Fire Extinguisher Colours – we explain each fire extinguisher colour in our simple guide.

 

There are 5 fire extinguisher colours: Red, Cream, Blue, Black, and Yellow.  Each colour represents a different type of extinguisher, used on different types of fires.

The fire extinguisher colours changed in 1997 to meet British and European Standard BS EN3.

All modern fire extinguishers have a red (or chrome) body, with the identifying colour displayed in a wide band at the top of the extinguisher – as in the image below:

fire extinguisher colours - image of all of the different types of extinguisher and their associated colours

Fire extinguisher colours: the colour is displayed in a wide band at the top of the extinguisher

 

Why did the fire extinguisher colours change?

fire extinguisher colours - example of pre-1997 extinguisher colour - blue body powder extinguisher

Example of old style extinguisher colour

Up until 1997, the body of the extinguisher was usually made up of the entire distinguishing fire extinguisher colour.

For example, Foam extinguishers would have been completely cream, and powder extinguishers would have been completely blue.

The standard fire extinguisher colour was changed to ‘signal red’ for 2 main reasons.

Firstly, red is the colour associated with both danger and fire and so there is an obvious association with fire extinguishers.

Secondly, red is the colour most easy to see, especially in a darker environment, such as a smoke-filled room.

The only exception to the ‘red’ rule, is chrome extinguishers.

Whilst these do not strictly conform to the guidelines, all chrome extinguishers in the UK are ISO 9001 quality supervised and tested against BS EN3.

We recommend using larger extinguisher ID signs with chrome extinguishers, to make them more visible.


Summary of the different fire extinguisher colours

The chart below provides a quick reference summary of each of the fire extinguisher colours and the fires they tackle.

We then give you a detailed explanation of each extinguisher colour type in the following section.


The different classes of fire

The different fire extinguisher colours tell you which classes of fire an extinguisher can be used on.

There are six classes of fire: A, B, C, D, ‘Electrical’, and F.

Class A fires – combustible materials:
– These are fires caused by flammable solids, such as wood, paper, and fabric

Class B fires – flammable liquids:
– These are fires caused by flammable liquids, like petrol, paint, or white spirits

Class C fires – flammable gases:
– These are fires caused by flammable gases, such as hydrogen or methane

Class D fires – combustible metals:
– These are fires caused by metals and chemicals such as magnesium, or potassium

Electrical fires – electrical equipment:
– These are fires caused by electrical items, like heaters.  Once the electrical item has been removed, the fire changes class, which means you can use a different colour fire extinguisher if necessary

Class F fires – cooking oils:
– Typically these are chip pan fires

 


Fire extinguisher colours – detailed explanation

 

Label Colour: Signal Red – Water Extinguishers

 

Overview:
Water extinguishers are the most common extinguisher for class A fires and carry the original ‘signal red’ colour label.

Used on:Fire Extinguisher Colours - Water fire extingiusher
o Paper and cardboard
o Fabrics and textiles
o Wood and coal

Not used on:
– Fires involving electrical equipment
– Kitchen fires
– Flammable gas and liquids

Who might need water extinguishers?:
– Buildings made of wood or another organic material
– Premises storing organic materials, like:
o Office buildings
o Schools and nurseries
o Hospitals
o Domestic dwellings
o Warehouses

It’s fair to say that the vast majority of buildings need either water or foam extinguishers.

Contact us to buy water fire extinguishers

 


Label Colour: Cream – Foam Extinguishers

 

Overview:
Foam extinguishers with their cream labels are the most common type of fire extinguisher for Class B fires. They also work on Class A fires, being water-based.

Used on:
– Organic materials like:Fire extinguisher colours - foam fire extinguisher
o  Paper
o  Cardboard
o  Material
o  Wood
o  Coal
Plus:
– Flammable liquids, such as petrol, paint and turpentine

Not used on:
– Kitchen fires
– Electrical fires
– Flammable metal fires

Who might need Foam extinguishers?:
– Buildings made of wood or other organic materials
– Premises where there are organic materials to be found like:o Office buildings
o Schools and nurseries
o Hospitals
o Domestic dwellings
o Warehouses

It’s fair to say that the vast majority of buildings need either water or foam extinguishers.

 Contact us to buy foam fire extinguishers

 


Label Colour: Blue – Dry Powder Extinguishers

 

Overview:
The blue-labelled dry powder extinguishers are sometimes called ‘ABC’ extinguishers because they are used on class A, B and C fires.  They shouldn’t be used in enclosed spaces because the powder can be easily inhaled and the residue is very difficult to clean. Standard dry powder extinguishers can be used on some electrical fires, plus specialist dry powder extinguishers are used for fires involving flammable metals.

Used on:
– Organic materials like:Fire extinguisher colours - dry powder extinguisher
o  Paper
o  Cardboard
o  Material
o  Wood
o  Coal
Plus:
– Flammable liquids, like petrol, paint and turps
Plus:
– Flammable gases, like liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and acetylene
Plus:
– Fires involving electrical equipment up to 1000v

Specialist dry powder extinguishers are only used on flammable metals, such as titanium and magnesium.

Not used on:
– Cooking oil /chip-pan fires
– Fires involving electrical equipment over 1000v
– or in enclosed spaces, such as offices or domestic dwellings

Who might need Dry Powder extinguishers?:
– Businesses who regularly use flammable gases
– Locations where flame cutting or welding is carried out
– Garage forecourts
– Buildings with large boiler rooms

 

 Contact us to buy dry powder fire extinguishers

 


Label Colour: Black – Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extinguishers

 

Overview:
CO2 extinguishers have black labels and are mainly used for electrical fires, although they are also usually the main type of extinguisher used in computer server rooms. They also put out Class B (flammable liquid) fires.

Used on:
– Flammable liquids, like paint, petrol and turpentineFire Extinguisher Colours - CO2 fire extinguisher
– Fires involving electrical equipment

Not used on:
– Kitchen fires or chip-pan fires
– Organic materials like paper, wood, cardboard or fabric
– Flammable metals

Who might need CO2 extinguishers?:
– Premises with electrical equipment, like:
o Office blocks
o Commercial kitchens
o Server rooms
o Building sites

All work vehicles should also carry a 2kg CO2 extinguisher as standard.

 Contact us to buy CO2 fire extinguishers

 


 

Label Colour: Yellow – Wet Chemical Extinguishers

 

Overview:
Wet chemical extinguishers with yellow labels are specialist extinguishers, designed for use on fires involving cooking oils and fats (‘Class F’ fires).  They can be used on Class A fires although businesses usually have a foam or water extinguisher for this purpose.

Used on:fire extinguisher colours - wet chemical extinguisher
– Chip-pan and cooking fat fires
– Organic materials like:
o  Paper
o  Cardboard
o  Material
o  Wood
o  Coal

Not used on:
– Flammable liquid or gas fires
– Electrical fires
– Fires involving flammable metals

Who might need Wet Chemical extinguishers?:
– Professional kitchens
– Chippies
– Restaurants
– Canteens

 Contact us to buy wet chemical fire extinguishers

 


We hope this guide to fire extinguisher colours has been helpful.

If you still have questions, or if you’d like to book a free survey of your premises by one of our BAFE registered extinguisher engineers, please just call us on 0845 845 3001 or email us at info@surreyfire.co.uk.

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