Have you ever seen any of these symbols on a fire extinguisher and wondered what they mean? You’re not alone. In fact, recent polls indicate that people may have the correct fire extinguisher for the facility it’s meant to service but still don’t understand the symbology printed on the tank. Although fairly new pictograph labeling on extinguishers does help somewhat, they can still be a bit difficult to decipher. That’s why we’ve gathered some useful information, courtesy of Fire Extinguisher 101, and are sharing this quick and easy guide to reading fire extinguisher labels to help bring you all out of the darkness and into the fire prevention savvy light!
The letters you see above, in green, red, blue, yellow and black, indicate which class of fire any particular fire extinguisher is equipped to fight. Fire can have several different fuel sources and they all need to be extinguished differently. This is why all fire extinguishers need to be clearly labeled, so you always know you are using the right type. Attempting to put out a fire with the wrong kind of extinguisher can lead to extremely dangerous consequences.
- Class A – for ordinary combustible materials such as paper, wood, cardboard, and most plastics. The geometric symbol is the green triangle and the pictograph shows ordinary trash and wood on fire.
- Class B – for fires involving flammable or combustible liquids, like gasoline, kerosene, grease or oil. The geometric symbol is the red square and the pictograph shows a fuel can in flames.
- Class C – for fires involving electrical equipment, like appliances, wiring, circuit breakers or outlets. You should never use water to extinguish a class C fire. Water is a powerful conductor, so the risk of electrical shock is substantial. The geometric symbol is a blue circle and the pictograph shows an electrical cord and outlet that have caught on fire.
- Class D – for fires most commonly occurring in a chemical laboratories. These involve combustible metals, like magnesium, titanium, potassium or sodium. The geometric symbol is the yellow star, or decagon. A pictograph is not commonly used for this class but you might see one that shows a metal beam and flames.
- Class K – for fires that involve cooking oils, trans-fats, or fats in cooking appliances, typically occurring in restaurants or cafeteria kitchens. The geometric symbol is the black hexagon and the pictograph shows a frying pan in flames.
- Combinations – there are some multi-purpose use fire extinguishers available, some of which are commonly used in residential homes. These types of extinguishers are labeled with more than 1 symbol and pictograph in order to indicate every fire class they can be used for. Common combination you might see are “BC” and “ABC”.
- You should never use a fire extinguisher on a type fire that it is not labeled for. If you are ever unsure, you should exit the premises immediately and call the fire department. You should also always remember that fire extinguishers are only meant to put out small, manageable fires. If a fire begins to spread you should immediately get to a safe place and call the fire department.