Q: How often do my fire extinguishers need to be checked?
In New Zealand the maintenance of fire extinguishers is covered by the New Zealand Standard 4503:2005.
The standard states that fire extinguishers should be checked every 12 months unless they are located in an aggressive environment in which case they should be checked every 6 months.
Examples of an aggressive environment include:
- Outside where extinguishers are exposed to sunlight, salt spray, wind or rain
- Environments that are corrosive, very dusty or moisture laden
- Environments that experience extremes of temperature
- Situations where extinguishers are subjected to intense or continuous vibrations
Some business owners also choose to have their extinguishers checked 6 rather than 12 monthly due to a high risk of fire in their business environment.
In addition to the annual inspection it is a good idea to carry out a monthly visual check yourself to ensure that your extinguishers are in their designated places, and have not been used or damaged.
Q: Why do my fire extinguishers need to be checked even when they haven’t been used?
A number of things can happen to a fire extinguisher over time and unless routinely checked may go unnoticed until the extinguisher fails to work in an emergency.
- The extinguishant or the gas used to pressurise the extinguisher can leak which means it will not work when needed
- Discharge hoses can perish
- The locking pins that prevent the handles being squeezed together can become bent due to extinguishers being knocked or dropped. This can make it impossible to remove the pin when you need to use the extinguisher
- Over time or in certain environments extinguishers may corrode or develop cracks which weaken the extinguisher cylinder and make it prone to rupture
- Discharge hoses can become blocked e.g. mason bees have been known to nest in discharge hoses
Our technicians quite often come across empty extinguishers during routine checks. This is sometimes due to tampering or because they have been used on a fire but no one has thought to get them refilled.
Q: How do I know when my fire extinguishers and fire hose reels are due for annual servicing?
The maintenance tag that is attached to the extinguisher or hose reel by the servicing company will show the month and year that they performed their last inspection. We can place you on a regular call back schedule so you don’t have to remember when the next service is due.
Q: If my fire extinguisher has been partially discharged and a small amount of extinguishant has been used, do I need to have the extinguisher refilled?
Yes, all fire extinguishers must be refilled once they have been discharged. Fire extinguishers are designed to discharge their propellant gas once the valve stem has been pushed. Even if you only use a small amount of extinguishant the extinguisher will still lose most of its gas.
Q: How often does my fire alarm need to be inspected?
Inspections should be carried out as per the compliance schedule for your building. A typical maintenance routine includes monthly checks and an annual survey.
Q. My business premises have a sprinkler system fitted. Do I need fire extinguishers as well?
Sprinkler systems provide effective around the clock protection against medium to large fires.
NZS 4503:2005 states that installation of a sprinkler system does not negate the need for fire extinguishers.
Fire extinguishers are a useful first line of defence. They can be used to extinguish a small fire before it becomes large enough to activate the sprinkler system.