Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher Australian GuideDry Powder Fire Extinguishers are the most common type used in Australia. Also known as a DCP, BE, or ABE fire extinguishers. Here’s a guide on how to identify them, how they work and when to use them safely:

Dry Powder fire extinguisher colour:

All new fire extinguishers in Australia are painted with a rich red colour, which is referred to as Signal Red.
A dry chemical powder extinguisher has a red body and will always have a WHITE colour band wrapped around the top of its cylinder.

Dry Powder fire extinguisher sizes:

Available in 7 portable Sizes: 0.75kg, 1kg, 1.5kg, 2kg, 2.5kg, 4.5kg & 9kg.
Available in 2 mobile Sizes: 25kg and 50kg.

How does a Dry Powder extinguisher work?

Each type of extinguisher works by attempting to remove one of the elements that are needed for a fire to flourish. Dry Powder extinguishers are filled with monoammonium phosphate (MAP: a one-to-one ratio of ammonia (NH3) and phosphoric acid (H3PO4)), an extinguishing agent that spreads easily and melts over flames.
The fine powder MAP separates fire from oxygen, depriving the fire of a fuel source. The dry powder also acts as a shield against radiated heat.

When to use a Dry Powder extinguisher?

Dry powder fire extinguishers are extremely effective and can be used on the following fire classes.
ABE Extinguishers:
Class A Fires - paper, cardboard, wood, fabrics, people etc.
Class B Fires - flammable liquid fires, petrol, diesel, oil etc
Class E Fires - electrical fires, computers, photocopiers, switchboards etc
BE Extinguishers:
Class B Fires - flammable liquid fires, petrol, diesel, oil etc
Class E Fires - electrical fires, computers, photocopiers, switchboards etc
Class F Fires - although not included in the rating the BE type is capable of extinguishing small cooking oil fires

Dry Powder Fire extinguisher types and fire classes

Dry Powder extinguisher DO NOT USE ON:

ABE Dry Powder extinguishers should not be used on fires involving combustible gases, such as LPG, Natural gas and acetylene, and also are not suitable for use on combustible metals such as aluminum shaving or magnesium.

Where to use a Dry Powder extinguisher?

Dry Powder Extinguishers can be used indoors and outdoors, from offices to shop floors, industrial complexes, factories, construction sites, mining sites, cars, trucks, boats and so on.

How to use a Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher?

Knowing how to operate a dry powder fire extinguisher could save your life in an emergency.
The key to putting out a fire with a dry powder extinguisher is to use the PASS strategy: Pull the pin, Aim the hose towards the base of the fire, Squeeze the lever, and Sweep the hose.
Remember: Fires double in size every 60 seconds so use a fire extinguisher for small, contained fires only. Leave immediately if you're unable to extinguish the fire and call 000.

Dry Powder extinguisher Service & Maintenance:

In an Australian business environment, all dry powder extinguishers must undergo hydrostatic testing and recharge every five years. All DCP fire extinguishers must carry a maintenance tag that shows their last inspection date, and must be serviced every 6 months. Once your extinguisher has been discharged, it must be pressure tested & recharged, or replaced.

At home, extinguishers can last up to 10 years but you need to check them regularly (we recommend twice a year to check the following: pressure is at the recommended level, nozzle or hose are not obstructed, pin and tamper seal is intact, no dents, leaks, rust, chemical deposits and other signs of wear). We also recommend shaking the extinguisher regularly as the dry powder can compress over time and make the extinguisher malfunctioned.

How to clean up after a dry powder fire extinguisher?

Water-based cleanup methods will turn the dry chemical powder into a paste and make it much more difficult to clean.

  • Vacuum or sweep the affected area.
  • Use a damp cloth to clean any leftover residue (avoid using large amounts of water).
  • Place all powder from the vacuum into a bag, seal and then dispose of it in the normal waste bin.

Dry powder fire extinguisher discharge effects to be aware of:

  • Inhalation – chemicals used in fire extinguishers may cause nasal and throat irritation, and those with medical conditions such as asthma may experience further respiratory difficulty.
  • Powder on your skin – rinse immediately with water, and consult medical attention if any symptoms persist.
  • Prohibited disposal in drain systems – Dry powder cannot be discharged down normal drains, only water based extinguishers are safe to discharge down normal drains;
  • Pets – try to keep your pets out of the way during your cleanup operation, but if they inhale or get any chemicals in their fur, take them to the vet immediately for treatment.

How to Refill & Recharge a Dry powder fire extinguisher:

In Australia, Dry powder Fire extinguishers must be discharged and recharged every 5 years. The refill process should be done by a trained professional (handling of pressurized chemicals). If it is not done adequately, the extinguisher could malfunction in case of an emergency.

Here are simplified steps of the Dry powder refill process:

  • Empty and depressurize the extinguisher (remove hose, valve assembly, clean...)
  • Fill the cylinder with the amount of chemical specified on the label
  • Re-Pressurize the extinguisher (check for leaks)
  • Reconnect hose and ring pin
  • Weigh the fully assembled fire extinguisher

Dry powder fire extinguisher Disposal & Recycling:

Dry Powder Fire extinguishers are classified as a dangerous good and can not be disposed of at your household waste collection and/or curb-side collection. So how do you safely dispose of a used, expired but unused or empty dry powder fire extinguisher?

Please check this article to dispose or recycle your old Dry Powder Fire Extinguisher: https://www.fireextinguisheronline.com.au/fire-extinguisher-recycling

You can also contact your local fire department and enquire if you can drop those off at the firehouse to dispose of them (only for expired but full or partially filled fire extinguishers). And you can contact your local council.