It should come as no surprise that there are several different types of fire extinguishers – some to put out fires caused by “ordinary combustibles”, aka wood, paper, cardboard, etc.; others to put out fires started by flammable liquids like gasoline and petroleum; still others to put out electrical fires – the list goes on!
Needless to say, the “best fire extinguisher” varies from building to building – every place is different based on the type of hazard. For instance, K-class fire extinguishers work great in commercial kitchens, but aren’t optimal for fires that may pop up in an office building. If you’re not sure of the best fire extinguisher for your building, follow this guide to figure out exactly what you need.
Best fire extinguisher for office buildings – the best fire extinguisher for most office buildings is going to be an ABC fire extinguisher. ABC fire extinguishers are the best fire extinguishers for putting out fires caused by things like trash, paper, cloth, etc, making them appropriate for most offices.
Note: if you need to use an ABC fire extinguisher in your office, make sure you clean it up right away. The chemical in these fire extinguishers is mildly corrosive and can potentially damage any surfaces it lands on (just be sure you wait until after the fire is out before you start scrubbing!).
Best fire extinguisher for hospitals – in general, hospitals, if they experience a fire, are going to experience the same types of fires as standard office buildings. However, due to the amount of sensitive, life-saving equipment, along with the presence of dozens to hundreds of patients (many of whom have weakened immune systems), using the corrosive ABC chemical is not an option. The best fire extinguisher for hospitals is a water mist fire extinguisher – this will knock out the fire without damaging the equipment.
Best fire extinguisher for commercial kitchens – kitchen fires burn much faster and much hotter than typical fires. For this reason, an ABC fire extinguisher is probably not the best fire extinguisher for commercial kitchens. Instead, go with a class K fire extinguishers – these are the best fire extinguishers for putting out kitchen fires.
Best fire extinguisher for laboratories – choosing the best fire extinguisher for a laboratory is not always easy. The specific fire hazards present in laboratories vary heavily based on what time of materials are located in said lab. In general, the best fire extinguishers for laboratories are:
- Carbon dioxide (CO2) fire extinguishers – CO2 fire extinguishers will put out fires caused by electricity or flammable liquids. These are the best fire extinguishers for many laboratories because they don’t leave behind a damaging residue that could harm electronic equipment. Note: you should NOT use CO2 fire extinguishers for fires caused by metals, including Grignard reagents, alkyllithiums and sodium metal. The CO2 will cause a chemical reaction when mixed with these materials, potentially causing the fire to spread rather than stop!
- Metal / sand extinguishers – these are the best fire extinguishers for flammable metals because they don’t cause any chemical reactions – they just smother the fire until it dies. The most common type of metal in these fire extinguishers is sodium chloride, which cakes when it heats up, dissipating the heat from the fire. You’ll probably also see powdered copper metal, which clings to vertical surfaces, making it the best fire extinguisher for fighting rapidly spreading fires.