Water. It’s the lifeblood of our planet, nurturing every living organism, including us.
However, in certain situations, this very essence of life can be an agent of deterioration. Take, for instance, its impact on metallic objects. The humid kiss of moisture in the air often leads to corrosion.
One such device at the receiving end of moisture-induced degradation is the fire extinguisher. The presence of humidity or moisture can severely affect its lifespan and effectiveness.
Let’s dive deep into the corrosion conundrum and learn how moist environments alter fire extinguisher inspection cycles.
Corrosion and Its Sneaky Onset
Corrosion is a natural process that seeks to return refined or processed metals to their more stable ore state.
The initial stages of corrosion on fire extinguishers often remain invisible to the untrained eye; they manifest as harmless-looking discoloration or a slight change in texture. But beneath this seemingly trivial change, a chemical reaction involving the metal, oxygen, and moisture actively eats away at the integrity of the extinguisher.
In coastal areas or polluted urban environments, the presence of salt or airborne pollutants can act as catalysts, speeding up this corrosive process.
The Direct Impact on Inspection Cycles
Standard fire extinguisher inspection cycles are predicated on the device being housed in a ‘normal’ environment, i.e., one devoid of extreme humidity, salinity, or corrosive chemicals.
But in reality, many extinguishers are positioned in less-than-ideal surroundings (e.g., near the ocean, in basements, or near industrial zones). In such conditions, the adverse effects of moisture and other corrosive agents are compounded.
In high-risk environments, the prescribed annual check may need to be supplemented with more frequent visual checks or in-depth assessments to ensure the extinguisher’s reliability. The modified inspection rhythm is crucial to preemptively detect signs of corrosion and avert potential malfunctions or safety hazards.
Recommended Read: The Impact of Seasonal Changes on Fire Extinguisher Performance
Internal Wear: Not Just an External Affair
While external corrosion is a visual concern that raises immediate alarms, internal decay is a far more insidious issue. This is primarily because it remains concealed and escapes routine checks.
The inner walls of the fire extinguisher, the valves, the O-rings, and even the extinguishing agent can be adversely impacted by moisture ingress. Over time, this internal corrosion can alter the chemical composition of the extinguishing agent or create obstructions in the valve system.
If moisture interacts with certain agents, it could lead to unwanted chemical reactions, jeopardizing the extinguisher’s efficiency when needed most.
Extending the Life of Extinguishers in Moist Environments
Moist environments can be particularly challenging for the longevity of fire extinguishers. However, with careful measures, one can extend the life of fire extinguishers even in such challenging settings.
1. Strategic Placement: Start by positioning the extinguishers in areas least exposed to moisture. While accessibility is imperative, try to keep them away from direct sources of humidity like vents, doors, and windows. If the area is prone to flooding, ensure the extinguisher is elevated.
2. Protective Covers: Use specialized protective covers designed to shield fire extinguishers from environmental factors. These covers deter moisture buildup and protect against pollutants.
3. Anti-Corrosion Coatings: Some modern extinguishers come with anti-corrosion coatings that resist the onset of rust and decay. If your extinguisher doesn’t have one, consider applying an aftermarket anti-corrosion spray, but always ensure it doesn’t interfere with the device’s functionality.
4. Regular Wiping and Cleaning: Simply wiping down the extinguisher with a dry cloth regularly can prevent moisture accumulation. For locations with high salt content in the air, like coastal areas, occasionally wiping with a damp cloth followed by a dry one can help remove salt deposits.
5. Use Stainless Steel Extinguishers: While slightly more expensive, stainless steel fire extinguishers offer superior resistance to corrosion compared to their conventional counterparts.
6. Desiccants: In storage areas, use desiccants, materials that absorb moisture from the air. This can control the overall humidity levels.
7. Frequent Inspections: While annual professional inspections are standard, consider semi-annual checks for moist environments. Frequent inspections can help catch early signs of corrosion.
8. Prompt Repairs and Replacements: If any part of the extinguisher shows signs of corrosion or wear, address it immediately. Sometimes, a simple replacement of a corroded handle or valve can extend the life of the entire device.
Access Fire Protection: Guarding Your Extinguishers Against The Moisture Menace
While understanding the impact of moisture on fire extinguishers is essential, proactive steps are the ultimate game-changer.
At Access Fire Protection, we specialize in fire extinguisher inspection and maintenance. Our certified technicians possess the expertise and tools to ensure your fire safety equipment remains in peak condition.
Whether you’re interested in fire extinguisher maintenance for hospitals, warehouses, high-rise buildings, or industrial businesses, contact us today. We provide comprehensive fire extinguisher services across Seattle and all over King County, as well as Tacoma and the rest of Pierce County.