings mean you alone have the liability.
We have not tested different agents or additives for long term compatibility with the internal parts of the extinguisher. Claims of water additives being effective on Class A, B, C, D, and K fires, should not considered true, unless the agent is listed on the recharge label of the extinguisher along with an A, B, C, D, K listing from UL or FM.
As a professional you should do things in a professional manner regardless of cost – more or less – because your customers deserve it!
Foam extinguishers aren’t very useful, a dry chemical extinguisher will be just as good.
Not True! Foam extinguishers have capabilities that cannot be found in any other fire extinguisher; therefore they have a place anywhere flammable liquids are located and spills could occur.
Foam extinguishers can be applied to a spill to prevent ignition. Dry Chemical, water, CO2, Halon 1211 and Halon substitutes only work if there is a fire. Why wait for ignition to occur? By applying foam prior to clean up and disposal operations, a greater margin of safety can be achieved.
Easy to Apply
It is very easy to apply foam, which assures success for almost any operator. Dry Chemical must be applied correctly or the fire will not go out. On a hydrocarbon spill, foam is almost as easy as “put the wet stuff on the red stuff.” On a polar solvent spill (such as alcohol, acetone and others), it only has to be bounced in front of the spill. No other agent is easier or more forgiving. (See Common Myth #24)
Where to Use
Paint stores, hardware stores, filling stations, printers, wood finishers, pipelines, maintenance departments, paint departments, anywhere flammable liquids sold or stored represents a need for foam extinguishers.
How to Demonstrate
One of the best ways to demonstrate the difference between foam and dry chemical is to ALWAYS SHOW IT LAST DURING A LIVE FIRE TRAINING SESSION. You need to show it last because re-lighting the fire for more training will be difficult. Showing it last will give everyone a better appreciation for it after struggling with dry chemical. You will be surprised at how useful the extinguisher is. So will your customers. (See Common Myth #20)
Wheeled extinguishers are just for airports and refineries.
Not True! Anywhere greater agent flow is needed (see “Myth” #9), greater range, vertical reach or where there is limited manpower, a wheeled unit is the best solution.
Places with High Rack Storage of either combustibles or flammable liquids require more reach than a hand portable can provide. Facilities that have bulk storage of flammable liquids or are transferring flammable liquids have a potential for a large spill – again the greater range and flexibility of a wheeled unit is needed. Plants with large overhead cranes may also need the greater reach of a wheeled unit.
NFPA 10 – 2010 edition states:
“188.8.131.52* Wheeled extinguishers shall be considered for hazard protection in areas in which a fire risk assessment has shown the following:
(1) High hazard areas are present
(2) Limited available personnel are present, thereby requiring an extinguisher that has the following features:
a. High agent flow rate
b. Increased agent stream
c. Increased agent capacity”
Facilities with limited manpower can use wheeled units to their advantage. The greater flow rate, longer range and increased discharge time help a single operator accomplish more than several operators with small hand portables.
Extinguishers are just commodities and are always the same regardless of the manufacturer or construction.
We don’t think so. We hear it all the time, “A 5 lb.’er is a 5 lb.’er” and, “I can buy that same size extinguisher for 12 cents less somewhere else.” You get the feeling that extinguishers are going to be traded on the futures market for mass selling to distribution points – just like wheat, cotton or copper.
Amerex is not in the commodity business. We don’t think extinguishers are a commodity any more than service is a commodity. There are differences in design, quality, serviceability, durability, warranties and function, not only between manufacturers of extinguishers but also between product lines of the same manufacturer.
As an example – there are situations, hazards and environments where aluminum valve extinguishers will work just fine while affording greater economy. But there are also situations, hazards and environments where brass valve extinguishers will be more reliable, last longer and be a better value in the long term.
Then there’s the quality of the company that you buy from that needs to be considered. We offer service information, technical support, business support, flexibility, varied and unique product lines, specialty extinguishers and sales assistance. None of this falls under the definition of a commodity.
If you think about it, you do exactly the same thing. At times you probably feel like your customers view extinguisher service as a commodity, “I can get my extinguishers inspected for 10 cents less per extinguisher from someone else.”
But just as Amerex is different from other extinguisher manufacturers, aren’t you different from other extinguisher service companies? Haven’t your customers come to expect a level of quality, service, technical support, response, warranties and individual attention to their needs? That’s why service companies are different, and their prices are different.
It is important to match your level of service with that of your fire extinguisher supplier.
You don’t have to check the gas tube in cartridge-operated extinguishers during the annual maintenance.
You bet they do. Amerex recently issued a Tech Tip (#27) that talked about gas tubes on cartridge operated type wheeled units. Gas tubes are an important component in all cartridge-operated extinguishers, whether it is a hand portable or a wheeled unit. The gas tube consists of a metal tube with holes in it that is covered by a rubber sleeve. The purpose of the tube is to direct the pressurizing gas (nitrogen or CO2) in several directions. This will fluidize the chemical as the unit is pressurized and break up any packed chemical. (It will break up packed chemical, not caked chemical that has been exposed to moisture.) The rubber sleeves act like a check valve allowing gas to go into the extinguisher but not allowing chemical back up into the gas tube.
If the gas tube is cracked, broken or has a defective rubber sleeve that is cut or missing, the extinguisher will not function properly or it may not function at all). Chemical may back into the tube and pack, preventing the expellant gas from pressurizing the extinguisher properly or the chemical may not be completely fluidized. NFPA 10 includes gas tube replacement in their list of corrective actions to be taken if the tube is found to be defective.
When conducting maintenance of wheeled extinguishers, always follow the manufacturer’s manual. Using a wheeled unit service kit, and other tools provided by supply companies and manufacturer’s, you can firm the condition of the gas tube during annual maintenance.
Amerex feels that stored pressure designs are more advanced and more reliable with fewer components and parts. We offer a full line of stored pressure, wheeled, and hand portable extinguishers that are simple to service while being extremely reliable in their performance. We make cartridge operated wheeled units at the request of our customers and their end users. Like all cartridge-operated extinguishers, they require more maintenance and more diligence in checking the various components in order to maintain optimum performance and reliability.
It isn’t necessary to remove gas tubes during hydrostatic testing.
You bet they do. In Common Myth #30 we discussed gas tubes; how they work and why they are needed. It is imperative that these tubes be removed every time a hydrostatic test is performed.
All internal parts in a pressure vessel are to be removed when conducting a hydrostatic test (NFPA 10 5-5.1.2) so that air cannot be trapped.
Additionally, a complete internal inspection must be performed (NFPA 10 5-5.1.4)
Failure to remove the gas tube will likely cause other problems. Forcing water against the rubber sleeves on the tube at hydrotest pressures will cause the sleeves to tear or will make holes in the sleeve. The tube will be nearly impossible to dry. If the sleeves are torn, dry chemical will back up into the tube, contact the moisture inside, cake and plug the gas tube. If this happens, the extinguisher is likely to fail.
Please make sure any time a cartridge operated extinguisher, wheeled or hand portable, is brought in for testing, the gas tube is removed before testing and examined. Also, exercise care when replacing the tube so that threads are not ruined and the tube is not overly tightened and cracked. When in doubt, always consult the manufacturer’s maintenance manual for hydrotest instructions.
Just another reason stored pressure extinguishers are simpler, more reliable and easier to service.
I need a Class D extinguisher for Lithium-Ion batteries.
No – lithium-ion batteries do not require a Class D extinguisher, however lithium batteries do.
Lithium – ion batteries, despite their name, do not release any lithium during a fire incident, even if the casing is compromised. Lithium batteries, however, will release lithium during a fire incident.
How can you tell the difference? Lithium - ion batteries are rechargeable, Lithium batteries are “one-use” – not rechargeable. Rechargeable batteries for digital cameras, laptops, hybrid/plug-in vehicles, tablets and other devices would not be lithium batteries.
So what is the recommended protection? This is a difficult question to answer and involves some planning and decision on the part of the installer and the end-user. There have been many studies done on the proper protection for lithium-ion batteries. However, any large scale fire testing that would duplicate the storage or transportation of large quantities of lithium-ion batteries has not – to our knowledge – been conducted. Lithium batteries require a Class D extinguisher, preferably our B571 which uses a copper agent specifically for lithium fires. However, a Class D extinguisher may not have any effect on lithium-ion batteries. Unlike lead acid or gell-cell batteries, when a lithium - ion battery breeches the enclosure the electrolyte released is flammable. Based upon testing by other parties that we have reviewed and MSDS from lithium-ion battery manufacturers, fires involving lithium-ion batteries have been successfully extinguished using ABC dry chemical, water, water mist and clean agent including Halotron I. The MSDS sheet often says to use water or “an appropriate extinguishing agent for the surroundings”. While ABC dry chemical may be effective, is it the agent of choice if aircraft or electronic equipment is in the vicinity? Water or water mist may also be effective, but again, what is the surrounding environment and how will that affect the extinguisher (freezing) and adjacent equipment. Halotron I is effective and could be the best choice when considering the factors above.
In 2011, the NFPA Research Foundation conducted a study of lithium-ion batteries in conjunction with Exponents Failure Analysis titled “Lithium-Ion Batteries Hazard and Use Assessment”. The full report can be viewed on the NFPA Research website. It contains lots of information regarding lithium-ion batteries, how they differ from other battery types, how they can fail and testing that has been conducted. A similar report by the same authors can be viewed on the SFPE (Society of Fire Protection Engineers) website. You should be encouraged to read the report and have your customers who deal with quantities of these batteries read the report also.
More testing, including sprinkler and other fire testing will be performed in the future by the NFPA Research Foundation. While this will be beneficial, it is also important to keep in mind that the technology of battery construction is advancing so quickly that it is extremely difficult for the Fire Protection community to stay current on hazard and risk assessment regarding new battery technology.
You need to turn the extinguisher upside down and hit it with a rubber mallet to fluff the chemical during annual maintenance.
No – In fact this practice can more harm than good.
As stated in “Myth #1” all extinguishers must go through a compaction test with various testing labs and authorities in order to be marketed in North America and around the world. With the exception of some cartridge-operated extinguisher manuals, turning the extinguisher upside down is proven to be unnecessary based on these tests. Within a short time after “fluffing” the dry chemical by turning it upside down and striking it with a mallet, the chemical will go back to the same state as it was before performing this unnecessary task. This is not a problem, as the compaction testing proves that the extinguisher will still discharge the agent – even after sitting on the wall or on a vehicle for a year.
You are REQUIRED to invert cartridge operated extinguishers each time the extinguisher is pressurized. This is required to relieve pressure in the discharge hose and prevent clogging of agent within the hose.
You will not find this requirement in any stored-pressure extinguisher manufacturer’s maintenance manuals. Nor will you find it as a requirement in NFPA 10 either in the body of the standard or in the Annex section. Not only do these publications fail to mention it as a requirement, it is not even a recommendation, nor is it a suggestion.
But here is what can happen when “fluffing” the dry chemical in such a manner:
If you subscribe to the “more is better” philosophy you can dent the shell thus requiring the extinguisher to be scrapped
Less obvious, you can break or damage the gauge. If you don’t believe that, watch the indicator attached to the bourdon tube jump around while you do this.
Paint can be chipped off of the extinguisher shell, allowing corrosion to set in.
On larger units – 20 and 30 lb units as an example – there is no “handle” to hold them upside down so it is easy to have them slip during the process, causing potential injury to both the extinguisher and the technician’s feet. This is a consideration not to be taken lightly when you may be dealing with 50 lbs. or more.
To take this logic to the next step, if this is so necessary, what do you do with wheeled units – get a hoist and a bigger hammer?
Better to spend that time doing what is required by the manufacturer’s manuals and NFPA 10: REMOVE the hose and nozzle assembly to confirm that it is clear and without blockage. Conduct a THOROUGH external examination of the extinguisher shell to make sure there is no damage (this may require CLEANING the extinguisher to observe what is under the dirt). Check ALL of the external components for damage/abuse and other conditions – such as mud, dirt or dust building up under the operating levers. Remove all unnecessary tags and labels. Go to NFPA 10 for a full list of the requirements and suggestions as well as the manufacturer’s manual.
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