Fire extinguishers are required in almost all buildings with the exception of some residential homes. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) sets the mandate for what portable fire extinguishers are to be used in specific types of buildings in the Life Safety Code, or NFPA 101. But how do you know just how many fire extinguishers are needed for your building?

The ultimate answer to “how many fire extinguishers does my building need” is: it depends.

Many factors play a role in determining the number, type, size, and location of portable fire extinguishers you need to place to keep your building, employees, and customers safe and stay up to code.

National & local requirements

The NFPA, local codes, and OSHA have all prescribed requirements for the specific number of fire extinguishers that must be present in public buildings. Your fire protection company can help you navigate these requirements for your specific facility.

Factors that determine the requirements include:

  • Size and layout of the room: The square footage of a building and its layout will determine the number of fire extinguishers needed.
    • For example, NFPA code states that there should be no more than 75 feet between fire extinguishers.
  • Fire hazard level of the building: Public buildings are evaluated and assigned a fire hazard level based on their purpose and what they contain. These classifications are used to categorize a building as:
    • Light fire hazard- Quantity and combustibility of Class A combustibles and Class B flammables are low; fires with relatively low heat.
    • Ordinary fire hazard I & II- Quantity and combustibility of Class A combustible materials and Class B flammables are moderate; fires with moderate rates of heat.
    • Extra fire hazard I & II- Quantity and combustibility at Class A combustible material are high or where high amounts of Class II flammables are present and rapidly developing fires with high rates of heat are expected.
    • Commercial kitchens- Quantity and combustibility of Class K combustible material; cooking oils used on cooking equipment with large amount of heat.

The type of fire extinguisher used in your building will be based on the hazard level. For example, this table shows the fire extinguisher size and placement for Class A hazards based on classification:

fire extinguishers

Location & placement

Having the correct type of fire extinguisher for the correct hazard is essential, but so is location. NFPA 10, the standard for portable fire extinguishers, says that fire extinguishers should be located where they are readily accessible and available in the event of a fire. That means extinguishers should be located along paths of travel for ease of access in the event of a fire. Another requirement is visibility. Fire extinguishers need to be visible. If that’s not possible, signage should be installed to indicate the location of the fire extinguisher(s).

Placement is equally important as location. The NFPA recommends considering elevation when placing extinguishers. Their recommendation is to place the bottom of the extinguisher at least 4 feet from the ground and the top not more than 5 feet from the ground. The only exception is if the extinguisher exceeds 40 pounds, and in that case, the top cannot be more than 3.5 feet above the floor.

Finally, be mindful of location requirements by different class fire hazards. NFPA outlines different location requirements for extinguishers of varying class fire hazards (Class A through Class K).

Getting expert help

A licensed fire protection company can help you determine the amount, type, and size of fire extinguishers necessary for your building. They can also help you in determining location and placement. Most facilities require additional fire protection measures like a fire sprinkler system or automatic suppression system in addition to portable fire extinguishers. A knowledgeable fire protection company should be able to create a fire protection plan for your facility that is in alignment with local fire codes and requirements.

Fire Systems, Inc. has been helping local Atlanta businesses maintain compliancy for over 30 years. We are an established and well-respected fire protection company with strong relationships to local fire officials. We are well-versed in local fire codes and are always up to date on the latest changes and requirements. Our goal is to be the only fire protection company that you’ll ever need. That’s why we do it all. From portables to sprinkler systems, we can equip your facility with the most effective fire protection systems and also maintain and monitor that system. Visit our website for information and give us a call today at 770-333-7979 to find out how we can help.