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What Do Fire Extinguishers Colours Mean?

Fire extinguishers are for use in an emergency and therefore need to be identified quickly and correctly in an emergency. For this reason fire extinguishers worldwide look similar but not the same.

Fire Extinguishers Colours

In the UK, fire extinguishers are red. A band or a circle of a second colour has to cover five to ten percent of the rest of the surface, and this indicated the contents of the extinguisher. Older devices might be completely covered with the colour that indicates the contents, but the regulation was changed in 1996.

These are the new colour codes for the band or patch of colour that indicates the contents/medium.

Red:         Water
Cream:    Foam
Blue:        Dry Powder or Class D Powder
Black:      CO2

It might also be helpful to understand which type of fire extinguishers are better for which types of fires.

Fire Exintguisher

Class A: Organic materials like paper or wood
Class B: Flammable liquids like oil or gasoline
Class C: Flammable gas
Class D: Combustible metal
Class E: Electrical fires
Class F: Cooking oil and fats

Both water and foam are useful on paper and wood fires. That means you should reach for an extinguisher with an all-red colour or a cream band if you have a paper or wood fire. In some cases, a dry powder is useful too, but it is not generally preferred.

On the other hand, electrical fires need to be put out with either a dry powder or CO2 extinguishers. You need the extinguisher with a blue or black label. You should never use water to put out an electrical fire because water conducts electricity and you could get a nasty electric shock.

You may not need every possible colour of fire extinguisher in order to keep your business safe. The right choices may depend upon the nature of your business and a fire risk assessment will determine this for you which we at Fire and Electrical Safety Ltd can do for you before supplying and installing fire extinguishers.

Then there are other extinguishers of other colours that might be more appealing in hotels, office lobbies or theatre foyers but would lead to confusion in an emergency as staff or visitors would not know quickly which one is best for what type of fire if they recognise the at all in a heightened emotional state.

This is why the regulations are there, as guidance, to ensure that everyone is working to a best practice and so that fire safety training and awareness is universal wherever possible.

These regulations however do not apply to home and if getting a more aesthetically pleasing fire extinguisher encourages you to have fire fighting equipment at home where you might not otherwise have done then you can do so, just ensure that everyone who lives there knows where they are, how and when they are to be used.