Fire extinguishers use a letter-based system to class which fires they are appropriate for. However, fires involving electrical equipment are sometimes accidentally referred to as Class-E fires, although the category does not officially exist under the European EN3 rating system.
This is because electrical equipment is often the cause of the fire, rather than the actual type of fire. As such, most modern fire extinguishers specify on the label whether they should be used on electrical equipment.
Most extinguishers cannot be used on electrical fires, and choosing the wrong extinguisher could cause more damage and increase the risk to life. The safest and most efficient to use is a CO2 fire extinguisher, without a question of doubt. Although, new innovations mean other extinguishers are often safe to use, such as powder and water mist fire extinguishers which use a special nozzle to create microscopic droplets which are non-conductive.
Preventing Fires Involving Electrical Equipment
If you suspect that something needs fixing or changing, then either do it immediately or stop using the item. Keep an eye out for signs of damage, such as a frayed cable, lights flicking or scorch marks on sockets.
Electrical appliances like kettles, irons, and toasters use a lot of amps. As a result, you should make sure to use these appliances in sockets by themselves.
Avoid overloading a socket by not plugging too many electrical items into an extension lead. And when fitting or replacing a fuse, check that you are putting in the right one, and also note that fuses generally only break when something is wrong with the appliance and is often a sign to check and correct the cause.
These are all things which can be a potential fire risk in your home.
You could also look at getting appliances like washing machines serviced once a year by a qualified electrician, and ensure all electrical equipment is maintained according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. You must only use a professional to undertake electrical work in your home or business.
Plus, workplaces, shops, public buildings and rented accommodation should undertake a PAT testing scheme annually to ensure the safe condition of all electrical equipment.
Tackling Fires Involving Electrical Equipment
The first thing to do is pull out the plug or turn the power off at the fuse box. Of course, you should only do this if it is safe to do so, but sometimes this can stop the fire straight away.
Water and foam extinguishers could conduct the electricity from the fire and cause electrocution.
The best choice is a carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguisher, and you should consider partnering all water extinguishers in your building with one..
A CO2 extinguisher is best as it will not further damage the electrical equipment, whereas dry powder can corrode your equipment.
However, the most important thing to do in this situation is to just put out the fire regardless. After all, your friends, family and colleagues can replace electrical equipment, but they can’t replace you.