Using A Water Fire Extinguisher
Every year, an average of 52,000 fires destroy lives in Australia. Fire emergencies are particularly dangerous and can claim lives, making urgent attention and action the key in minimising damage. However, successful action can only come from preparation which is vital to prevent loss of life and belongings in a fire.
Fire extinguishers are a key equipment for fire emergencies. These fire protection devices are used to put out fires before they become uncontrollable. All premises should have a fire extinguisher nearby, ready to use, in case of a fire emergency.
There are five main types of fire extinguishers as per Australian standards [water, foam, dry powder (ABE or BE), carbon dioxide, and wet chemicals] and this guide will specifically talk about the workings of a water fire extinguisher, their use case scenarios, how to effectively use them and their required fire safety services.
How To Identify a Water Fire Extinguisher?
Every type of fire extinguisher has two main ways of identification. The 'Signal Red' paint that you see commonly is the one thing every fire extinguisher has in common. Extinguishers are all painted this colour for easy identification in times of emergency.
The coloured band wrapped around the middle of the fire extinguisher identifies what type of extinguisher it is. Water fire extinguishers are among the easiest to identify. The coloured band is red, making it a colourless band. So if a fire extinguisher is completely red, it is a water type.
Water fire extinguishers come in multiple sizes globally, with 9 litres being the most prominent size in Australia. You can spot the capacity and even the type of extinguisher through the large font on the red-colored extinguisher.
Water fire extinguishers are also commonly referred to as air water fire extinguishers as they essentially mean the same thing. This is because water extinguishers contain pressurised air within the canister.
When Should You Use a Water Fire Extinguisher?
A water fire extinguisher on its own cannot put out every kind of fire. Knowing when to use each type of extinguisher can be the difference between putting out a fire and losing control over it.
Water fire extinguishers are ideally to be used on Class A fires. Class A identifies fires caused by combustible materials. This includes flammable solids such as wood, paper, textile, and coal.
There are some locations which are filled with carbon-based solids that may result in a Class A fire during an accident and should always have water fire extinguisher at standby:
Paper and Textile Factories
Clothing and Furniture Stores
Living Rooms and Bedrooms
When Should You Not Use a Water Fire Extinguisher?
Do not use a water extinguisher on anything but a Class A fire. This includes Class B, C, D, E, and F. Using a water fire extinguisher on any of these can cause the fire to become worse.
For example, if a water extinguisher is used on a Class B fire, the discharge stream could spread the flammable liquid making the fire worse. The same thing can happen with cooking fires.
More than anything, do not use a water extinguisher on fires caused by electrical equipment. Water conducts electricity, making electrical fires even worse and more dangerous than other classes of fire. This is how each type of extinguisher other than water can be used:
Dry Powder Extinguisher - Class A, B(flammable liquids), and E fires
Wet Chemical Extinguisher - Class A and F fires (cooking oils)
Carbon Dioxide Extinguisher - Class A, B, E fires (electrical equipment)
Foam Fire Extinguisher - Class A, B, and F fires
None of these fire extinguishers are perfectly suitable for Class C and D fires (Flammable gases and metals).
How Do Water Fire Extinguishers Work?
Fires need three key elements to combust and sustain themselves: fuel, heat, and oxygen. Fire extinguishers remove one or more of these elements to put the fire out.
Water fire extinguishers remove heat from the fire by cooling it through the temperature of the water used. When spraying down fire with a water extinguisher, spray long enough to put out the flame. If you do not spray the fire down long enough, there is a chance for re-ignition and revival of the fire.
What Are the Different Types of Water Fire Extinguishers?
There are four different subtypes of water fire extinguishers:
Water Jet Fire Extinguishers spray a jet of water at flames and combustible materials, putting them out using the pressure and temperature of the water.
Water Spray Fire Extinguishers can spray over a large area using pressurised water. These are used in locations with large areas filled with combustible materials, such as schools or warehouses.
Water+Foam Fire Extinguishers utilise water and foam to suppress fires. The foam can help contain flammable liquids in case of an emergency.
Water Mist Fire Extinguishers contain de-ionised water that discharges it in a fine spray. Due to their safety and effectiveness, they are sometimes used to fight fires of Class A, B, C and even E with electrical equipment of up to 1000 Volts.
Cleaning Up After a Water Fire Extinguisher
Water extinguishers have minimal discharge effects, leaving the least residue and mess out of the other extinguisher types. The extinguishing agent evaporates in the air, meaning no clean-up is needed. The extinguishing agent also leaves no impact on the environment.
This is also the safest fire extinguisher to use, except when used on electrical equipment. Since the agent is just water, the waste is safe for drainage as well.
Maintenance of Water Fire Extinguishers
Fire extinguisher maintenance & testing should be performed every six months, as per regulations. Maintenance includes performing pressure tests and refilling water fire extinguishers. Pressure should be at optimum level, where the needle should be in the green zone. Additionally, the seal for tampering should be intact and the safety pin should be in its place. It is important to ensure the extinguisher is timely refilled and recharged for use in emergencies and that it is stored in an easily accessible place while being kept away from areas that could catch fire easily.
Prioritise Fire Safety
Remember, water fire extinguishers are useful for Class A fires, which will commonly occur in homes and places with combustible materials, but will not work with every fire.
Therefore, Fire extinguishers can be dangerous in the hands of someone inexperienced and only trained individuals should be the ones using extinguishers during times of a fire emergency and that too after confirming the class of fire. For additional protection during Class A fires, fire blankets are also a recommended piece of safety equipment and should be available at hand.
At the end, safety of the people, places and things should be of utmost priority and nothing is better than timely prevention with regular fire equipment inspection and fire protection maintenance services.