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Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Fire Safety Signs – Part 179

December 5, 2022 11:56 am

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 178, LWF discussed safe condition signs, before considering mandatory signs. In part 179, we will look at fire equipment signage.

BS 5499 incorporates pictograms which are used with supplementary wording to indicate different meanings, for example:

Fire alarm call point

Fire telephone

Fire hose reel

Fire extinguisher

The Health and Safety Regulations 1996 – Safety Signs and Signals – Guidance on Regulations also specifies pictograms which may be used with directional arrows as appropriate.

In addition to the pictograms listed above as present in BS 5499, the HSE Regulations contains another for a ladder. All pictograms depicted in the HSE Regulations are red and white (white on red). Identification of the item in question can be achieved through placing a sign as indicated or, as has become commonplace in many industrial premises, the wall area behind the equipment can be painted red.

It is commonly thought that all fire alarm call points and fire extinguishers must be indicated by appropriate signage, but actually, signage is only required where the fire risk assessment has indicated it is necessary. If the equipment is placed in an obvious area in clear sight, no signage will be required.

Additionally, it should be noted that fire alarm call points fall outside the scope of the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations.

The HSE guidance indicates that there may not even be the necessity of a coloured background (again, whether this is the case or not should be apparent through the fire risk assessment). If the first aid fire equipment itself is red and its position is easily seen and not hidden, there may be no need for supplementary highlighting through the background being red, or signs being placed.

BS 5499 describes standard notices comprising a graphical symbol and words for the following purposes:

  • The location of a foam inlet
  • The location of a dry riser
  • The location of a wet riser
  • A switch for firefighter use (for example to ground lifts)
  • The need for valve operation (before running out a hose reel)
  • The location of the plans for the premises for firefighters use

In each case, the pictogram depicts graphical flames in conjunction with appropriate wording. A collection of firefighting equipment may be illustrated by a firefighter’s helmet and graphical flames.

It should be noted that as firefighters will enter the building after the building occupants have evacuated (unless there are unforeseen circumstances meaning firefighter rescue is required) conditions and tenability will have worsened and all efforts to highlight equipment to assist firefighters in their work should be made. Appropriate signage will be required.

In part 180 of this series, LWF will discuss hazard signage. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.


Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 35 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.


While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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