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The Ultimate Guide on Fire Safety Signs

Imagine a typical day, you’re working in an office and suddenly hear a loud warning sound through the alarm system. What would you do instantly? If it’s a fire emergency, can you deem yourself knowledgeable with the fire safety signs on the building or should you panic not knowing the fire safety signs thoroughly?

Well, it’s a matter of life and death when you have to act calmly and smartly to save yourself from a fire hazard. But it requires proper knowledge of fire safety signs that you need to be well aware of in a real emergency.

This blog will give you all the important insights on fire safety signs, what they are, what they mean and how to follow them.

Table of Contents

A rundown on fire safety signs

The term ‘sign’ refers to a gesture, a symbol or word to represent an instruction, operation, or to convey information as a notice on public display. Whether the signs are acoustic, verbal, and hand signals or represented as symbols or pictogram, they are intended to be easily understood, independently of the language and literacy ability of anyone viewing it.

The sign system is based on the familiar colours of the traffic lights:

A fourth colour, blue, is used to convey information and mandatory signs.

The shapes of signboards also denote some meaning:

Based on the criteria mentioned above, fire safety signs are designed to provide health and safety information to anyone leaving or entering a building during a fire emergency.

Why do you need to understand the fire safety signs?

According to the fire safety order 2005, all the responsible person for the building must perform a significant number of responsibilities whether it’s a workplace or, aircraft, ships, offshore rigs or anything apart from domestic premises. It’s the duty of the fire warden or fire marshal to ensure that the facility’s fire safety arrangements are appropriate or not. Effective planning, organising, scheduled monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures are prerequisites for a fire-safe environment. 

The fire safety signs are part of the planning of fire safety protective measures because the fire safety signs will instruct you what to do and what not to do during a fire emergency. 

Fire safety signs are also meant to help the occupants in a building make their way out of the facility or to find fire fighting equipment during a fire.

A better understanding of fire safety signs ensures everyone’s safety.

Essential fire safety signs you need to be familiar with

Based on the layout of your premises, fire safety signs can vary. However, there are certain fire safety signs that you need to put in place in the building to ensure everyone’s safety.

The fire safety signs are categorised into the following eight groups, according to the British and International standards.

1. Fire Exit and Escape route signs

Fire exit and escape route signs precede over all other signs because these signs are the first that you have to notice and follow through. The fire exit signage identifies the directions of travel to escape or exit a building. This makes an evacuation procedure simple, quick and efficient.

Fire Exit and Escape route signs

There may be specific doors installed in your facility only for the fire emergency escapes. If the doors feature some sort of security devices such as a sliding mechanism or release to open mechanisms, there must be opening instructions on the safety signs.

If your facility has any disabled person, you should plan in advance what sort of assistance the impaired person needs. For example, you can arrange an evacuation chair adjacent to the “emergency chair” sign.

All the escape route signs have adequate illumination to ensure that everyone can see and understand them.

In some facility, photoluminescent (matters that emit lights after absorbing photons) signs are used, which can be slightly more expensive but are more useful under power loss conditions.

The fire exit and escape route signs reduce the evacuation time and make the process safe and straightforward.

2. Safe condition signs

Under Standard BS 5499, safe condition signs are usually illustrated with white safety symbols on a green background usually providing information about the location of the first aid equipment and instructions for people with special needs or disabled persons.

This also gives information on the location of emergency equipment.

Safe condition signs

These signs often demonstrate no danger and are displayed prominently for optimum safety. 

3. Mandatory signs

Mandatory signs are usually illustrated on a blue background with white symbols or pictogram, and the signboards are usually round. These signs are intended to help prevent the spread of fire and give clear instruction to the occupants of the building about fire safety.

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Mandatory signs generally mean signs requiring specific behaviours. For example:

Mandatory signs can be combined with two signboards conveying two separate instructions.

4. Fire action signs

Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, all occupants of a building must be well aware of all the fire safety instructions. The fire action notices or charts should be in strategic locations around the building such as, near the alarm point, fire equipment point and fire exit corridors. Fire action signs also describe what action should be taken in the event of discovering a fire or upon hearing the alarm. In case you need to know where the nearest fire exit or meeting point is or if you need to phone anyone, that should also be included on the fire action signs.

Fire action signs

These signs are usually in blue and white, but some might be in red and white too because the fire action signs denote both the required actions and evacuation process.

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5. Fire fighting equipment signs

According to the health and safety legislation, all responsible persons must assess the manual operation of fire safety. This enfolds the instructions to use fire safety equipment by the occupants of the building, whether it’s a commercial or multi-residence environment.

Fire fighting equipment signs

Installing fire fighting signs near the fire fighting equipment is mandatory. These signs provide the following information:

These signs are normally in rectangular or square shape featuring a white symbol and texts on a red background.

6. Hazardous materials and warning signs

According to the Fire Safety Order, all the occupants of a building must be well-informed about the presence of any hazardous material on and near the facility. In high-risk areas like industrial buildings dealing with flammable and explosive materials, hazard warnings are a must to warn people to take precautions.

Based on the British and International Standards, Jalite Hazard signs have been designed to signify a warning.

These signboards or pictogram are generally triangular and yellow and are to be used when deemed necessary. For example: 

7. Prohibition signs

Prohibition signs are permanent signboards intended to prohibit specific actions which may pose a fire risk or hazard. Even after a fire risk has been identified, prohibition signs can be used to inform people within the building about the mandatory instructions. These instructions must be followed at all times to control the risk.

The prohibition signs are always red circles with a diagonal bar on a white background indicating a “do not” symbol with the prohibited action within it and written underneath it.

8. Fire Extinguisher signs

Fire extinguisher signs are meant to help everyone locate fire extinguishers in a building as soon as possible in the event of a fire. These signs are normally easy-to-read signs and crucial to avoid catastrophic damage and injuries.

Fire Extinguisher signs

These signs are usually rectangular and come in with the description of the type of fire extinguisher in a red background and the description of the type of the fire it can be used for on a green background.

You can read our blog that enfolds all the necessary information about different types of fire extinguishers.

Miscellaneous fire safety signs

Apart from the primary fire safety signs designated by the Health and Safety legislation, there are few other fire safety signs that are and can be used in the building.

1. Acoustic Signals and Illuminated Signs

In cases like power failures or blackouts, acoustic signals and illuminated signs work better than the conventional signboards. But there are some minimum requirements to use these.

2. Spoken Communication

To assess the overall fire emergency evacuation procedures, verbal signals along with acoustic signs, can convey a clearer instruction. The spoken messages must be clear, short and concise enough so that the listener can easily understand. The message can be delivered either by human or artificial voice.

3. Hand Signals

Hand signals are very convenient in situations like signalling to stop any procedures or to guide people carrying out hazardous materials etc. These signals are also precise, easy to understand and clearly distinct from other signals. Basic hand signals are in coded form. 

In any industrial or commercial facility, usage of more than one type of signals reduces the risks of fire hazards. For instance, an illuminated warning sign combined with an acoustic alarm and hand signals merged with a spoken message can provide clear instructions to all the people on the building.

Legislation encompassing the usage of fire safety signs

There are different types of fire safety signage required by the two main pieces of fire safety legislation governing fire safety signs.

1.The Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996

2. The Regulatory Reform  (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Whether you live in a residential area or work in an office or industry, your facility needs at least 2 or 3 fire safety signs to ensure everyone’s safe evacuation.

According to the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, all employers must provide specific safety signs on the facility, whether there is a fire risk or the risk is insignificant.

Whereas the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 require stringent stipulations on the maintenance and usage of the fire safety signs. The law also states that all the residents of a facility must be informed of the fire safety instructions and fire safety signs.

The two legislation also cover some major requirements related to the usage and maintenance of the fire safety signs. For example:

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The Fire Marshal -Level 3 course is designed to provide employers and fire safety marshals with up-to-date knowledge of fire safety prevention measures and best practice in the workplace.
Fire Marshal -Level 3
The Fire Marshal -Level 3 course is designed to provide employers and fire safety marshals with up-to-date knowledge of fire safety prevention measures and best practice in the workplace.

Ending Notes

Although we see the fire safety signs every day, it’s important to pay more attention to them. If you are an employer, you should ensure that all the people working in the building know and understand the rules and regulations related to fire safety signs. Keeping safe in a fire emergency is imperative, and a better understanding of fire safety signs ensure it.

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November 18, 2021

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