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Fire Extinguisher Inspection & Testing

Fire Extinguisher Inspection, Maintenance & Testing


Portable fire extinguishers, also known as hand-held fire extinguishers, undergo an inspection, maintenance, and testing cycle as specified by the manufacturer and in accordance with local code requirements.

The manufacturer includes these service guidelines in the owner’s manual provided with each new fire extinguisher. Generally “All fire extinguishers should be installed, inspected and maintained in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association standard titled “Portable Fire Extinguishers”, NFPA-10 and the requirements of local authorities having jurisdiction.” (Amerex Owners Service Manual No. 05602)

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) outlines the necessary maintenance cycles for portable fire extinguishers in Chapter 7: Inspection, Maintenance, and Recharging.

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Regular Fire Extinguisher Inspection

Conduct a "quick check" monthly (or more frequently if required) to ensure that the unit is accessible and operational. This check can be performed by an employee with basic training or included in a service contract with a licensed fire equipment service provider. For a handheld portable fire extinguisher, the essential items to inspect include:

  • The extinguisher is in its designated location.
  • No obstructions to access or visibility.
  • The pressure gauge reading or indicator is within the operable range.
  • Fullness is verified either by weighing or hefting for self-expelling-type extinguishers, cartridge-operated extinguishers, and pump tanks.
  • Operating instructions on the nameplate are clear, legible, and facing outward.
  • Safety seals and tamper indicators are intact and not compromised.
  • The unit is free from obvious physical damage, corrosion, leakage, or a clogged nozzle.
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Fire Extinguisher Maintenance

This task should only be undertaken by trained and certified personnel. Periodic fire extinguisher inspections and maintenance, which is conducted annually or more frequently if necessary, involves a comprehensive review of all components of the unit to ensure that the fire extinguisher will operate effectively and safely when needed.

According to NFPA 10, maintenance must be performed by competent, trained, and certified personnel using the appropriate tools and service manuals. For detailed instructions, refer to Chapter 7. The essential elements of maintenance for a handheld portable fire extinguisher inspectionsinclude:

  • Thorough inspection and cleaning of the cylinder's exterior to check for corrosion, abrasion, dents, or weld damage.
  • Inspecting the extinguisher for damage, missing parts, or unauthorized substitutions.
  • Weighing the extinguisher and comparing it to the manufacturer's nameplate.
  • Checking the date of manufacture.
  • Visually inspecting the pressure gauge and adhering to the provided instructions.
  • Ensuring the ring pin (pull pin) moves freely.
  • Inspecting the discharge lever and carrying handle according to the manufacturer’s service manual.
  • Installing a new tamper seal and documenting the service data on both the fire extinguisher inspection tag and the inspection report, if applicable.
  • Removing the nozzle or hose assembly to visually inspect the inside of the valve body and check the valve assembly for corrosion or damage.
  • Inspecting, cleaning, and replacing the o-ring of the nozzle or hose assembly.
  • Replacing the fire extinguisher on its wall hanger or bracket, ensuring it fits properly and replacing any necessary mounting equipment.
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Fire Extinguisher Inspection 6-Year Maintenance Cycle

Manufacturers of stored pressure portable fire extinguishers stipulate that an internal inspection and maintenance must be conducted on the cylinder during its sixth maintenance cycle. This internal examination assesses the quality and condition of the dry chemical or powder, and inspects (replacing if necessary) the pressure seal, valve stem, and o-ring.

It is mandatory for all fire extinguishers to undergo thorough maintenance and recharging after every use, or whenever the pressure gauge indicates that the pressure is either below or above the normal range.

Fire Extinguisher Testing

This procedure must be executed exclusively by trained and certified personnel, utilizing specialized hydrostatic test equipment.

Hydrostatic testing, often referred to as Hydrotesting, is a critical requirement set by both the manufacturer and the NFPA standards for portable fire extinguishers, which are considered pressure vessels. The primary goal of the hydrostatic test on the shell is to verify the ongoing integrity of the metal cylinder when under pressure.

Chalkboard emphasizing maintenance cycles

Fire Extinguisher Test Frequency:

The testing intervals for various types of fire extinguishers are organized by the required frequency:

  • 12-year intervals are mandatory for low pressure, stored pressure dry chemical fire extinguishers, with internal maintenance due every 6 years.
  • 5-year hydrostatic testing is required for high pressure, stored pressure (CO2) fire extinguishers.
  • 12-year hydrostatic testing is also necessary for cartridge operated fire extinguishers, which additionally require an annual teardown.
  • 5-year intervals for hydrostatic testing apply to low pressure, stored pressure wet agent fire extinguishers.

All fire extinguishers must receive thorough maintenance and be recharged after each use or when the pressure gauge indicates a deviation from the normal pressure range.

How Often Should You Get a Fire Extinguisher Inspection?

A portable fire extinguisher is to be visually inspected on a monthly schedule (30-day +/- interval) to ensure it is in place and has not been tampered with. It is to be subjected to a thorough external maintenance on an annual schedule (12-month interval) to verify that all external components are in good working order to provide reasonable assurance the fire extinguisher will perform as designed upon actuation. It should have a thorough maintenance performed anytime it has been subjected to excessive heat/cold or impact.

There are periodic internal maintenance and hydrostatic test requirements to verify integrity of the internal components and the shell itself. Stored pressure shells that are subject to 12-year hydrotest are subject to 6-year internal maintenance.

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What Does It Cost To Service A Portable Fire Extinguisher?

To determine the cost-effectiveness of servicing a common 5 lb. ABC fire extinguisher over time with Metro Safety & Fire Inc, consider the following breakdown:

  • Initial Annual Cost Calculation:
    • Type of Extinguisher: 5lb. ABC
    • Coverage: 3,000 square feet
    • Total Costs Over Fisrt 12 Years: Purchase price + maintenance + testing fees
    • Annual Cost per Square Foot (First 12 Years): $0.009
  • Ongoing Annual Cost Calculation After 12 Years:
    • Type of Extinguisher: 5 lb. ABC
    • Coverage: 3,000 square feet
    • Ongoing Annual Cost per Square Foot (After 12 Years): $0.005


    First 12 Years: $0.009/sq. ft. per year

Stay Safe and Compliant with Metro Safety & Fire Inc.

Metro Safety & Fire, Inc. offers hazard analysis with our annual fire extinguisher inspection services. We can recommend the correct fire extinguisher type and placement for your structure and occupancy. Contact Metro Safety & Fire Inc. today to schedule your comprehensive fire extinguisher inspection and maintenance services.

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