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Emergency Signs: Frequently Asked Questions


Emergency signs are visual communication tools helpful in natural disasters like tornadoes and earthquakes or emergencies like a fire or an explosion. During an emergency, occupants of a building have to respond quickly, and emergency signs play a crucial role in deciding how fast the response time is. Emergency signs make it easy to deal with or escape from the situation speedily. Emergency response signage, including the evacuation signs and exit signs together, strengthens the safety program in a facility by communicating and guiding everyone to be safe.


Green and white are the colors generally used for emergency signs. As per OSHA 1910.145, first-aid equipment, emergency eyewash stations, and other places require green and white signs. Safety Instructions signs usually have white lettering against the green background, and some parts of the sign may also contain black lettering against a white background. Also, most international building codes prescribe green as the color for exit signs. However, few codes, such as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101 allow users to select between red and green exit signs.


IBC/IFC regulations cover a wide range of potential emergency situations. They recommend specific emergency signage and precautions to control unwanted events. These areas include -
- Exits
- Area of Refuge
- Emergency Evacuation
- Emergency Exit Doors
- Elevators
- Floor Identification
- Stairwell Storage
- Two Way Communication System
- Fire Protection Equipment
- Fire Department Connections
- Fire Extinguishers
- Fire Cabinets
- Fire Doors
- Rated Barriers
- Locks On Egress Side
- Electrical Control
- Accessibility Directions
- Hazard Identifications
- Restrooms
- No Smoking
- Occupant Load
- Live Loads


Some of the most commonly known emergencies include -

  • Earthquake
  • Pandemics
  • Chemical spills
  • Dam failure
  • Tornadoes
  • Droughts
  • Blizzards
  • Extreme heatwaves
  • Fire
  • Floods
  • Hurricanes
  • Lost child or Alzheimer family member
  • Rabies in the area
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Thunderstorms

The American Red Cross also includes "Flu", "Food Safety", "Highway Safety", "Landslide, Nuclear Explosion", "Poisoning", "Power Outage", "Tsunami", "Volcano", "Water Safety", "Wildfire", "Winter Storm", and now "Coronavirus" in its categories of emergencies.


An emergency telephone is available for contacting emergency services like 911 during an emergency. These phones are commonly found in a place of special danger or where it is likely that there will be a need to make emergency calls. Emergency telephone is also sometimes known as blue lights.

Some common places where emergency telephones are found are:

Towers with bright lights on top
College Campuses
Parking garages
Swimming Pools
Nursing homes
Rehabilitation facilities
Urban Parks


Emergency kits can be stored in various places depending on your lifestyle and the type of emergency:

Earthquakes: Kits designed for such natural disasters should be placed inside a cabinet near a kitchen table in the home or any area in the office where you’d go in case of such an emergency.

Tornadoes: Emergency kits should be stored in an interior room with no windows for a tornado.

Floods: Store your kit on a high shelf or the second floor.

Other emergencies: Just store the supplies in an easily accessible spot so you won’t have to hunt for them if you need them in a jiffy.

If your emergency kit contains food and water containers, try to store it in a climate-controlled environment, as extreme temperatures can spoil food quicker and damage water containers.


The purpose of Truss Signs is to warn firefighters if truss-style construction was used in the roof or floor of the burning building. Truss-type construction means that the building has a fabricated structure of boards, timbers, beams, or steel bars, made up of a series of members connected at their ends to form a series of triangles for a rigid framework. During a fire, a firefighter operating above or below a burning roof or floor truss might fall into a fire if the truss system collapses.

Truss signs contain letters indicating the type of truss construction (F- floor, R- roof, FR- floor & roof). The number on top denotes the type of material used in construction. It is vital for emergency responders to know if the fire damages the supporting structure of the building.


Different colors on the triage tags have different meanings: Black (Expectant) - These tags indicate the deceased or for people whose injuries are so extensive that they will not survive even after treatment. If death is imminent, these tags indicate staff to give pain medication only until death. Red (Immediate) - These tags are used to label patients with life-threatening injuries who cannot survive without immediate treatment. These victims still have a chance of survival. Yellow (Delayed) - These tags identify those who require observation (and possible later re-triage) and who suffer from non-life-threatening injuries. Their condition is stable, and they are not in immediate danger of death. Green - (Minimal) - These tags identify patients with minor injuries, also known as "walking wounded" and who will need medical care in the future after more critical injuries have been treated.

Pets left behind during a disaster can be easily rescued with the help of signs. When emergency responders arrive at the disaster site, they can identify houses/apartments/rooms where a pet might be trapped. Pet Rescue signage like stickers on glass doors or tags for door knobs is a great tool for saving helpless pets like dogs, cats, and even birds which can be exponentially more difficult to round up if they sense stress. Pet Rescue Stickers include the types and number of pets in your home, as well as the name and number of your veterinarian to be contacted in case of emergency.
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