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How many and which extinguishing units/extinguishers do I need for professional use and apartments?

On this page we'll give you an overview of the legal requirements for the type and number of fire extinguishers for professional use and in communal areas of apartments. (The relevant info for private housing can be found here.)

The legal requirements regarding the number and type of fire extinguishers used in professional context and for communal areas in apartments are laid down in the police code of your commune/city, and are also regulated in the ARAB (General Regulations for Employment Protection).

These regulations contain a number of clear guidelines, so in most cases you can easily calculate your own fire protection requirements. Still can't make sense of the rules? Contact our experts!

The process consists of 2 steps:

  1. First you need to determine what kind of fire extinguishers you need. To do this, you need to divide the space that needs to be protected into projection zones.
  2. Then you need to determine the number of fire extinguishers you need per projection zone.

1. Which type of fire extinguishers do I need?

To determine what kind of fire extinguishers (foam, ABF foam, powder or CO2) you need, you divide your building into so-called projection zones.

These are zones:

  • in which the same activity is carried out;
  • in which mainly one fire class can be distinguished (read more about fire classes here);
  • in which all the individual rooms are connected to each other. Rooms that are separated from each other by a closed door by default are considered separate projection areas. Each floor of a building is at least one separate projecting zone.

For each projection zone, you need to determine which kind of fires could most frequently occur, the so-called fire classes:

  • Class A: Solid-based fires
  • Class B: Liquid-based fires
  • Class C: Gas fires 
  • Class F: Fat-based fires

You then choose the type of fire extinguisher that best suits each projecting zone:

The most common extinguishers are foam and powder extinguishers. In practice, you will almost always be able to choose between foam or powder as a fire-extinguishing agent, because gas fires are rarely a major risk for which you need special protection.

Foam extinguishers have the advantage that they cause very little collateral damage and that the foam is easy to clean up after use. The disadvantage is that they are not frost-resistant (but ABF foam extinguishers are!). Powder extinguishers have the advantage that they can extinguish gas fires, but they also cause collateral damage to electrical appliances (even if you do not directly aim towards them) and the powder is difficult to clean up (an industrial vacuum cleaner is recommended).

For office and residential areas, we recommend foam extinguishers for the reasons mentioned above. For the protection of storage rooms, we recommend powder extinguishers. However, it's possible that your fire insurance or fire service audit (fire service report) prescribes a specific type of fire extinguisher. Then you must always follow the instructions of your fire insurance or the fire brigade!

2. How many fire extinguishers do I need?

Basic protection

You need at least 1 extinguishing unit per projection zone and per 150m². In practice this almost always means that you need 1 extinguishing unit per floor and per 150m².

A fire extinguishing unit is a 6-litre foam extinguisher or a 6-litre powder extinguisher. A 9-litre foam fire extinguisher and 9-litre and 12-litre powder fire extinguishers are regarded as 1.5 extinguishing units, while a 5-litre CO2 fire extinguisher counts as half a extinguishing unit. This is one of the reasons why CO2 fire extinguishers are rarely used for basic protection.

Please note that the maximum walking distance to a extinguisher may not exceed 20 metres. In an elongated, narrow building you might need to provide more or larger fire extinguishers than indicated above.

Additional protection

Within a building, there are various local fire risks that require special attention. Common examples are: heating systems, spray paint booths, lift engine rooms, computer rooms, electrical cabinets, transformers, compressors, motors and emergency generators, welding booths, storage of flammable liquids and gases and high temperature zones.

Additional protection must be provided for any local fire risk, unless there's already a fire extinguisher with an appropriate extinguishing medium located within 5 metres of the local risk as part of the basic security.

You might need smaller and CO2 extinguishers for the additional protection. You don't have to limit yourself to fire extinguishers of 6-12kg/l, they can also be smaller. CO2 fire extinguishers are ideally suited to protect local fire risks, because CO2 fire extinguishers do not cause any (secondary) damage. However, you can't use them in very small, enclosed spaces. An extra fire extinguisher must therefore be provided for each local fire risk.

Can I use regular water fire extinguishers (A)?

No! Water extinguishers hardly ever belong to the standard extinguishing units according to ARAB or police codexes, so you can't use for professional purpose. They are dangerous to use on electrical devices, because the user could be electrocuted. Foam extinguishers (and also powder, ABF and CO2 extinguishers) are not conductive and can be used on equipment up to 1000V. Water extinguishers are only recommended in very specific situations, prescribed by your fire insurance policy or by your fire service audit. Never use water extinguishers as a default in a professional context unless you have the approval of the fire brigade.


Do you still need more explanation or do you have any additional questions? Do not hesitate to contact our experts!

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