How to Choose a Fire Extinguisher for Your Business

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: February 14, 2024

It’s one of the first lines of defense in case of a workplace fire. As a business owner or manager, you understand how very important it is to have the correct type of commercial fire extinguisher on your property.

Eventually, the equipment ages out or needs replacement after an emergency. Do you know which model is the right choice for your business?

As Chicago’s leading commercial fire restoration company, we often get asked the question, “What kind of fire extinguisher do I need for my business?” These safety devices play an invaluable role in keeping everyone at your business safe, but extinguisher requirements, types and even placement can seem confusing.

Choosing Commercial Fire Extinguishers: 6 Things You Need to Know

They’re a common sight in businesses, stores and restaurants all across the city, and they have to be ready for action 24/7. As you decide on the right fire extinguisher for your property, keep in mind these six important factors.

1. Fire Extinguisher Requirements for Commercial Buildings

The Illinois State Fire Marshal’s office regulates which types of structures must be protected by fire extinguishers. You can access detailed information about different building types through the office’s online FAQ portal.

Locally, Title 15, Section 16-640 of the Chicago Code outlines commercial fire extinguisher requirements by property type. If you’re not sure about how the code applies to your building, contact Chicago’s Fire Prevention Bureau. This city department can also help clarify state regulations.

2. Different Extinguishers for Different Fires

Different types of businesses require different types of portable extinguisher protection. While the equipment appears similar in size, shape and color, each contains compounds formulated for a specific fire type. For example, an extinguisher used to put out a fire in an office stairwell isn’t meant for extinguishing commercial kitchen fires.

The following classification code indicates the specific type of fire that an extinguisher is designed to contain:

• A – Ordinary combustible materials
• B – Liquids with flammable properties
• C – Electrical wiring and equipment
• D – Combustible metals
• K – Cooking oils, fat and grease

When you see a combination of these letters on a portable fire extinguisher, you know that it can be used to put out several different types of fire.

3. OSHA and NFPA Fire Extinguisher Placement

The most recent National Fire Protection Association standards for commercial fire extinguishers are available for purchase and download. Referred to as NFPA 10, the publication covers all classifications and recommended placement of extinguishers in different workplaces.

OSHA recaps these NFPA 10 standards with an online overview that sums up the importance of fire extinguisher placement. It’s an excellent guide to recommendations that make sure fire protection is always accessible to employees in any type of setting.

4. Employee Fire Safety Training

An effective, on-site fire safety plan depends on solid employee training. Whether you own a retail outlet or manage a restaurant, all workers on the property need to know how to handle portable extinguishers.

OSHA provides information about this type of employee education on its website along with an explanation of the following P.A.S.S. technique for using fire extinguishers.

• P – Pull pin, break tamper seal
• A – Aim low at base of fire
• S – Squeeze handle, release extinguishing agents
• S – Sweep across fire base from side to side

5. Proper Inspection and Maintenance

Chicago’s Fire Prevention Bureau conducts annual commercial property inspections. It’s your responsibility to make sure all fire safety equipment including extinguishers are always in good working condition.

As you consider the right type of fire extinguishers for your business, look closely at their construction. You want extinguishers with well-designed gauges, pull pins and tamper seals. Quality equipment should be easy to inspect, maintain and recharge.

6. Where to Buy Fire Extinguishers

Most big box stores and home improvement centers carry a good selection of portable extinguishers. If you need more than a few or you have unusual requirements at your business, it’s best to deal with a company that specializes in fire protection equipment.

Before you make a final decision on the best fire extinguishers for your workplace, take a look at online reviews. This approach consolidates information about different types, and it lets you compare brands side by side for overall performance and price.

Keeping Your Business Safe

chicago business fire safety

We handle all types of commercial fire damage restoration across the city every day, so we know how important it is to always have the right safety equipment on your property. You’re invited to discuss your on-site fire safety concerns with us through our Comments Section.

Helping you keep your business safe is a big part of our job. We’re proud to be active members of this great community, and we’re committed to supporting you in every way we can. When you need services from the best fire restoration company in Chicago and the suburbs, call us first here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba.