Halon Fire Extinguisher

There was a time when Halon fire extinguishers were very popular as an extinguishing agent for fires involving computer equipment and high tech facilities. This type of portable extinguisher contained Halon 1211 (which is pronounced as twelve-eleven), which was useful as it vaporises leaving no residue behind, so it would not damage delicate computer equipment during usage, but could also be used effectively on any type of fire. Halon works by stopping the chemical reaction of the fuel involved in the fire when it ignites and burns, as well as smothering the oxygen in a similar way to CO2.

However, it was discovered in the 1980s that Halons had the highest level of ozone-depletion out of any chemical in common usage. When over 150 countries signed up to the Montreal agreement in 1987, which meant that they would agree to control ozone-depleting chemicals, Halon became one of the first substances to be banned in 1993.

Halon Fire ExtinguisherAs a Halon fire extinguisher can only be refilled using recycled Halon, the EU decided in 1999 that all Halon fire systems (including Halon 1301 used in fixed systems and Halon 1211 in portable systems) would be decommissioned, a ruling which was fully implemented in the UK by the end of 2003. It is worth noting that Halon is still used as a fire-suppressant in many other countries around the world, especially in countries that did not sign up to the Montreal agreement and the following Kyoto agreement.

A Halon fire extinguisher that is still on a site should be immediately decommissioned and taken to a local civil amenity site (not all sites have facilities for them so always contact your local council first). It is illegal to dump or discharge a Halon extinguisher as well as owning one.

However, there are circumstances where usage of a Halon fire extinguisher is still legally acceptable but also very tightly controlled. These three circumstances are: in aircraft, for military use and in the channel tunnel. The latter, for example, has a fixed suppression system fuelled by Halon 1301. The reasoning for these exemptions are primarily due to the lack of a viable alternative, particularly as in cases of fire in these locations could be devastating and cause much loss of life.

What colour is a Halon Fire Extinguisher?

Older Halon fire extinguishers are green in colour, similar to that of British racing green, however not all of this type of extinguisher look the same. Halon extinguishers operated by the military are dark bottle green, those owned by British Rail were yellow and some others had them yellow and gold. Newer Halon models can be bright red with a green band. However, one thing they all have in common is that they will all be clearly marked with a label stating the contents. In design these extinguishers look similar to many others as they have a similar nozzle and trigger operation.

Due to the strict regulations involved in owning and operating a Halon fire extinguisher, most suppliers will obviously be unable to sell them. A popular and easy replacement for Halon has been CO2 extinguishers, which essentially do the same job but are much safer for the environment.

Category: Fire Extinguisher Types