NFPA 1: Location and placement requirements for portable fire extinguishers, #FireCodefridays

Hello – Happy Friday!  Today's post comes to you from Brian O'Connor, Fire Protection Engineer in the Fire Protection Systems Department, at NFPA.  Special thanks to Brian for his contribution to this blog while I am out on maternity leave, and discussing one of the many important subjects addressed in the Fire Code.

Looking for information on what occupancies require fire extinguishers? Check out this post first!

Brian O'Connor here to help continue the legacy of NFPA's #FireCodefridays. I am the Staff Liaison for NFPA 10, Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers, and today I will be talking about some of the location and placement requirements for portable fire extinguishers.

In NFPA 1, portable fire extinguisher requirements are located in section 13.6 under chapter 13, Fire Protection Systems.


fire extinguisher


Location and Placement

The first step in figuring out where to place your fire extinguisher is to size up your building and see what types of hazards are around. If you have a kitchen area then a class K rated fire extinguisher should be nearby, for flammable liquids a class B rated extinguisher, if there is potential for energized electrical equipment to be involved one would use a class C rated extinguisher, etc.

Common sense and NFPA 10 say that the fire extinguisher should be located where they are readily accessible and available in the event of a fire. These are typically located along normal paths of travel so that you can grab one with ease in the event of a fire.

Fire extinguishers should be visible, but if visual obstructions cannot be avoided then arrows, lights or signs to help indicate where a fire extinguisher is located. This cuts down on response time and could play a critical role in getting the fire under control or extinguished.

When looking at how to place your extinguisher in the location that you have decided, one thing to consider is the elevation. The bottom of the extinguisher needs to be at least 4in off the ground and the top not more than 5ft from the ground, unless it is heavier than 40lbs. In the case where it is heavier than 40lbs, the top of the extinguisher cannot be more than 3.5ft above the floor. This includes extinguishers in cabinets but does not include wheeled extinguishers.

One question that I often get is about fire extinguishers that are subject to malicious use. In these situations cabinets are allowed to be locked but there still needs to be a means of emergency access. This is done through several ways, the most common being breakable glass doors on the front with a small mallet attached.

The above requirements apply to all portable fire extinguishers but there are different location requirements for extinguishers for different class fire hazards.

Class A,

Required anywhere ordinary combustibles are present. The minimum number of fire extinguishers you need per floor is outlined in table To find this number one would take the total floor area and divide it by the maximum floor area to be protected per extinguisher. For example, if there is a 67,000 ft2 light hazard area, take this and divide it by the maximum floor area for an extinguisher (11,250ft2) then one would find that a minimum of 6 fire extinguishers with at least a 4A rating (3,000ft2 * 4 = 12,000ft2) is required. 2A rated portable fire extinguishers are permitted as well but then the requirement of having a maximum floor area per unit of “A rating” decreases the maximum floor area per extinguisher from 11,250ft2 to 6000ft2 (3,000ft2 * 2 = 6,000ft2). In this case one would need a minimum of 12 fire extinguishers to cover an area of 67,000ft2 (67,000ft2/6,000ft2 = 11.2).  In addition to the requirements in table, fire extinguishers for class A hazards must be locates as to not exceed a 75ft travel distance.

Class B

Required where there is a potential for flammable liquids fires. Table is a more straightforward table that lays out the maximum travel distance to extinguishers based on the type of hazard (low, moderate or high) and the extinguisher rating. Travel distance to extinguisher can't be more than 30ft or 50ft depending on the extinguisher rating and type of hazard.

Class C

Required where energized electrical equipment can be encountered. An extinguisher is rated Class C in addition to a Class A or B, so you would follow the distance requirements for either the Class A or Class B hazards.

Class D

Required in areas where there is a potential for fires involving combustible metals. Class D rated portable fire extinguishers should not be placed more than 75ft of travel distance from the hazard.

Class K

Required where there is a potential for fires involving combustible cooking media (vegetable or animal oils and fats). They should not be located further than 30ft from hazard.

I hope this sheds some light on the location and placement of fire extinguishers. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to post a message below!

Thanks, Brian! And thanks for reading! Happy Friday, stay safe.

Download the Fire Extinguisher Location and Placement Fact Sheet
Kristin Bigda
Technical Lead and Principal Fire Protection Engineer with a focus on building and life safety related content.

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