Foam Fire Extinguishers are most commonly used to fight Class A fires (flammable solids), and class B fires (flammable liquid) in Australia. Also known as a AFFF fire extinguishers. Nowadays there is a new generation of foam extinguishers (completely fluorine-free) with superior performance and minimum environmental impact. Here’s a guide on how to identify them, how they work and when to use them safely:
Foam fire extinguisher colour:
All new fire extinguishers in Australia are painted with a rich red colour, which is referred to as Signal Red.
A Foam extinguisher has a red body and will always have a BLUE colour band wrapped around the top of its cylinder.
Foam fire extinguisher sizes:
Available in 1 portable Size: 9L.
Available in 1 mobile Size: 45L.
How does a Foam extinguisher work?
Each type of extinguisher works by attempting to remove one of the elements that are needed for a fire to flourish. Foam extinguishers work by forming a thick foam layer over the top of the burning substance which stops the fire by cutting off access to oxygen.
It also contains traces of water which provides a cooling effect.
When to use a Foam extinguisher?
Foam extinguishers are mainly used on class B fires (flammable liquids such as kerosene or petrol). They also fight Class A fires (flammable solids such as rubber, wood, paper and textile materials).
Class A Fires - rubber, wood, paper and textile materials etc
Class B Fires - flammable liquid fires, petrol, diesel, oil etc
Foam extinguisher DO NOT USE ON:
Foam extinguishers should not be used on fires involving electrical equipment (risk of danger as foam agent contains water), flammable gases, cooking oils and also are not suitable for use on flammable metals.
Where to use a Foam extinguisher?
Foam extinguishers can be used indoors and outdoors. Any facility that contains combustible materials or flammable liquids, for example warehouse’s, petrol stations, textile factories, storage facilities, workshops and so on.
How to use a Foam Fire Extinguisher?
Knowing how to operate a Foam fire extinguisher could save your life in an emergency.
The key to putting out a fire with a Foam 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.
Foam extinguisher Service & Maintenance:
In an Australian business environment, all Foam extinguishers must undergo a recharge 12 months and hydrostatic testing every 5 years. All Foam 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.
They should not be installed in locations directly exposed to extreme cold (possibility of freezing in conditions lower than -10°C).
At home, Foam extinguishers can last up to 3 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).
How to clean up after a Foam fire extinguisher?
- Protective gear - fluorinated foam (old generation) is known to be carcinogenic, it’s best to put on goggles and impermeable protective gloves before starting. If your extinguisher is Fluorine Free no need for those.
- Soak – soaking up the residue using paper towels or something disposable that can soak up the residue.
- Wash – Use water to wash the affected area until completely clean and continue to soak up any left over residue.
- Throw – Once clean, take the dirty towels and seal them in a plastic bag. You can then throw the contents away as you would any normal waste.
Foam fire extinguisher discharge effects to be aware of:
- Inhalation – chemicals used in foam fire extinguishers may cause nasal and throat irritation.
- Foam on your skin – rinse immediately with water, and consult medical attention if any symptoms persist.
- Prohibited disposal in drain systems – fluorine free foam extinguishers are safe to discharge down normal drains; Fluorinated foam (old generation) can be extremely hazardous to the environment.
How to Refill & Recharge a Foam fire extinguisher:
In Australia, Foam Fire extinguishers must be discharged and recharged every 12 months. 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 foam 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
Foam fire extinguisher Disposal & Recycling:
Foam 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 carbon dioxide fire extinguisher?
Please check this article to dispose or recycle your old Foam 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.