Fire extinguishers are considered the first line of defense against any fire eruption, that may occur in commercial or residential buildings. Anyone who affiliates with security and building maintenance can vow the importance of fire extinguishers in the wake of a fire emergency. Nobody wishes for such incidents to happen in their life. Yet fire incidents are bound to happen in our lives at some point. Installation of fire extinguishers at the workplace, departmental stores, shopping malls, schools and hospitals is necessary to prevent such happenings. The safety requirements for buildings issued by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) are very clear about installing fire extinguishers in such places.
Imagine what happens, when a fire extinguisher got stuck, jammed or malfunctioned at times when you need it the most? That is quite possible as portable fire extinguishers aren’t included in the most used item, and for this reason, often neglected by the maintenance team of a building. Many homeowners are not aware of the IMT (Inspection, Maintenance and Testing) protocol for fire extinguishers. That’s why they are not following the maintenance schedule. The IMT protocol details described in the 2007 edition of NFPA-10 is considered standard all over the world. In this article, we are aiming to provide information about NFPA-10 standards for Fire extinguisher maintenance to our readers.
ITP Protocol for Fire Extinguishers
For the sake of convenience for our audience, the information about IMT protocol is divided into three sections, Inspection, Testing and Maintenance. In the following section, we will learn in detail about the activities, procedures, and timing for these procedures to perform in each step.
- Inspection of Fire Extinguishers
According to NFPA-10 and OSHA requirements, the maintenance team should perform a visual inspection for all fire extinguishers installed in a building. The same regulations are applied to fire extinguishers installed in houses. These monthly inspections keep the extinguisher in a ready-to-use state during any emergency condition. During these inspections, the maintenance team should confirm that:
- Is the fire extinguisher placed in a designated place?
- Is the fire extinguisher placed at such a place that is easily accessible by adults yet unapproachable by babies?
- Is the fire extinguisher easily visible from a distance?
- Are operating instructions printed on the front side of the extinguisher?
- Are the operating instructions clear to read?
]During visual inspection, ensure that:
- The fire extinguisher is in good shape and fully functional.
- The fire extinguisher filled or not. The weighing test can use to confirm it.
- The safety seals and tamper indicators are intact.
- No sign of physical damage, dent, corrosion and leakage.
- Make sure that nozzle is free of clogging.
- The fire extinguisher pull pin is in place, and the pressure gauge reading is in the acceptable range.
- For portable fire extinguishers, make sure that wheels are fully functional.
For monthly inspection, there is no need to call a qualified person. Any person with basic knowledge about fire extinguishers can do the job. The fire extinguishers installed in open and airy spaces are more prone to physical damage or clogging. That’s why these fire extinguishers can be inspected after 10-15 days. The monthly inspection record should be maintained on a label hanged with the extinguisher. The recording data must include the date, month name and signature of inspecting personnel.
- Maintenance of Fire Extinguishers
According to the directions of NFPA-10 and OSHA, the workers or maintenance team should perform a complete maintenance check on fire extinguishers in the building after one year or less. The maintenance procedure includes both thorough checking as well as repairing fire extinguishers if required. During maintenance, the main focus of the maintenance team is on:
- The physical condition of fire extinguisher
- Assembly and components of fire extinguisher
- Fire extinguishing material
- Working of propelling assembly and nozzle
Usually, the external maintenance procedure is followed unless some internal defect is not detected. It is wise to ask for professionals’ help for annual maintenance procedures to ensure the extinguisher functionality. Commercial buildings have skilled personnel in their maintenance crew who can handle the maintenance procedure. Homeowners can ask a private maintenance company for its services.
The annual maintenance data should be inscribed on the tag or label attached to the extinguisher. The recording data must include the date, month name and signature of inspecting personnel. This record remains valid until the next inspection (if it happens within one year) and does not exceed more than one year. If an extinguisher fails to pass the inspection process, it undergoes internal maintenance for repairing or replacement.
- Testing or Internal Maintenance Inspection
According to the directions of NFPA-10 and OSHA, each fire extinguisher should be subject to internal maintenance in between 1-6 years. The time duration for internal maintenance inspection varies for different types and depends upon factors such as working principle, extinguishing material etc. For example, the dry chemical fire extinguisher requires a 6-year internal maintenance inspection with a 12-year hydrostatic test.
During the internal inspection, the extinguishing material is removed, and all parts are disassembled. After internal inspection, all parts are reassembled, and the extinguishing material is refilled again. The internal maintenance inspection requires expertise, that’s why always hire a skilled and experienced person for this job.
Some extinguishers are subjected to hydrostatic testing during the internal inspection. Hydrostatic testing is performed to check the integrity and pressure bearing capability of the main cylinder. For this purpose, the extinguisher is filled with water to check for any leakage in the cylinder. The duration for hydrostatic testing varies from extinguisher to extinguisher. For further information, you can view the complete table of test intervals given in NFPA-10.
The testing and maintenance of fire extinguishers is an important precautionary drill that we can’t take lightly. The life of our family members and workers are on the line and we must take every step to ensure their safety. Both NFPA and OSHA guidelines are present to help us in this regard. If fire extinguishers of your workplace need an inspection, do contact a professional maintenance firm.