New report published evaluating the role of fire extinguishers

Wednesday 31st March 2021
An evaluation of the role of fire extinguishers

A report by David Wales, funded and supported by IFEDA (Independent Fire Engineering & Distributors Association), has been published discussing fire extinguishers (released 30/03/2021).

The report, an evaluation of the role of fire extinguishers, “was produced with the aim of providing an evidence-based assessment of the role of portable fire extinguishers within dwellings.” This includes private dwellings and HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation).

Within this document, it is reported that the average Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) response time is increasing - adding that this measurement of time is “a longstanding and important measure for the FRS, which is used as a proxy for effectiveness.” Interestingly it also notes that studies refute the idea that on becoming aware of a fire, people will immediately call the emergency services. This is instead one of the last actions, presuming residents are attempting all other options to control the fire prior to calling out the FRS.

This leads into a discussion on human behaviour and motivation in dwelling fires including “the myth of panic”. It disputes that evidence rarely points to a loss of control, and the fact that dwelling/HMO fires have “a very personal impact” means “it is not surprising that most people are strongly motivated to try and tackle it themselves.”

FRS policies counter this information, stressing the message to simply evacuate the building. However, a potentially extinguishable fire can develop well in the documented average response time of close to eight minutes in England.

The BAFE Fire Safety Register strongly believes that fire extinguishers continue to remain an important fire safety provision in any building deemed appropriate following a thorough risk assessment by a competent provider. This report is an interesting insight into the current landscape and potentially establishes a stronger case for extinguishers to be present in more domestic properties, especially HMOs and HRRBs (High Risk Residential Buildings). It is highly relevant to read evidence attributing to human behaviour and their capability to remain calm under pressure, “assess and act in accordance with the situation”.

BAFE’s position on life safety must remain predominant, if in doubt or possible danger, evacuate the building and ensure the Fire and Rescue Service has been notified. However, with correctly sourced, commissioned, installed, and maintained fire extinguishers by a competent provider (i.e. a BAFE SP101 Registered Company), these could have the potential to extinguish smaller fires to protect a building. BAFE do not underestimate the rationale and ability of people looking to protect their building and possessions, with these provisions, if safe to do so. We welcome this report to inform further discussion and research.

The report can be read in full via the following link:

Additional information can be found from IFEDA: