The first time I ever experienced a fire was in my mother's car. There was an aftermarket tape deck that shorted out as we left a parking lot. I was in elementary school at the time. Over the last 30-something years, I've watched a few local buildings burn down and even had a small kitchen fire to deal with in my own home. Fortunately, I have never had a fire in the sound booth…yet.
I posted this question to a few audio tech's, "have you ever had a fire in the booth or on stage during an event?" My favorite response was this one;
"Yeah, [it's] too depressing to talk about."
That response makes me wonder if there was a fire extinguisher nearby. I doubt it.
All that being said, let's first look at the different classes and types of fire extinguishers.
Fire extinguishers are classed based on the types of fires in which they are safe and effective. Here are the three primary classes which you should be familiar;
Class A: Takes care of ordinary solid combustibles, such as paper, lumber, cardboard, plastics, etc. This class also includes a rating indicating the amount of water the fire extinguisher holds and the amount of fire it will extinguish.
Class B: Works on flammable liquids, such as grease, gasoline, oil, etc. The numerical rating for this class states the approximate number of square feet of a flammable liquid fire that a non-expert person can expect to extinguish.
Class C: Suitable for use on electrically energized fires. This class of fire extinguishers does not have a numerical rating. The presence of the letter “C” indicates that the extinguishing agent is non-conductive.
An extinguisher is marked for use either by the letter of the class or a standardized descriptive picture.
There are several types of fire extinguishers:
Dry Chemical Extinguishers: Usually rated for multi-purpose use (A:B:C classes). They contain an extinguishing agent and use a compressed, non-flammable gas as a propellant.
Halon Extinguishers: Contain a gas that interrupts the chemical reaction that takes place when fuels burn. These types of extinguishers are often used to protect valuable electrical equipment since they leave no residue to clean up. Halon extinguishers have a limited range, usually 4 to 6 feet. The initial application of Halon should be made at the base of the fire, even after the flames have been extinguished.
Water Extinguishers: These contain water and compressed gas and should only be used on Class A (ordinary combustibles) fires.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extinguishers: Most effective on Class B and C (liquids and electrical) fires. Since the gas disperses quickly, these extinguishers are only effective from 3 to 8 feet. The carbon dioxide is stored as a compressed liquid in the extinguisher; as it expands, it cools the surrounding air. The cooling will often cause ice to form around the “horn” where the gas is expelled from the extinguisher. Since the fire could re-ignite, continue to apply the agent even after the fire appears to be out.
There are a variety of classes and types of extinguishers to fit the needs of the church. Regarding the stage and the sound booth, Class A and C type fires would be most common. Fire sources would most likely be electrical components, outlets, and candles. Therefore, it's wise to opt for a multi-purpose extinguisher. These are marked with ABC or all of the images above.
A class-C extinguisher could be used in addition to a multi-class one. The follow is totally my opinion so please take it as such. When there is a fire, people don't see a "Class C" extinguisher, they see a RED fire extinguisher. Therefore, I would rather someone grab a multi-purpose extinguisher and use it on an electrical fire than someone grab a class-specific extinguisher and use it on the wrong type of fire. If you want to have a class-C extinguisher for your electronics, then get one, but I recommend storing it in or very near the sound booth and labeling it as such.
Also, know the warning signs of electrical problems;
* A recurring problem with blowing fuses or tripping circuit breakers
* Experiencing a tingle when you touch an electrical component
* Discoloration of wall outlets
* A burning smell or unusual odor coming from an electrical component or wiring
* Flickering lights
If you notice any of these warning signs, unplug the malfunctioning electrical appliance immediately. If necessary, cut off power to the problem circuit by disconnecting the fuse or tripping the circuit breaker. When in doubt, contact an electrician or call the power company to inspect the electrical connections.
FINALLY, this should got without saying, but I'm saying it…learn HOW to use a fire extinguisher. Google for it or just read the instructions that come with an extinguisher.
Have You Ever Had a Fire at Church?