Fire extinguisher prices rise sharply

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

FARMINGTON, Conn.--Who knew a run on fertilizer could affect fire installers and integrators? Well, that’s exactly what’s happening, with a chemical that’s used in both fertilizer and in fire extinguishers.

The result? Prices that are “eight to 10 times higher than the price two years ago,” said James Jordano, vice president Supply Chain and Field Operations, UTC Fire & Security, in an email interview. In addition to its other lines of business, UTC manufactures more than 14 million fire extinguishers.

Monoammonium phosphate, nicknamed MAP, is a used in fire extinguishers for industrial and commercial use. It is also a basic raw material used for compound fertilizer. MAP is derived from phosphate rocks, the largest deposits of which are found in the United States, according to Jordano.

Jordano said the global demand for fertilizer has increased “due to rising demands for biofuels-ethanol increased one billion gallons year over year—reduction in worldwide food stocks, and a rising middle class in China and India, which has changed consumption patterns in developing countries.”

A variety of trade and infrastructure issues limits the availability of MAP, as has a recent earthquake in China that affected a major area of production for MAP.

There are other suppressants available that cover a range of different types of fire.

Jordano said installers and integrators should expect “the price of extinguishers to go up in line with inflation associated with materials … such as MAP, steel and aluminum.”

Tom Nardini, president of Nardini Fire Equipment Company, said he noticed a big increase in fire extinguisher prices “in the first quarter of ’08.” The increase has not been in place long enough for him to have any idea if it will affect his business in any major way. “You still have to have fire extinguishers,” he said, noting they’re the “best thing out there for the protection they provide.”