Fire Extinguishers, Hose Reels and Fire Blankets

Fire extinguishers, hose reels and fire blankets are sometimes referred to as Hand-Operated Firefighting Equipment. They are active fire protection devices used to extinguish or control a fire, often in emergency situations. They make up one element of the Fire Protection System and are primarily used to respond to fires in the early stages of development.

Note: It is recommended to only attack the fire if you have been trained by an NZQA-accredited training provider in the use of the equipment, and it is safe to do so. Otherwise occupants should immediately evacuate the premises and call the Emergency 111 Number.

Where hand-operated firefighting equipment is installed in commercial premises and is included in the systems specified in the Compliance Schedule and Building Warrant of Fitness, it may not be removed unless a separate permit has been issued by the Building Control Authority, and must be inspected and maintained in accordance with New Zealand Standard NZS4503:2005.

Where hand-operated firefighting equipment is installed in commercial premises or vehicles, the employer, owner, agent, tenant or other person responsible is required to ensure that their employees, tenants etc. are trained in the use of the firefighting equipment.

Fire Extinguishers

Portable fire extinguishers come in a range of sizes and weights. It is necessary to take into consideration the person who is likely to be carrying it and the nature of the environment in which it is to be used.

Typically, a fire extinguisher consists of a handheld cylindrical pressure vessel containing an agent, which can be discharged under pressure at the fire. A fire extinguisher may emit a solid, liquid, or gaseous chemical. It is recommended that the Fire Extinguisher has a pressure gauge and is approved by Standards Australia or Standards New Zealand.

It is recommended that guidance is sought from a reputable fire protection company for the correct size, type and placement of Fire Extinguishers. Link to Fire Extinguisher FPANZ Members

Fire extinguisher types (stored pressure)

There are various types of extinguishers, which are used for different types of fires. As no single fire extinguisher is suited to all types (classes) of fire, they need to be selected according to the risks existing in the area to be protected. 

Dry powder extinguishers (identified by a white band) are characterised by their simple method of operation and rapid fire knock-down capability. There are three main types of powder commonly referred to: mono-ammonium phosphate based (ABE); sodium/potassium bicarbonate based (BE); and specialised powders for fire involving combustible materials. ABE dry powder extinguishers are suitable for all types of fires except cooking oils and fats, while BE dry powder extinguishers are suitable for flammable and combustible liquids, flammable gases and electrically energized equipment but not wood, paper and plastics and only limited use with cooking oils and fats.

Carbon dioxide extinguishers (identified by a black band) are suitable for use where the fire is located close to electrically energised equipment as they are non-conductive, clean and safe. While Carbon dioxide extinguishers can be used against other types of fire they are not the most effective option. They may also be dangerous in the case of fires involving cooking oils and fats. These extinguishers have a horn at the end of the hose. Due to the extreme cold of the carbon dioxide that is expelled from the extinguisher, it should not be touched.

Water extinguishers (no colour band) are characterised by their simple method of operation. They are only really suitable for use in tackling freely burning materials such as paper, cloth, wood and furniture. They should not be used against flammable and combustible liquids (e.g. oil and petroleum) or cooking oils and fats as the water will merely spread the flames.

Foam extinguishers (identified by a blue colour band) are characterised by their simple method of operation. They are ideal for fires involving flammable liquids. It is dangerous to use foam extinguishers on live electrical equipment. While some foam extinguishers may be used on cooking oils and fat fires, they are not recommended as the foam is approximately 94% water and they can simply spread the fire.

Wet Chemical extinguishers (identified by an oatmeal colour band) are characterised by their simple method of operation. They are ideal for freely burning materials such as paper, cloth, wood and furniture and with cooking oil and fat fires. They are not suitable for use with flammable and combustible liquids (e.g. oil and petroleum) or flammable gases. It is dangerous to use these Fire Extinguishers on live electrical equipment.

Selection, location, installation and identification

Selection, location, installation and identification should be carried out in accordance with NZS4503:2005. Fire extinguishers are typically fitted in easily accessible locations such as: buildings, motor vehicles, aviation and marine applications, as well as any other hazardous areas.

“Certified Product” is your assurance that the extinguisher meets testing and importation standards. All products should display a Fire Equipment Reference Number (FERN) and manufacturing standard Australia/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1841. 

Operating instructions

The typical steps for operating a fire extinguisher (described by the acronym "PASS") are the following:

P - Pull the safety pin.

A - Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, from a safe distance.

S - Squeeze the handles.

S - Sweep the extinguisher from side to side while aiming at the base of the fire

Inspection and Maintenance

Lack of maintenance can lead to an extinguisher not discharging when required, or rupturing when pressurized. For this reason, most countries in the world require regular fire extinguisher maintenance by a competent person.

In New Zealand, inspection and maintenance of hand-held firefighting equipment is required to ensure the equipment is maintained in accordance with NZS4503:2005, and its reference documents. This will allow fire equipment to “operate safely and effectively”.  

Fire Extinguishers are maintained in accordance with NZS4503:2005 section 6. All Inspection and maintenance of hand-held operating equipment, with the exception of monthly checks, must be carried out by a competent person.  

  • Basic Service: All types of extinguisher require a basic inspection annually to check operational condition as required by NZS4503:2005 (page 52, table 6.2, item 6.2.1).
  • Extended Service: Wet Chemical & Foam Type Fire Extinguishers require a 3-yearly service. This includes a more detailed examination, including a test discharge of the extinguisher & recharging if satisfactory.
  • 5-yearly Pressure Testing: All Fire Extinguishers are subject to pressure vessel safety legislation and must be hydraulically pressure tested & date stamped or labeled every 5 years.


Who should undertake inspection and maintenance?

To ensure that your fire equipment is maintained to the required level and that your company has the correct type of fire protection, use only a fire protection company that has trained staff who have completed the National Certificate in Hand Held Fire Equipment (level 3).

There is also a need for fire company staff to have completed the approved course to become an approved filler of fire extinguishers. 

Fire Hose Reels

Fire hose reels located in buildings can be used by building occupants to fight fire, providing it is safe to do so.

They are located to provide a reasonably accessible and controlled supply of water to combat a potential fire risk, especially where building occupants are trapped and cannot escape to an emergency exit.

Fire hose reels are manufactured to comply with AS/NZS 1221. They are connected to the mains water supply or Fire Systems, and are either wall-mounted or in cabinets. They require appropriate signage indicating their location and suitability. The length of a fully extended fire hose is between 18 and 36 meters with a diameter of 13, 19mm or 25mm.

Hose Reel Operation

Fire hose reels are all very similar in operation. 

  1. Ensure the nozzle or jet is in the closed position
  2. Turn on the main valve (some will not let the nozzle out until this is done)
  3. Reel out the hose, towards the fire
  4. Open the nozzle or valve and direct the stream of water at the fire, from a safe distance.

Maintenance of Hose Reels

Maintenance of hose reels should be carried out as detailed in NZS4503:2005. Monthly checks may be carried out by the building owner or owner’s representative. However, it is mandatory under NZS4503:2005 that annual checks are carried out by a “competent person”.

Fire Blankets

Fire blankets are ideal for domestic and commercial applications as the blanket cuts off the oxygen supply to the fire. They provide light, manageable protection suppressing fire for a sufficient period to enable the building occupant to evacuate the premises where the fire is of manageable size.