Frequently Asked Questions:

 

Fire Extinguishers & Systems


Q: Why do I need annual fire extinguisher service?

A: California State Fire Marshal regulations under Title 19 mandate that you have your fire extinguishers annually inspected by a certified fire protection company. This regulation is in place to protect your business and your customers - if we catch and fix a fault in your fire protection measures it could spare you thousands of dollars in property damage, or potentially even save someone’s life.

A diagram showing the proper way to read an inspection tag. It's important to remember that the date punched is the day you were serviced, not the day you expire. 

Q: Can’t I just do what is required on my own without having to pay?

A: Customers are encouraged to inspect their own fire protection equipment monthly to ensure it is still in good condition and that it has not been tampered with by anyone that isn’t authorized to do so.

However, if you are not certified by the state fire marshal to perform the annual maintenance on your own, your extinguishers must be serviced and tagged by a company like ours in order to be legal and up to code. Our technicians are well trained and know exactly what types of hazards to keep an eye out for to keep your equipment in good working order year after year.

A serviced extinguisher with the annual inspection tag.

Q: Can’t I just buy a new fire extinguisher at the local hardware store instead of paying for service from a fire protection company?

A: Yes, you could, but there are multiple caveats to that method that you should know about before considering it:

  • First, most extinguishers from a hardware store that are less expensive than your annual maintenance charge may not provide the right type or amount of coverage for your needs, putting you at risk, and increasing your chance for a citation in a fire department inspection.
  • Second, when purchasing a new extinguisher from the store, your extinguisher is only certified until the end of the calendar year in which you bought it. For example, if you purchased one in October this year, it would already require annual maintenance in January next year. If you service or purchase a fire extinguisher through Fletcher’s Fire Protection it comes with a State Fire Marshal tag good for an entire year from the date of the service or purchase, regardless of what month you bought it.
  • Lastly, the hardware store isn’t an expert in the fire safety industry. They won’t be able to install it for you, guide you on the proper way to use the extinguisher, explain potential hazards to avoid, or answer any of the fire protection related questions you may have like Fletcher’s Fire Protection will. 

Q: What is a “hydro test” and why do I need to have it done if I am already getting annual extinguisher service?

A: A hydro test is a required service that must be performed on all fire extinguishers at different intervals depending on the type of extinguisher you have. The process involves our skilled technician completely emptying the contents of the cylinder, and then fully examining it inside and out for damage and corrosion. If it passes a visual inspection, it moves on to the next testing phase where it is filled with water and pressure according to the manufacturer specifications. If the cylinder holds up against this test and does not deform, leak, or break, it passes the test and is dried, reassembled, refilled, and then returned to you. All dry chemical extinguishers require this test once every 12 years. CO2 and wet chemical K-type kitchen extinguishers require it every 5 years. This is an important test that is instrumental in finding potential hazards and defects that are undetectable through annual maintenance alone.

This fire extinguisher is 12 years old and so required a hydro test. The back of the extinguisher with its hydro test sticker is pictured here. 

This fire extinguisher is 12 years old and so required a hydro test. The back of the extinguisher with its hydro test sticker is pictured here. 

Q: Why do CO2 and K-type kitchen extinguishers have to be hydro tested every 5 years instead of every 12 like the other ones?

A: The K-type fire extinguishers (these are the large silver colored ones found in commercial kitchens) use a liquid chemical that is extremely effective at putting out oil based fires, but is also fairly corrosive for the steel mechanisms in the head of the extinguisher. As a result, hydro tests are needed on these types every 5 years to prevent such corrosion from taking place and to fix any instances where it already has taken place.

While CO2 extinguishers are heavy duty and well made with many safety features built in, they are under extremely high pressure, a characteristic that makes a faulty one exceptionally dangerous for anyone who works with them or around them. For this reason, they need to be hydro tested every 5 years to mitigate risk and ensure that the cylinders hold up to the strict standards of their manufacturer, keeping everyone safe.

Q: When is an extinguisher “too old”?

A: According to State Fire Marshal code, a fire extinguisher needs to be removed from service if it is manufactured prior to October 1984.

This extinguisher was manufactured in 1983 - it is too old and would need to be replaced. 

An older extinguisher from 1975 that also had to be pulled from service because of its age. 

An older extinguisher from 1975 that also had to be pulled from service because of its age. 

Q: How long does the semi-annual kitchen system service usually take?

A: We take semi-annual kitchen system service very seriously, and do not cut corners to try to rush through it. As such, a typical service takes approximately one hour, but it can take a shorter or longer amount of time depending on the size of the system and if there are parts that need replacement or repair. Approximate start and end times can be discussed on a case by case basis when scheduling your service appointment.

Q: Since you perform maintenance on our kitchen fire system, you also clean the hood and filters right?

A: No we do not. It’s a common misconception, but Fletcher’s Fire Protection is responsible only for maintaining the safe operating condition of your automatic fire suppression system. While the hood and filters surround the working parts of the system, they are separate entities entirely and cleaning them is not part of the services we offer. 

What's Next?

If you have any questions that aren't covered in the above topics, feel free to call or e-mail us - we will be happy to answer any questions you have, even if you aren't ready for service. When you are ready for one of our services, let us know, we would be glad to schedule an appointment with you.