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Understanding Fire Safety Signs

Fire safety signs are incredibly important and have a range of functions, which include:
  • Provide instructions on how to respond to a fire
  • Direct people towards emergency exits
  • Warn people against dangers
  • Let people know if an activity is prohibited
  • Draw attention to fire fighting tools and first aid equipment
  • Show people how to use fire fighting tools
  You can imagine how many signs your building will need. With so many signs, all with different meanings, it is important that people are able to quickly recognise each sign, and what it means.

Colour coding

Fire safety signs come in four colours; red, blue, green and yellow. A colour coding system is used to ensure that you and people in your building can get a general understanding of the sign at a glance.
Colour Meaning Other features Example
  1.  Identifies the location of fire fighting equipment
  2. Indicates a prohibited or dangerous activity
  1. White pictogram on a red background. The background is either rectangular or square
  2. The generally recognised ‘stop’ sign that’s a red hollow circle with a red line running through it. It has a white background and a black pictogram
1.  Fire extinguisher sign 2. No smoking
Yellow Warns people to be careful and take precautions Yellow triangule with a black border and black pictogram Flammable
Blue Gives a mandatory instruction rather than advice or a warning Have a white pictogram and/or white writing on a circular blue background Fire door keep shut
  1. Shows fire exit routes
  2. Draws attention to first aid equipment
Square or rectangular shape with a white pictogram on a green background Fire exit sign


Fire Safety Signs and Hose Reel Cabinet Most safety signs contain pictograms (also called pictographs). Pictograms are symbols that are used with or without text to show the right course of action. They should be as simple as possible so that no confusion is caused, it is also important that they comply with ISO EN7010. This is the new international standard for safety signs. It has been adopted by the UK and other European countries to ensure that people not speaking a country’s native language can understand the right course of action by looking at signs.

Comply with ISO EN7010

Currently, all fire safety signs must comply with ISO EN 7010. This is the new standard for both British and European signs. The new standard is very similar to the old British Standard, but there have been some changes. In many cases, text only signs no longer comply with current standards. Supplementary text can be added to give a clearer meaning, but all signs must include a pictogram. Some of the pictograms previously used on British Standard signs have also changed, if only slightly, so it’s important that you check new signs purchased comply with the current guidelines.

Fire action signs

It’s a legal requirement that all building occupants are given information on how to respond to a fire. A fire action sign provides this information and is a great way of reinforcing formal training. A fire action sign should contain multiple messages. It should give building occupants instructions on raising the alarm and evacuating the building as a minimum requirement. The instructions should always be clear, and each action should be written as a separate point so the entire procedure is clear and easy to follow. Some signs use a numbered list, while others put each instruction in a separate box. You might notice that fire action signs use a combination of colours. This is because different parts of the sign will give different messages. For instance, in a blue box is a mandatory instruction, whereas information in the green box could be giving information on escaping the building.


All signs must be properly maintained. This generally means cleaning them regularly so that the pictograms can be seen and the writing read. If necessary, they will need to be resurfaced or replaced. Photoluminescent signs will need to be checked in darkened conditions to ensure they are fully functioning. photo credit: sfllaw via photopin cc
  • Written by: Barb Rivera

    It is necessary that every personnel in a certain establishment knows about these signs so that they can react or respond properly when the need arises. That is why it is important that every building must have fire drills to establish each one’s roles and responsibilities in cases of fire.

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