How Often Should Fire Extinguishers Be Inspected?
Updated: Sep 6
Fire extinguishers are vital in our defense against small fires, and ensuring they are always in working order is crucial. Regular inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) protocols are essential for reliable and effective fire extinguisher performance. This article will delve into the requirements outlined in NFPA 10, the Standard on the Installation of Portable Fire Extinguishers, which provides guidelines to ensure your extinguisher is ready for fire protection.
NFPA 10 Requirements: The NFPA 10 standard divides its requirements into three sections: inspection, maintenance check, and testing. Each section addresses specific procedures, qualifications, frequency, and recordkeeping, as follows:
Inspection Procedures: Regularly inspecting your fire extinguisher is the simplest way to ensure your equipment is reliable, fully charged, and ready for use during an emergency. The minimum inspection steps recommended include the following:
Verify the extinguisher is located in its designated place.
Ensure visibility or provide signage indicating the extinguisher's location.
Confirm easy accessibility to the extinguisher.
Check the pressure gauge to ensure it is within the operable range.
Verify the extinguisher is full by lifting or weighing it.
With wheeled extinguishers, inspect the condition of the tires, wheels, hose, carriage, and nozzle.
With non-rechargeable extinguishers, operate the push-to-test pressure indicators.
Qualifications: Visual inspections can be conducted by any knowledgeable and competent person; certification is not required.
Frequency: NFPA 10 recommends monthly inspections after the initial installation. However, more frequent inspections may be necessary for extinguishers in environments prone to rust, impact, or tampering.
Recordkeeping: Records of monthly fire extinguisher inspections should be maintained either by using inspection tags or labels on the extinguisher or by documenting the inspections on paper or electronically.
The following information should be recorded:
Month and year the inspection was performed
Name of the person conducting the inspection
Maintenance Procedures: Fire extinguisher maintenance and inspection procedures should include the steps outlined in the manufacturer's service manual, along with a thorough examination of the fire extinguisher's essential elements, such as:
Mechanical parts of fire extinguishers.
Presence of extinguishing agent.
Qualifications: Maintenance must be performed by a certified individual who has taken a test acceptable to the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ). Certification requires familiarity with NFPA 10 requirements, at a minimum.
Frequency: Conducting external annual maintenance examinations during hydrostatic testing or when indicated by inspection discrepancies is recommended. Internal examinations may also be required at intervals running from 1 to 6 years, depending on the extinguisher type. Refer to NFPA 10 Table 220.127.116.11 for details on different types of fire extinguishers.
Recordkeeping: Each extinguisher should have an attached tag confirming that maintenance was performed. The tag or label should include the following information:
Month and year of maintenance
Name of the person performing the work
Name of the agency
Hydrostatic Testing Procedures: Hydrostatic testing begins with an internal and external examination of the fire extinguisher. The extinguisher is then stripped down to its shell and hose, filled with water at a specific pressure for a particular duration, dried, reassembled, and recharged. If any leakage, distortion, or permanent movement of couplings occurs, the cylinder fails the test and must be condemned.
Qualifications: Hydrostatic testing should only be performed by trained, certified individuals with appropriate equipment and facilities, as it can be dangerous if done incorrectly.
Frequency: Hydrostatic testing intervals vary based on the type of extinguisher. Testing is typically required every 5 or 12 years. Refer to NFPA 10 Table 8.3.1 for specific requirements.
Recordkeeping: A label indicating the test details must be attached to the extinguisher for low-pressure cylinders. The label should include the following:
Name of the person conducting the test
Date the test was performed
Pressure at which the test was performed
The tester's identification number and date must be stamped on the extinguisher's shoulder, top, head, neck, or foot ring for high-pressure cylinders.
This guide provides an overview of fire extinguisher ITM but only encompasses some details outlined in NFPA 10 requirements. Additionally, there may be specific variations and considerations based on the characteristics of your extinguisher. If you need information on how often to inspect dry chemical extinguishers, call us today.
The opinions expressed in this blog/article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily define the official standing of NFPA or its Technical Committees. Furthermore, this piece is not intended to substitute professional consultation. Refer to NFPA 10 and certified professionals for specific guidance and compliance.