What Is the Meaning of the Colors on Fire Extinguishers?

You probably don't think much about fire extinguishers beyond making sure they're tested and working properly. Maybe you have noticed the colors on the labels and wondered what they mean. Designated purpose and cultural preferences are the 2 biggest determinants behind the colors of fire extinguishers.

What Is the Meaning of the Colors on Fire Extinguishers?
What Is the Meaning of the Colors on Fire Extinguishers?

Video of the Day

Identification

Fire extinguishers are metal canisters containing materials that will, when released, put out fires.

History

The first fire extinguisher used a blast of gunpowder to send water exploding over a fire. Colors originally represented contents--red for water, blue for powder, yellow for foam, black for carbon dioxide.

Type A fires can be put out with water.
Type A fires can be put out with water.

Types

Some substances can make fires worse--water on electrical or grease fires, for example--so chemicals have been developed to fight different types of fires. The United States organizes fires into 5 types. Some countries use 6 types.

Type B fires may be chemical or grease fires.
Type B fires may be chemical or grease fires.

Function

Color coding today represents the type of fire for which an extinguisher is designed and is more common in Europe and the United Kingdom than the United States.

Type C fires involve electrical circuitry.
Type C fires involve electrical circuitry.

Considerations

As more chemicals were developed for fighting fires, labeling became more complicated and new colors were added. Multi-use extinguishers had to display bands of colors.

Type D fires involve metals; Type K fires are kitchen related.
Type D fires involve metals; Type K fires are kitchen related.

Significance

Extinguisher color codes have evolved differently in many countries. Although colors are still used in some applications, extinguisher contents are now universally identified by labels that display letters or pictographs that represent the types of fires for which they are effective.

Universal pictographs tell what contents can--and cannot--be used for.
Universal pictographs tell what contents can--and cannot--be used for.

References

Promoted By Zergnet

You May Also Like

M
Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.