Compact and portable fire extinguishers may look too small to provide a lot of protection, but they are a life-saving tool that can prevent thousands or even millions of dollars’ worth of loss when used at the right time. But a fire extinguisher has a limited lifespan and must be checked and maintained monthly to work properly.
Whether you own an apartment complex with hundreds of individual extinguishers or a retail store with just a single canister, your fire extinguisher maintenance needs remain basically the same. So make sure you’re paying attention to your fire extinguisher and performing the proper maintenance steps as follows.
1. Check the Gauge
Checking the gauge is not a replacement for annual charge testing by a professional, but your gauge should be visually checked monthly because it's usually accurate for warning you about a low charge. The gauge should show a full charge on the tank. If the needle has dropped since the last check, even if it's still in the charged zone, have the extinguisher inspected.
Any liquids or foam leaking out around the gauge is a warning sign of damage, as is rust or corrosion in that area. Have the extinguisher repaired or replaced if you notice these problems.
2. Inspect the Nozzle and Tank
Aside from the gauge connection point, you may find signs of leaks or corrosion around the nozzle as well. Damaged nozzles can break during an emergency and leave the user unable to direct the spray of foam or powder.
The tank itself should also get a visual check over and a cleaning if any dust, debris, or grease are present. Corrosion or loss of paint leads to a weakened tank that can rupture or leak. If you see any sign of damage to the tank or nozzle, replace the unit.
3. Shake Certain Extinguishers
Most fire extinguishers need little direct handling from you or an employee each month just to stay in working order. However, dry chemical extinguishers sometimes require monthly shaking to keep the powder inside fluffy and ready to dispense. Without routine shaking and mixing, settling occurs and reduces the amount of powder dispensed when you pull the pin.
Extinguishers that require this treatment will feature a warning sign on the tank itself recommending a shaking interval, which is why you shouldn't paint tanks or remove labels since you can prevent essential maintenance warnings.
4. Look for Tamper Seals
Since an extinguisher needs recharging and resetting after each use, every unit needs its own tamper seal on the pin and handle to show that it's ready for use. Without a tamper seal, the extinguisher could have been used in the past and replaced on the wall.
Check the tamper seals during each monthly inspection. Seals that break accidentally or show signs of tearing and weakening can be easily replaced by a professional, but you should have the extinguisher inspected before assuming it's safe to apply a new seal.
4. Remember the Expiration Date
All fire extinguishers have expiration dates, and most can be re-charged at those dates rather than replaced as long as the equipment is in good condition. Even though you likely track these dates separately for replacement and recharging planning, you should still double-check the date during every inspection.
Letting a single extinguisher go without replacement because it was accidentally overlooked can lead to serious property loss and death. Since you need mere seconds to verify the date that is stamped on a tank or written on an attached tank, you should put in the extra effort to ensure every extinguisher is primed and ready to use.
Bring on the experts to help with your maintenance and inspection chores if you're managing dozens or hundreds of individual extinguishers. FireWatch
can help with every step, including replacing expired or damaged extinguishers.