What Precautions Should Be Observed When Discharging a CO2 Fire Extinguisher & Why Is This Necessary?

Dawn Denmar

If you plan to fit carbon dioxide Category B fire extinguishers in your home, you should be aware of the hazards posed by these extinguishers. Carbon dioxide fire extinguisher hazards are two-fold; first, higher levels of carbon dioxide are toxic to humans and can cause death, and second, pressurized carbon dioxide forms dry ice, which can cause damage to skin on contact.

Breathing Apparatus

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers can pose risks to your health.

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers should never be operated in enclosed areas without the use of breathing apparatus. Discharging a carbon dioxide extinguisher in an enclosed area will displace the oxygen, causing a buildup of carbon dioxide. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide ranging from 7 percent upward are toxic to the human body. It may only be a matter of moments before a user becomes unconscious. It is advisable to place breathing apparatus close by carbon dioxide fire extinguishers to use in the event of emergency.

Dry Ice

Carbon dioxide under pressure forms dry ice. When using a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher, you should be aware that the plastic horn of the extinguisher will be extremely cold and could freeze your hand, causing damage to your skin. The dry ice is beneficial in firefighting situations, as it will have a cooling effect on the heat of the fire.

Carbon Dioxide Fire Extinguishers

Carbon dioxide fire extinguishers are classified as Category B and can be used on flammable liquid fires, or electrical fires. Carbon dioxide extinguishers are not recommended for combustible material fires such as paper, wood or fabrics. Flammable liquid fires could be fires fueled by solvents, paints, gasoline, oils or lacquers. Carbon dioxide extinguishers work by taking away the oxygen element that is fueling the fire.

Fire Safety

Never use a small fire extinguisher to fight a large fire.

If you are confronted with an emergency fire situation, your first action should be to ensure the safety of yourself and any other individuals in the vicinity. Only tackle a fire if it is small enough to handle. Portable fire extinguishers are only suitable for use when a fire has just started, as there is insufficient extinguishing agent to tackle large fires. Do not attempt to fight a fire if you are unsure about how to use a fire extinguisher and do not know the basic rules of firefighting or the best way to use a fire extinguisher.