Fire Extinguishers in Churches

Fire extinguishers in churches and cathedrals are important to protect the often invaluable historic artefacts and mostly wooden internal structures. However, the extinguishers must be chosen with care. A well publicised case, where the extinguishers became the problem rather than preventing one, was the vandalism caused by two teenagers in a church in Spalding in 2006. In this case a powder and a water extinguisher installed in the kitchenette were set off. The powder and the water reacted to form a slightly acidic mixture which formed a hard crust. Valuable church fixtures, including the organ had to be restored at a cost of £240,000.

Powder extinguishers, while being excellent on forecourts, engine rooms and car parks, where they are valued for their rapid knock-down of flames from a variety of sources, are not really suited for indoor locations. The fine powder can obstruct vision and lead to inhalation of the powder. The powder will also attack electronics, soft furnishings and causes damage to wood and metal, especially when moist.

What alternatives are there?

In principle, water based extinguishers (water, water spray, ‘dry’ water mist) and foams are suitable, although foams contain chemicals that might be harmful to metal and wood. Please note that water extinguishers with additives can also cause damage. CO2 extinguishers, while leaving no deposit, are not really suitable for the type of fire risks in churches and can unfortunately be misused to intimidate people with their roaring discharge and the massive temperature drop the discharge causes.

Where traditional extinguishers requiring annual servicing are required , the E-series ‘dry’ water mist extinguishers from Jewel are perfect, as they create a very fine mist with much smaller water mist particles than those generated by normal water spray extinguishers. These extinguishers are also suitable for all common fire risks found in a church, including electrical risks (even up to 1000V, as long as a safety distance of 1m is adhered to). The mist is so fine that the damage to paintings and structures is limited and no puddles are formed. The extinguisher can also be used on clothing, wall-hangings and carpets.

Where in-house servicing of the extinguishers is required, often to help reduce costs , the Britannia P50 maintenance free foam extinguisher can be installed instead. It is suitable for the majority of the fire risks found in churches, however, its deposits are harder to clean up and potentially corrosive. After the initial install and certification carried out by Safelincs, the extinguisher only requires yearly visual inspection by the Church Warden. No refill after five years is required and the extinguisher does not require a service engineer for ten years!

 

10 year self-maintenance extinguisher accepted by Boat Safety Scheme

Boat owners need to protect themselves and their property from fire just as any other home owner does. The damp conditions sometimes found with boating has always been an issue with regards to which fire extinguisher to install on your boat. Now with the official acceptance of the Fireworld P50 self-maintenance extinguisher by the Boat Safety Scheme this dilemma  finally has an answer.

The Fireworld P50 extinguishers, manufactured by Britannia, are non-corrosive. This makes them ideal for wet and damp conditions. They carry a 10 year guarantee and the tough plastic outer shell and inner Kevlar core, which is the same material as bullet proof vests, makes them durable and light weight.

There is another added benefit of installing the Fireworld fire extinguishers on your boat; they do not need to be serviced by an engineer. There is a yearly check that must be carried out but this can be carried out by yourself.  You will no longer have to arrange for a service engineer to come and service your extinguishers, which can be both costly and inconvenient.

If you are interested in finding out more about the corrosive-free self-maintenance fire extinguishers please go to https://www.safelincs.co.uk/britannia-fireworld-self-maintenance-fire-extinguishers/ or call our customer care team on 0800 612 6537

Foam or powder extinguisher, which one to choose?

We get asked regularly about the advantages of foam extinguishers versus powder extinguishers. Both extinguisher types have pros and cons for their use. To start with it is important to know which type of fire you are most likely to have to tackle with your fire extinguishers before you can make a considered decision. The environment (type of building, room size) and the likely user are also important.

Foam Extinguishers

Foam extinguishers are suitable for class A (wood, paper, upholstery) and class B (petrol, liquifying plastic, paints) fires. The foam forms a blanket on the burning material, starving the fire of oxygen. Foam extinguishers also soak into the materials that are alight, which roots out deeper seated ambers. The water content of the foam evaporates in the heat of the fire and cools the fire down, preventing re-ignition.

The jet of the  foam targets only a small area, making the clean up easier than with a powder extinguisher. Due to the properties of the foam extinguishing agent there is also no risk of inhalation in confined spaces. However, it is worth keeping in mind that most foam fire extinguishers are carcinogenic, so a thorough clean up after use is important.

You will require a larger extinguisher to fight a fire with foam rather than with a powder extinguisher. Foam extinguisher can not be used on gas fires.

Powder extinguishers

Powder extinguishers not only fight class A and B class fires, they can also be used on class C fires (caused by combustion of gasses such as natural gas, propane, hydrogen). A powder extinguisher is suitable for a broad range of fires.

The powder does not soak into the burning material and does not evaporate to cool the fire. Instead it ‘knocks out’ the fire and forms  a blanket or crust over the fire to starve the fire of oxygen.

They are a more powerful extinguisher than their foam counterparts and the physical size can therefore be smaller than a foam extinguisher for the same application.

However, there are disadvantages. When deploying a powder extinguisher there is a lot of mess to clear up! The powder can be inhaled and care must be taken when they are used. This type of extinguisher leaves a lot of residue behind and is therefore not necessarily suitable to use in areas where food is prepared. The powder will also damage soft furnishing such as carpets, curtains and settees if not totally removed.

Powder extinguishers should ideally not be installed where children can reach the extinguisher, or where vandalism is possible. Care has also to be taken in historic buildings, as the powder can damage wood and surfaces.

Powders are ideal in garages, cars, industrial settings, workshops, while foams are ideal in areas with soft furnishing and areas of public traffic.

For a more detailed comparison visit our extinguisher advice section.