Which Portable Fire Extinguisher is the Right Choice for You?

Fire extinguishers are the most efficient devices to douse out a small fire and stop it from spreading. Fires on ships can cause huge damage to life and cargo. It is thus essential to carry portable fire extinguishers along with other safety equipment onboard a vessel. Here are a few tips that one can keep in mind while choosing a suitable portable fire extinguisher:

Distinguishing the type of fire:

It is essential to distinguish the type of fire to select a proper fire extinguisher to put it out. Using a wrong fire extinguisher to put out a different type of fire can leave around a mess and cause damage to the cargo. Types of fire can be distinguished by the materials involved in them.

Fire is categorised in five different classes:

  • Class A: This type of fire usually involves common flammable substances like paper, wood, trash and other things that leave ash on burning. Such type of fire on a small scale can be extinguished with water.
  • Class B: This type of fire is fuelled by highly combustible liquids including kerosene, oil, petrol, gasoline and other liquids.   
  • Class C: Fires caused due to electrical interference and high voltage are categorised under this class.
  • Class D: This type of fire is caused due to the combustion of combustible metals like aluminum, titanium, magnesium and others.
  • Class K: These fires involve grease and cooking oil. They are usually seen in kitchens.

Types of Fire Extinguishers:

Once the type of fire has been established, it is then imperative to select the right fire extinguisher accordingly. There are several types of portable fire extinguishers that are used on ships:

1. Water and Foam Extinguisher: This type of extinguisher is to be used for Class A and Class B fires strictly. A Water extinguisher is to be used only in case of Class A fires. If used on Class B fires, the discharge created would spread more fire and if used on a Class C fire could create an electrical short.

2. CO2 Extinguishers: It takes away the oxygen in the fire, removing heat and leaves a cold emission. It is ineffective on Class A fires and is to be used in case of Class B and Class C fires.  

3. Wet Chemical Extinguishers: It removes heat from the fire and acts as a hurdle between oxygen and fuel to prevent re-ignition of fire. Mainly used to stop a Class K fire.

4. Dry Chemical Fire Extinguishers: The dry chemical fire extinguisher is the most extensively used and the most convenient one as it can be used to put out Class A, Class B and Class C fires.

5. Dry Powder Extinguishers: It separates fuel and oxygen to remove heat from a fire. It can only be used on a Class D fire.

6. Cartridge Operated Dry Chemical Extinguishers: It extinguishes the fire by interrupting the chemical reaction. It is to be used in case of Class A fires.

7. Halogenated Extinguishers/ Clean Agents: This type of extinguishers uses halocarbon and halon, thus interrupting the chemical reaction in the fire. They are mainly used on Class B and Class C fires.

Portable fire extinguishers should be placed in locations that are easily accessible in the case of a fire. It is also essential to provide regular maintenance to these portable fire extinguishers. Consistent firefighting equipment servicing is necessary and is provided by leading ship manufacturers and ship service providers in India. The service includes maintenance and servicing of portable and non-portable fire extinguishers by trained technicians.

Taking the appropriate measures in protecting the ship from fires is integral to marine safety. It is important to understand the relevant procedures to be followed and equipment to be used at such times so that help can be provided instantaneously and the fires can be contained speedily.

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