Generally, large fires start as small fires, often of a size that can be tackled by suitably trained staff using portable fire extinguishers. Therefore, action by staff can prevent development of a fire that would pose a threat to life, property or operation of a business. In some premises, early action to control a fire in this way can also enable people to assist others, such as disabled people, residents in a care home or patients in a hospital, who are at greater risk in the event of fire.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which applies to virtually all premises other than dwellings, requires that, where necessary in order to safeguard everyone who is lawfully on, or in the immediate vicinity of, the premises, the premises must be equipped with appropriate fire-fighting equipment. This requirement is supplemented by a requirement to take measures for fire-fighting, adapted to the nature of the activities carried on, the size of the undertaking and of the premises concerned.
The necessity of fire-fighting equipment under the Order may arise from the features of the premises, the activity carried on in the premises, the fire hazards or any other relevant circumstances. Establishment of the need for fire-fighting equipment arises from a fire risk assessment and it is likely to be extremely rare for any fire risk assessment to determine that the provision of such equipment is not necessary.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order is supported, in England andWales, by eleven guides produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DelG). The guides advocate the provision of fire-fighting equipment in premises, and they provide recommendations for the selection and siting of appliances.
Types of Fire Extinguisher
Portable fire extinguishers are the most universally applicable form of fire extinguishing appliance. Trolley mounted extinguishers are used only for special applications, where there may be a need for trained operators to tackle a large fire, such as one involving a significant quantity of flammable liquid.
Fires are classed according to the material that is burning. The fire extinguishers provided need to be appropriate for the class of fire.
Portable fire extinguishers are rated according to the maximum size of fire that a trained operator can control with the extinguisher. In most workplaces, such as offices, shops and factories, water, or water-based extinguishers are appropriate.
Typically, a 13A-rated fire extinguisher should be provided for each 200 square metres of floor area and extinguishers should be sited at fire exits and on escape routes, such that no one needs to walk further than 30m to reach the nearest fire extinguisher.
These Class A extinguishers should be supplemented by extinguishers suitable for use on live electrical equipment (normally carbon dioxide extinguishers) wherever such equipment is situated within the area. Where there is a commercial kitchen with deep-fat fryers, one or more Class F extinguishers and/or fire blankets are likely to be appropriate.