Safety Signs Blog

Where should Fire action notices be positioned?

24th November 2010 | Fire Signs

fire action on discovering a fire on hearing the fire alarm sign

When it comes to UK legislation like the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, there are explicit instructions for businesses to deploy fire exits signs, fire alarm call point signs and fire point signs. However the safety sign that I believe is somewhat over-looked but just as important is the fire action notice.

This sign exists to quickly convey what all evacuees must and must not do in the event of a fire or emergency. In terms of instructions, fire action signs:

  • State if the fire alarm system will call the fire brigade automatically or whether a member of staff must make the call
  • Demand evacuation must take place without delay – “do not collect belongings” Relays that the lift cannot be used in the event of a fire
  • State where the fire assembly point is located so all members of staff can be accounted for


For all of these reasons this is an extremely important piece of signage. The questions often posed about this sign are:

  • Where should it be positioned?
  • What should the sign look like?
  • What should it be made out of?


Positioning Fire Action Notices correctly:

pictorial fire action sign

In the UK it is perceived wisdom to install this sign at the final fire exits at ground level. Many members of staff responsible for fire procedures will also position this sign in places where there is a high footfall, like the reception or the canteen. However, as important as these signs are, in truth not many staff members will actually read them during their break time or on their way home! More often than not, the only time this sign will ever be read is in an emergency – usually just after someone hits the fire alarm call point to raise the alarm.

It is at this point they will need to know what to do next. It is for these reasons that I believe fire action notices should be positioned adjacent to every fire alarm call point in the building.

The appearance of the fire action signs:

Ever since the introduction of the Health and Safety (Safety Signs and Signals ) Regulations and BS5499, the world of safety signs has been about conveying messages through suitable pictograms and concise text. Although signs like the one shown right do not contravene these Regulations, in the opinion of this author they do conflict with the spirit of the Regulations and BS5499.

During a time of great panic the evacuee should be able to quickly review and understand what to do next. As such, pictorial fire action safety signs like these would be preferable. Prior to purchasing any such fire action sign, the buyer should ask themselves two questions. Firstly, is there a lift in the building? If there is not, it is pointless delaying the evacuee further by making them read an additional line of text. Secondly, will the fire brigade be automatically dialled? In both cases the sign selected should be appropriate to that building’s circumstances.

What should the sign be made out of?

As the lights could fail in the event of a fire, it may be wise for businesses to install photoluminescent fire action signs. These will soak up both artificial and natural light in through the windows. Then, should the lights fail, the message displayed on the sign will glow, with the text becoming clearly visible and easy to read in a darkened room or corridor.

In conclusion, when selecting your fire action notice, it is worth thinking long and hard about what messages it needs to convey and where you feel they should be positioned. Whilst you may not be breaking any laws, the good practice laid out above should benefit all members of staff should an emergency occur.

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