Halon fire extinguishers used to be the best of choice for companies looking to protect computer equipment and other high tech facilities The green portable fire extinguishers containing halon 1211 (pronounced twelve-eleven) were popular because they could be used on any type of fire, and particularly on delicate electrical equipment, as Halon 1211 did not damage high tech equipment.
Invented by ICI, it was known in the UK as BCF after its chemical name of bromochlorodifluoromethane.
Unfortunately, it was later discovered that halons used in fire-fighting equipment also had the highest ozone-depleting capacity of any chemicals in common use – ironic really as they were colour-coded green!
Making Halon History
An impressive 150 countries worldwide signed up to the Montreal protocol to control the use of ozone-depleting chemicals, and Halon was one of the first substances to be banned, in 1993.
Existing Halon fire extinguishing systems could only be recharged using recycled Halon. In 1999, the EU drew up plans to dispose of Halon 1301 (used in fixed systems) and Halon 1211, used in hand-held fire extinguishers. From 31 December 2002, it was illegal to recharge a Halon fixed fire extinguishing system, and all Halon systems and fire extinguishers were to be decommissioned by 31 December 2003.
Disposal of Halon Fire Extinguishers
If you still have any Halon fire extinguishers, they must be properly decommissioned and disposed of immediately – the official deadline was December 2003. Halon portable fire extinguishers are very distinctive, as their canister is painted in a rich British racing green.
It is worth noting that Nu-swift produced gold halon canisters, the army used dark olive-green and British Rail used yellow ones so always read the label.
Your local Civic Amenity site should accept Halon extinguishers for disposal, but do ring to check first with your local council. It is strictly illegal to just dump Halon fire extinguishers or to discharge them into the atmosphere.
Any existing Halon fire extinguishers should be taken to an authorised disposal agent with proper facilities to deal with disposal.
There are only three main exceptions for Halon fire extinguisher usage; in aircraft, military use including vehicles and fuel installations, and in the Channel Tunnel. So, don’t worry if you spot a green Halon fire extinguisher on an airplane – it’s allowed to be there!
Replacing Halon Fire Extinguishers in your Business
Remember, it is important to replace any existing Halon extinguisher with another type of modern fire extinguisher, so as not to compromise your business fire safety provision.
CO2 fire extinguishers are the most popular replacement for electrical equipment to replace the handheld canister. For automatic fire extinguishers, look out for the clean agent FE36 fire extinguishers. Both will safely extinguish a fire, without causing harm to the user and prevents further damage to the electrical equipment it is used on.