Fire extinguishers usually sit around unused for long periods of time. But when fire strikes, you don't want to find out that your extinguisher is not operable. Since it is a critically important safety tool, inspect your extinguisher monthly inspections to make sure it is intact and ready to deploy. Whatever type of fire extinguisher you have, this check is vital.
Initial Steps in a Fire Extinguisher's Check
Fire extinguishers come with a manual in which you can find important information regarding proper maintenance and how to perform checks. Make sure that you have gone through these instructions thoroughly. Regardless of which type of fire extinguisher you have, several points are common throughout the inspection process. First, make sure that the fire extinguisher is not obstructed by a piece of furniture or anything else that might make it hard to reach in the event of fire. Examine thoroughly for dents, leaks, or any other signs of damage such as rust. If there are any chemical deposits on the surface, such as oil and grease, wipe them off and dust off all dust particles accumulated on the nozzle, gauge, and valve. The safety pin and seals should be intact and the nozzle unobstructed.
Over time, fire extinguishers can lose pressure, so it is very important to check the gauge needle (if your model has one), which should point to the green area if the pressure is adequate. If the needle points to the red sector, you need to have the fire extinguisher re-pressurized or replaced.
Another important step in the check is to look at the instruction labels on the unit and make sure that they will be legible in case of an emergency.
Rechargeable and Disposable Fire Extinguishers
Depending on whether your fire extinguisher is a rechargeable or disposable model, you will have to either refill or replace after use. With a rechargeable fire extinguisher it is a good idea to recharge it after each use, even if it is not empty.
Disposable fire extinguishers need to be replaced after each use. For small or portable dry chemical extinguishers, some experts advise shaking them up a bit and turn them upside down in order to prevent the powder from caking.
Severely Damaged Fire Extinguishers
If your inspection shows that the fire extinguisher is damaged or needs to be recharged, do it immediately. If the damage to the canister is severe, the unit might explode so it is best to use the services of a professional fire extinguisher company.
Professional Inspection of the Equipment
The monthly quick inspections serve to check whether your equipment is charged, in service, and accessible. However, more thorough inspections need to be performed annually by professionals who can assess whether the device needs to be repaired, subjected to a hydrostatic test, and whether it is safe and operable. More information on the annual inspections can be obtained from your servicing company or the manual book of fire extinguisher.