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    Extinguishers: Installing Extinguisher Labels for the Safety of Users

    By Mark Conroy


    An icon is a symbol of something important. The ones used on extinguishers are small squares with pictures of fires. For example, the icon for a Class A fire is a burning trash receptacle next to a campfire. For Class B, there is a picture of a gasoline can and flames. These pictographs are intended to provide easily recognizable images of fires to help users quickly identify where to use and not use the extinguisher. Here is an explanation to help your customers understand safe uses for extinguishers.

    Prior to the 1980s, extinguisher labels had letter-shaped marking symbols. Class A was a triangle, B was a square, C was a circle, and D was a star. That was fine as long as extinguisher users understood the classes. But research by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) found that novice users were not always familiar with the fire classification system. So pictorials were developed and are now applied to the labels of all modern fire extinguishers. Today’s extinguisher labels provide simple pictures that indicate extinguisher suitability for use on fires. Pictorial “use” symbols are located below the instructions on the extinguisher nameplate. That is currently required as part of the listing. But those pictorials are extremely small. In most cases, the manufacturer’s icon is only 5/8 inch. An icon that small is only legible at a distance up to 3 feet.

    In addition to manufacturers’ labels, adhesive labels with pictorial symbols are installed in the field. These after-market labels are installed to enhance safety by improving the legibility of the safety icons. Since Brooks’ labels are large, they permit easy legibility at a distance of 15 feet, in compliance with NFPA 10, B.1.3. These labels are intended to be installed on walls and columns near the extinguisher mounting location or on the outside of an extinguisher cabinet. Labels are also added to extinguishers, below the manufacturer’s instruction nameplate. This practice is recognized by NFPA, 7.1.4.2.

    Brooks’ labels also comply with color coding of NFPA 10, B.1.1. (White image with the following backgrounds)

    “Yes” background is blue “No” background is black with red slash Label background is white

    Label Specifications

    Extinguisher Use Labels P/N Description Size (in.)
    BL101N “ABC” Pictorial Label 4½ x 1¾
    BL102N “BC” Pictorial Label 3 x 1¾
    BL103N “A” Pictorial Label 4½ x 1¾

    Labels providing extinguisher-use information are installed on extinguishers or in the vicinity of extinguisher to improve the safety of extinguisher users. Unlike the small pictographs on the manufacturers’ labels, aftermarket labels provide critical safety information for extinguisher safe use that is easily legible at a distance of up to 15 feet. Your customers will appreciate the installation of these labels for each extinguisher and they can be assured that the installation is in compliance with NFPA 10.


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    Mark Conroy is an engineer in our Boston, MA office.   © 2019 Brooks Equipment

    Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above Tech Series article are the author’s only and provide limited information. Although the information is believed to be reliable, Brooks Equipment Company, LLC expressly disclaims any warranty with respect to the information and any liability for errors or omissions. The user of this article or the product(s) is responsible for verifying the information’s accuracy from all available sources, including the product manufacturer. The authority having jurisdiction should be contacted for code interpretations.