Generally, large fires start small, and small fires can be tackled by trained staff using portable fire extinguishers.

Therefore, action by staff can prevent a fire growing and posing a serious threat to people, property and business. In some premises, early action to control a fire can help people to assist others who are at greater risk, such as disabled people, residents in a care home or patients in a hospital.


Legal requirements

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 applies to virtually all premises, other than dwellings. It requires that, where necessary, premises must be equipped with appropriate firefighting equipment in order to safeguard everyone who is lawfully on, or in the immediate vicinity of, the premises.

This is supplemented by a requirement to take measures for firefighting. The necessity of firefighting equipment under the Order is dependent on the features and size of the premises, the activities of the premises, the fire hazards or any other relevant circumstances.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order is supported, in England and Wales, by eleven guides produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). The guides advocate the provision of firefighting equipment in premises and provide recommendations for the selection and siting of appliances.

In the case of portable fire extinguishers, more detailed guidance is provided in BS 5306, Part 8.



Types Of Fire Extinguishers

Portable fire extinguishers are the most universally applicable form of firefighting appliance and are rated according to the maximum size of fire that a trained operator can control using the extinguisher.

Extinguishers should be sited at fire exits and on escape routes, within 30m of all personnel.

Class A extinguishers are required as a minimum and should be supplemented by extinguishers suitable for specific risks in particular areas. Carbon dioxide extinguishers are normally suited for electric, gas, flammable liquid, flammable metal or live electrical equipment, wherever such equipment is situated within the area. Where there is a commercial kitchen with deep-fat fryers, one or more Class F extinguishers and/or fire blankets are likely to be appropriate. Fires are classed according to the material that is burning. The fire extinguishers provided need to be appropriate for the class of fire.