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Fire Extinguishers

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How often does my building need Fire and Safety testing?

A: Your building’s fire and safety apparatus is required by the NFPA to be tested according to the specific requirements of each component, which are as follows:

  • Fire Extinguishers—Annually
  • Emergency Lights—Annually
  • Fire Alarms—Annually
  • Sprinkler and Backflow/RPZ systems—Annually
  • Kitchen Suppression systems—Semi-annually (every six months)

Below are the components of each system that are checked during an annual or biannual inspection:

  • Fire Extinguishers—Visual inspection for dents, rust, corrosion, pitting, or other shell damage; review of maintenance history to determine any required maintenance; verification of acceptable pressure levels on gauge; verification of proper amount of extinguishing agent; inspection of discharge hose; testing of functionality of locking pin; verification of smooth discharge operation on handle/lever; cleaning of extinguisher with a degreasing solution; application of service tag and safety seal; return of extinguisher to proper location; verification of extinguisher as proper type for potential fire hazard; internal maintenance and hydrostatic testing (as necessary).

  • Emergency and Exit Lights—Verification of code-compliant placement and location; inspection for proper mounting; visual inspection for cracks, corrosion, or loose/exposed wiring; inspection and replacement (as needed) of bulbs; battery load test or equivalent; replacement of batteries (as needed); application of service label.

  • Fire Alarms—Inspection of proper functionality of pull stations; inspection of functionality of smoke detectors; verification of smoke detectors’ connection to fire alarm; verification of heat detectors’ connection to fire alarm; verification of functionality of duct smoke detectors; verification of duct detector shut-down of AHUs on alarm; verification of functionality of sprinkler flow switches; verification of sprinkler tampers reporting to panel; verification of functionality of horn strobes; verification of functionality of chimes; testing of sound levels to verify alarm is 15% above ambient noise; testing of battery load.

  • Sprinkler Systems—Inspection of system functionality; inspection of gauge integrity and accuracy; verification that control valves are open; verification that control valves operate through full range; lubrication of valves (as needed); verification of extra sprinkler heads in cabinet; verification that building is heated in wet sprinkler area; verification of functionality of water motor and gong; testing of electric alarm; testing and visual inspection of all alarm devices; verification of stock and storage located 18” below sprinklers; verification of alarm time delayed in seconds; further testing as needed according to system type.

  • Backflow/RPZ system—Inspection for rust or damage to assembly; verification of all assembly parts in proper place; testing of proper working status of assembly.

  • Kitchen Suppression systems—verification of UL-300 compliance; inspection of cleanliness and functionality of system with cleaning and repairs taking place as needed; operational testing of automatic and manual activations; changing of fusible links, caps, and cartridges (as needed); delivery of service documentation for your records.

Q: Can’t I just buy an extinguisher from a department store?

A: Yes, however, store-bought extinguishers are of a lower quality and may not necessarily save you money. Most extinguishers sold out of stores are not intended for commercial use and cannot be recharged (and therefore must be disposed of after using). Even those sold in stores that are sold as “rechargeable” have a high likelihood of experiencing leaking and functionality issues after their first recharge. Additionally, extinguishers bought from a store will still need an inspection tag from a licensed company, and by the time the service visit is accounted for, there is very little, if any, cost savings realized from purchasing in-store. At CTS, we can supply your facility with top-end extinguishers that are built for many years of service and will ensure your best chance at suppressing a fire before it becomes dangerous.

Q: Who should service and maintain our fire extinguishers?

A: In Illinois, your extinguishers must be serviced and maintained by a licensed and insured fire equipment distributor that has the training, equipment, materials, and instructions for extinguishers of all types, sizes, and manufacturers. CTS has the experience and education necessary to handle whatever service your building’s extinguishers may need.

Q: How frequently do my extinguishers need to be serviced?

A: Extinguishers need to be serviced in two ways-- a monthly checkup to ensure that the extinguisher is located in a proper, clearly visible area with the pressure gauge indicator in an operable range, and an annual inspection which requires a licensed technician to inspect the main components of the extinguisher to verify that it meets NFPA standards.

Q: What is a hydrostatic test, and how often is it required?

A: This test verifies the strength of an extinguisher against rupturing by pressure-testing it. This test needs to be conducted by a facility that is approved by the D.O.T. to requalify cylinders, and the frequency of these tests depends on the extinguisher type:

  • Stored Pressure Dry Chemical—12 years
  • Stainless Steel Models (Wet Chemical, Water, AFFF, and FFFP)—5 years
  • Stored Pressure Clean Agent—12 years
  • Carbon Dioxide—5 years

Q: What is involved in a six-year internal maintenance?

A: A six-year internal maintenance is essentially an inspection of the interior of a fire extinguisher that is intended to locate any corrosion or damage. The extinguisher is rebuilt, recharged, and tagged with a label noting the six-year service (as well as a verification of service collar).

Q: What are the different classes of fire?

Fires can be broken into five separate classes:

  • Class A—Wood, Paper, Cloth, Rubber
  • Class B—Flammable Liquids
  • Class C—Electrical
  • Class D—Combustible Metals
  • Class K—Combustible Cooking Media

Each class poses its own specific dangers and methods of suppression, so knowing the potential class of fire for a given hazard allows us to equip that area with the proper extinguisher class to suppress it before severe damage or injury occurs.

Q: What is the NFPA’s maximum travel distance between fire extinguishers?

A: This is mainly determined by the class of extinguisher, which corresponds to the fire classes.

  • Class A—75 Feet
  • Class B;C—50 Feet
  • Class D—75 Feet
  • Class K—30 Feet

Q: Do my extinguishers need to be mounted?

A: Yes, extinguishers are required to be either in an extinguisher cabinet or hanging from a wall hook. For hanging extinguishers, the proper mounting height depends mainly on the size of the extinguisher: extinguishers under 40 pounds need to be positioned so that the top of the extinguisher is no more than 5 feet above the floor, and extinguishers over 40 pounds should have the top no more than 3 ½ feet above the floor. For any size extinguisher, the bottom of the extinguisher needs to be at least 4 inches off the ground.

Q: What kind of extinguisher should I have in my home?

A: According to the NFPA, the minimum recommendation (per floor) for home extinguisher installation is a single fire extinguisher rated 2-A:10-B:C or higher (this is typically a 5-pound ABC Dry Chemical extinguisher).

Q: What is a fusible link?

A: Fusible links are temperature-sensitive fire protection devices designed to be part of a fire protection system. The Fire Suppression System is activated when the ambient temperature increases to the point that causes the fusible link to break apart.

Q: What does “UL-300” mean?

A: UL-300 is the “the Standard for the Testing of Fire Extinguishing Systems for Protection of Restaurant Cooking Areas,” which was put into place on November 21, 1994. All kitchen and cooking area systems manufactured after this date are required to be compliant with UL-300 to receive a UL listing. UL (Underwriters Laboratories Inc.) is an independent, not for profit product safety testing and certification organization. UL has tested products for public safety since its founding in 1894.

Q: Am I required to have a First Aid Station?

A: Yes, according to OSHA regulation CFR 1910.151 (b):

“In the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in near proximity to the workplace which is used for the treatment of all injured employees, a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid. Adequate fire aid supplies shall be readily available.”

CTS can install and restock First Aid Kits and AED equipment in your facility to ensure that you follow this regulation.