How many FMs out there are properly monitoring and maintaining Fire Extinguishers? From small Apartment Buildings and local Schools to large Hospital, College and University Campuses, fire extinguishers are a necessary and Code mandated part of your building(s) Life Safety commitment to the building's occupants.
The Code, (NFPA 10, NFPA 101 and others) talks about the requirements regarding how many and what size extinguishers you need to have. These codes also talk about the location and the distance between extinguishers. The purpose of this blog, however, is to make you aware of what your responsibilities are after the building is up and running. What are you as the "Stake Holders" and "Owner's Representatives" responsible for?
NFPA 10 tells us that Disposable Extinguishers have a 12 year lifespan and that the Refillable (or Rechargeable) Extinguishers must be refilled every 6 years and pressure tested every other refill (every 12 years). That is the long term responsibility you have. NFPA also tells us that the units must be checked and tagged every year. This annual inspection is to check the age of the unit and its impending end of life (6 years for Refillable and 12 years for Disposable) as well as the general condition of the unit and its location.
BUT, do you also know that a visual inspection of each and every Fire Extinguisher must be performed and a log maintained every 31 days?
That's right, once a month someone in your employ must go and visit each and every Fire Extinguisher and record the following in a log:
1, its presence in its specified location
2, that there is no obstruction to access it or hiding it visually
3, the pressure gauge shows "in the green" or Normal
4, fullness to be determined by hefting the unit or weighing it
5, if it is a large wheeled unit, the tires must be checked along with the carriage, hose and nozzle
6, if the Extinguisher has a "Push to Test" button, it must be tested
Also, if the extinguisher is located in or near a part of the building that the AHJ has determined to be of a greater than average place for fires to be initiated (trash shoots, laundry rooms, etc...) then he may require these inspections to occur more often, maybe as often as once a week!
These requirements are getting the attention of State Building Code Officials. This frequency of inspection was the law in New Hampshire, but it has been repealed putting New Hampshire's leading edge building code back to mediocrity.
However, there is some good news!
There are products that can eliminate these monthly inspections altogether. In NFPA 10 Section 7.2 titled Inspections, there is a line marked as 18.104.22.168 that reads "Fire extinguisher and Class D extinguishing agents shall be inspected either manually or by means of an electronic monitoring device/system at intervals not exceeding 31 days."
Manually means you have someone with a log book running around every month logging the 6 items I mentioned above, while electronic monitoring is accomplished by a Listed device that can be connected to your Fire or Security System and will give you immediate annunciation when the extinguisher is removed from its location, access to the extinguisher is obstructed or the pressure in the unit is either above or below normal, 24/7/365. That leaves the tire, carriage, hose and nozzle check for the larger units that are mostly only used in garages.