Don't Be Oversold! - Bigger is Not Always Better
January 2nd, 2018
I walked into my local pharmacy the other day and was stopped cold when I saw a 30lb, high flow ABC extinguisher on the entrance wall. I thought to myself, “Must be a large storage area of flammables liquids here somewhere.” No such area. They sell a few propane tanks now and then, but that’s about it for that kind of flammables.
That extinguisher, in my opinion, looked too big for anyone to use effectively on a 3-dimsional pressurrized gas fire, so I asked an expert, Kim Nessel, retired Eau Claire Fire Dept Battalion Chief. Kim is also a certified Hazmat Instructor, and chief technical support for Rusoh Inc.
Kim says, “Picking the right size of extinguisher for the given environment is extremely important. Many people have the thought that bigger is always better, but in the case of choosing the right size fire extinguisher that decision has important factors that need consideration."
He says portable fire extinguishers are designed for certain types of hazards. "For instance a small, 2.5lb ABC unit is the correct size for your home, kitchen or car. You would not want a 10lb ABC unit for the same places." Kim says it would overpower your space, blasting burning debris everywhere and making breathing very difficult in a few short seconds.”
He also says the same applies for higher hazards, where you have class B stored flammable gases or liquids, or large amounts of class A flammables like paper or trash. "You need the correct size and type extinguisher to do the job.”
For the pharmacy in question, the code standard requires a 10lb or greater "high performance"
or "fast flow" ABC extinguisher rated at 20B or higher due to a LP (liquefied petroleum) gas exchange cage on site. Note: Fast flow describes an extinguisher with measured discharge equal to/greater than 1lb/second. The installed pharmacy extinguisher is 2X the rating required (40B vs. 20B) and 3X the volume required (30lbs vs. 10lbs), not to mention it weighs nearly 60 lbs!
Before you get caught in the up sell from a fire service sales person, know your hazard class and basic requirements. Contact your local fire station if you have questions. It may save you in upfront cost and ongoing maintenance fees. That 30lb unit retails for over $400, vs. $100 for the 10lb unit, plus you’ll pay more every year to service larger units throughout their lifetimes.
Be Prepared. Be Protected.