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Visual communication is important for navigation, evacuation messaging, facility-wide warnings, and essential worksite notices—and all of these items pertain to fire safety. Floor markings and signage are crucial parts of fire safety planning. When creating a visual communication plan that complies with the fire code, consider OSHA and ANSI requirements as well as facility-specific needs.

Colors Designated for Fire Safety Messages

Facility-wide color standards help communicate important information and reduce confusion. While there are few provisions for which colors are used, fire-related visual cues have specific color requirements. OSHA designates the color red “to mark fire hazards, flammable liquids, and fire protection equipment such as fire extinguishers and emergency switches,” while ANSI guidelines recommend red for hazards such as flammable liquids.

Red markings can be used to label:

  • Fire extinguisher locations
  • Fire protection equipment
  • Fire alarms
  • Emergency exit directional cues
  • Do Not Enter or No Exit notices
  • Flammable liquid or other hazards
  • Emergency stop switches
  • Evacuation information
  • Outdoor fire lanes
  • Fire door rating and inspection labels

How to Mark Emergency Exits

Part of a facility’s Emergency Action Plan includes clearly marking and maintaining emergency exit routes and discharge locations. When it comes to marking exits for fire safety, first focus on required floor markings and signage, then improve visual communication with other facility-specific signals where necessary.

Common Visuals Used for Fire Safety

Exit signs are a familiar sight, but other cues are important in case of emergency, as well. These methods are by no means exhaustive, and all floor markings and signs must comply with OSHA specifications and fire code requirements—but these are some additional common visual cues to consider for fire safety communication:

  • Glow-in-the-dark floor marking tape can improve visibility in dim areas or in case of a power outage or heavy smoke.
  • Pre-cut floor signs are an easy way to mark fire extinguisher locations, making them easy to see while also offering a reminder to keep the area clear and accessible. Floor marking kits can be applied to highlight electrical panels and can help improve compliance with clearance requirements by keeping exits open for speedy evacuation.
  • Organizational signage encourages employees to put tools, machinery, trash, and other items where they belong—which helps prevent the buildup of combustible materials, such as packing materials and boxes, sawdust, plastics, and industrial scraps.
  • Make emergency exits easy to find with clear signage and floor markings, and ensure any doors that lead away from the exit route are clearly labeled to prevent confusion.
  • Label an outside Emergency Assembly Point to ensure all employees and visitors gather in the appropriate location in case of evacuation.
  • Apply appropriate GHS labels to comply with Hazard Communication Standard requirements for labeling hazardous, flammable, or combustible materials. Ensure pipes that contain flammable liquid or gas are clearly marked, following OSHA or ANSI pipe marking standards for color-coding, flow direction marking, and required text.
  • Use red to label fire hazards such as combustible or flammable liquids, gasses, or materials.

Consider which languages you should use for your messages: All safety messaging should include languages spoken in your facility, with clear graphics to accompany the text to ensure the meaning is clear.

School and Childcare Facility Fire Safety Considerations

Fire safety education starts with the youngest grades, but without clear visual cues that children can understand, your fire safety plan may be lacking. Young children may not be proficient at reading, but they can understand the association between specific colors and graphics, especially when they’ve been taught what to look for.

While any fire safety plans in schools and childcare facilities must comply with state and federal requirements, school plans often include:

  • Clearly posted instructions for how to proceed when the fire alarm goes off, including a map to the designated meeting point
  • Kid-friendly posters with fire safety reminders, especially signs that use graphics as well as color and text so reading isn’t a requirement
  • Pavement markings outside the school to designate evacuation assembly points
  • Fire safety education and evacuation drills to prepare kids and teachers for an emergency

Appropriate response during a fire-related emergency depends on visual cues, established procedures, and safety drills. Proper training and accompanying visual cues are important in a fire safety program, but all emergency response methods must meet fire code and related industrial safety standards. Explore our Resource Center for more information about visual cues for safety.