You might imagine that I get asked this question a lot. I am, after all, a fire extinguisher service man. This question of “how much should I pay to have my fire extinguisher serviced?” is not a stupid question by any stretch. I have, of course, seen every end of the spectrum. I once heard about a guy who would only charge his customers $5.00 per extinguisher to go to their businesses and preform this service. I, of course, never saw this fabled man.
On the other end, I have heard of companies charging $90.00 to service a single fire extinguisher and, when I do hear this, I am always amazed on two counts: one, that anyone would charge this much and two, that anyone would pay it.
So then, what is reasonable? One might speculate that unless you are actually refilling you should only charge the cost of the tag. I suppose a good 50 cents would cover that cost. Others believe that they must go to a giant members only warehouse where they sell everything you can think of for some pretended discount to purchase a new fire extinguisher to pass their fire inspections. Of course, this practice doesn’t take into account the old adage “you get what you pay for” and consequently, you’re getting the lowest of the low in terms of quality, and it also tends to be a rather wasteful activity. You’ll have to buy a new fire extinguisher every year. How many fire extinguishers do you need in your business, house, car, trailer, mobile home, boat? And if you need, oh say, three in your business, that’s three new ones every year and, well, I guess that’s one for every room of the house.
The answer to this elusive question, in my mind, goes like this: you should pay what is dictated by the market. How valuable is the service, any service, depends on a variety of factors including perception. My answer to this is that you should not pay more than a new one. Right? Currently, a new fire extinguisher (not the best mind you, not even a good commercial solution, but new nonetheless) retails anywhere from $36.00 (on sale) to about $50.00 give or take a few. Somewhere in there is what you should pay if–drum roll please–you want a service man who is actually going to do the work.
Sure, you could pay 20 bucks, 15 bucks, 12 bucks, but then I can lay ten to one that your guy ain’t gonna be doing it. See, that’s the price of the tag and not much else. What else you say? Let’s take a few: cost of doing business, longevity, insurance, actually doing the work, paying taxes and generally being legitimate.
Our minimum for a single fire extinguisher at a location is $30.00 to $35.00. No extras, no travel money, no gas surcharges. We charge $35.00 for 1. For two we drop it down to a whopping $28.00 per, totaling $56.00. Big money, I know. For three we slide in at $78.00. 4 we go to $100.00. Anyway, you see where this going: sliding scale discount.
Now, I’m talking about a mobile service, not the walk-in type. You can expect to pay anywhere from $10.00 to $30.00 on a walk in rate depending what needs to be done. But if they’re going to charge you $65.00 for 1 and it’s not a top of the line, brand spanking new one, don’t go. Pass. It’s not worth it. And yes, there are companies that charge $65.00 for a walk-in rate on 1 fire extinguisher.
Why does this matter anyway?
Well, fire extinguishers are an expense and since just about every jurisdiction in the US mandates a yearly service for commercial businesses, you have to do your homework and your shopping. You don’t want to spend too much, but if you spend too little you sacrifice quality and that can mean something when it comes to fire.
But also, I have found that people don’t seem to “know about” fire extinguishers. There seems to be a deep mystery surrounding all aspects of fire extinguishers from where they are located in one’s shop to how they work to what’s inside them. People will very often tell me they have no idea where their fire extinguisher is when it is literally three behind them on the wall.
I happen to be of the mind that people should be educated on this subject, if only to keep from getting taken advantage of.
I had a high school biology teacher who, on the first day of class, wrote these words on the chalk board:
That which is not maintained, atrophies.
I never forgot it, and I can say this about fire extinguishers: those that are not serviced, turn to junk. And the next thing you know, when you need one, as in, when you really need one, you find it’s leaked out, or you can’t find it, or it’s so damn old it blows up in your face.
White Knight Fire Protection operates in the Greater Seattle Area and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and/or 206-251-1689.