We see them every day and we take them for granted but fire safety signs are there for a reason. In an emergency have a full understanding of the actual meaning of fire safety signs could mean the difference between taking the correct action and not. When it comes to fire safety, taking the correct action can sometimes mean the difference between dealing quickly and safely with an incident and loss of property, injury, and even a fatality.
Here are some of the fire safety signs regularly in use in the UK.
The Fire Exit
The exit directional sign is probably the most instantly recognisable sign. A variant of this is used internationally and its purpose is to direct you to the nearest or safest exit. As the power will often go out during an actual emergency the sign will glow in the dark or have its own lighting.
Fire Assembly Point
While this may seem obvious, but it plays a very important role in an emergency. As well as being the end destination pointed to by the exit directional signs it is a gathering point. Once there, stay there until told otherwise. The Marshals and emergency services will need to check everyone is present. If you go wandering off, you could cause a problem.
Keep Fire Door Closed
Fire doors save lives and property. They are there to slow down the spread of the fire and often they will contain the blaze to a more manageable area. It says ‘keep shut’ for a very good reason. If you wedge one open it may as well not be there.
Remember, during an emergency, if you reach a fire door with no window, check the heat on around the handle by touching the back of your hand to the door. If the door is hot do not open it, there could be a fire behind it.
The Fire Action notice will be in strategic locations around the building. Often, they are near the fire equipment point and the alarm point. Some tell you to try and tackle the fire with the right equipment. You should never do this though unless you have no choice or the fire is clearly not going to spread and is very small and contained. Note that this sign also displays the number for the fire brigade and the assembly point.
Fire alarm point sign. People are often reluctant to use the fire alarm out of fear of being blamed for a false alarm. Honestly, if you are sure enough of a fire to be considering setting off the alarm you probably should. Fire spreads very quickly so hitting the alarm could save a life. The most common alarm button is the ‘break glass’ kind.
Fire extinguisher signs will remind you of the right extinguisher you need to tackle a fire if you absolutely must. As you can see in the image above, it consists of a water-based extinguisher for Class A fires and a CO2 one for electrical fires. Just what you would expect in an office environment. The fire alarm button is nearby and to the left is an emergency call button for anyone with limited mobility.
The evacuation chair is in the stairwell adjacent to the picture above. Evac chairs and other safety equipment should only be used in an emergency and your Fire Marshal will be aware of them and how to use them.
This list is not exhaustive, and you will find other signs for particular equipment such as hoses or fire blankets and many other variations of the ones above. One thing they will all have in common though is that, as you have probably noticed, they are colour coded.
- Red signs are related to fire equipment. This why the fire extinguishers themselves are always red but the actual type of extinguisher is indicated by a second colour. So for example the CO2 indicator is always in black on an overall red cylinder.
- Blue signs are action signs, this means they are telling you to do something or alert you to something important. The actions on them are mandatory actions such as keeping a fire door closed.
- Green signs are guidance and will be telling you safe routes, clear exits and where is safe to be in an emergency.
Many of the fire signage is international and there is usually a big, easy to understand icon, that explains the meaning of the sign for those who may not be able to read the writing.
As we said at the beginning of this article, although we see these safety procedures and warnings every day, we tend not to fully absorb their meaning and their location. Knowing what they mean and what they can do for you could make a huge difference in an emergency though.