If possible, no obstructions should be allowed to hide extinguishers. However, even the applicable NFPA standard recognizes situations exist where obstructions cannot be completely eliminated. In such cases NFPA 10 18.104.22.168.2 demands a means shall be provided for identifying those extinguisher units obscured from view.
Here are some ways for identifying the unit locations. According to our observation, signs are the most often used means of extinguisher location identification. They are inexpensive and easily installed or removed. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes; some display the words FIRE EXTINGUISHER, others are shaped as arrows designed to point toward the extinguisher. Signs may be adhesive vinyl, rigid plastic, or metal.
Adhesive vinyl signs are the easiest to use. After determining where the sign must be located to keep the extinguisher in compliance with code, the extinguisher service technician will make sure the chosen area of wall or column is clean and dry. Then the technician will peel the paper from the adhesive back and apply the sign. She will press the sign firmly with a cloth, rubbing to the edge, to assure no air bubbles are trapped.
Rigid plastic and metal signs are sometimes held in place by glue or two-sided tape. Most have holes provided so that they can be attached to a hard surface with screws or other fasteners for a more secure installation.
Another common means of identifying the locations is coding the wall or column, usually directly above the obscured units. One large retailer used 6 inch wide red tape to mark the columns or poles which had fire extinguishers attached. Some factories have painted the wall red above extinguishers to indicate unit locations.
There are special purpose fire extinguisher signs that are required in some situations and under certain circumstances. For example, class K portable extinguishers require a special placard. Signs that extend out from the wall draw attention to fire extinguisher cabinets mounted flush to the wall. Vinyl signs that wrap around a pole or column can be seen from any direction. Signs reading "FIRE EXTINGUISHER INSIDE" and signs having the words "FIRE EXTINGUISHER" over an arrow pointing right or left direct the viewer to nearby extinguisher units. Signs may be used to remind a user which extinguisher should or should not be used on certain hazards.
To remain effective fire extinguisher signs must be maintained. Inspection may reveal some signs are falling, are dirty, or for some other reason are difficult to see or read. Correcting the problem, whether it involves cleaning or sign replacement is not expensive.
Obstructions to seeing extinguishers is a difficult problem; signs are a simple solution.
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