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    When Replacement’s The Only Option: Dry Chemical Extinguishers

    By Mark Conroy

    Stored Pressure Dry Chemical Extinguishers (other than wheeled units) that were made prior to October 1984 areto be taken out of service, according to NFPA 10. This mandate first appeared in the 2007 edition of NFPA 10. The requirement remains in the 2013 edition of NFPA 10 so that areas of the country that have not adopted the latest edition will have that requirement for years to come. NFPA 10 allows for a phase-out of these extinguishers by mandating their removal at the next six-year maintenance or 12-year hydrostatic test intervals, whichever occurs first.

    The listing standards for dry chemical extinguishers are UL 299 (construction) and UL 711 (fire testing). UL299 and UL711 were updated in 1984 with these five improvements, related to extinguisher operation:

    1. Beginning in 1984, extinguishers with ratings equal to or higher than 2-A or 20-B were required to have discharge hoses. Before that time, fire extinguishers were allowed to have fixed nozzles in lieu of hoses. An extinguisher with a hose forces the user to operate the extinguisher upright, with one hand on the valve and the other holding the hose. Prior to 1984 models, some people held the extinguisher sideways with both hands, which releases only expellant gas and no dry chemical. The new design requirement ensures proper use and dry chemical discharge.

    2. As of 1984, UL requires a 13 second minimum discharge time for dry chemical extinguishers rated 2-A and higher. Prior to that, most 2-A units discharged for only 8-10 seconds. The longer discharge increased the likelihood of extinguishment.

    3. Starting in 1984, UL requires the pull pin to be visible from the extinguisher front, and a new maximum was established for the force required to pull the pin from the valve. This was done to ensure that most people could readily see the pin and easily remove it, ensuring that they can discharge the extinguisher.

    4. In 1984, UL included a mandate for picture-type operating instructions and fire symbols. This improves safety, as people are more likely to understand the simplified instructions and types of fires the extinguisher matches.

    5. The 1984 revisions, by UL, included a mandate that extinguisher manufacturers provide a service manual and a reference to that manual on every extinguisher. Prior to that, service manuals were not required. An accurate service manual helps ensure that an extinguisher is maintained in a safe, ready-to-use condition.

    Your customers deserve safe, easily operated, and effective extinguishers. Replacing obsolete extinguishers promotes safe conditions for the users and maximum fire fighting potential.

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