An ISO decal is being attached to a bus on the Busworld fair in Belgium. Screenshot from the CTIF / UITP video.
24 Oct 2019

Project ISO 17840 “Safe Citizens through Safe Firefighters”: Act Local - Think Global


Worldwide standards made by firefighters in cooperation with industry


The Belgian representatives in CTIF's Commission for Extrication and New Technology made an exceptional contribution to this significant project. Major Tom Van Esbroeck, who has been seconded to the KCCE as a part-time expert since 2009, is the current chairman of the Commission. Firefighter Kurt Vollmacher from the Fire & Rescue Region ‘Centrum’ is the project leader for ISO.

The video above is a ISO 17840  promotion film made during the international bus world congress. This was made with interviews with several manufactures worldwide about why they promote ISO 17840


A document version of this article, with more illustrations, can be downloaded at the bottom of this post


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Read more on the 17840 ISO Standard and related topics here

7 years ago, both representatives set up in the fire department of Ghent, together step by step the basic principles of this ‘ISO project on Rescue information’ in Belgium.

Tom has managed the tactical part and Kurt the technical part of the work during the development of these standards.

The initial idea, which was to give the fire fighters better information on the field, has now  growing into a worldwide project.

Thanks to KCCE,  and later with the support of  CTIF,  the project expanded onto an international level, in consultation with the other members of their Commission and in close cooperation with the global vehicle industry.

CTIF is delighted that the Belgian expertise has been given a place in the spotlight within this important international context.

The full ISO 17840 information will be included in the different training levels of the basic training for the new firefighters, as well as in the expert training for already experienced firefighters, in the context of Technical Rescue.


The publication of the ISO 17840 standard is a real eye-catcher, because for the first time ever, the firefighting community has taken the lead in decision-making on industrial safety!


Aim: worldwide safety standard

With the aim to increase the safety for citizens as well as first and second responders in case of vehicle fires/accidents ,  the International Association of Fire and Rescue Service (CTIF) has created an international standard to give information to first  and second responders. This is especially important in the advent of new propulsion systems and alternative fuels being used in vehicles, which may not always be visible from the outside.

This standard ISO 17840 is now finalized and can be used worldwide by public transport sector, fire and rescue services,  automotive and heavy duty vehicle sector. It consists of: 

1. “symbols”  indicating which propulsion energy is used and where tanks, batteries, etc. are located in the vehicle;  

2. “rescue sheets” (quick info about the construction of the vehicle) used by first and second responders;

3. “emergency response guides” containing in-depth information (with the same headlines as the rescue sheets). 

We kindly invite you to:  

  • During the purchasing process for vehicles, request that manufacturers will provide you with symbols on your vehicles, rescue sheet and emergency response guide (complying with ISO 17840);  
  • Use and maintain the ISO 17840 symbols on your vehicles; 
  • Disseminate this information within your Member States to ensure it is used as much as possible.  


Important information how to implement ISO 17840  in your country

With the aim to make the promotion easy, we have created 3 packages where all the information you need can be found, and all of this have been done with the help of the worldwide firefighting community in collaboration with industry.

These are currently available in 18 languages, and soon there are more languages to come.

Special thanks to the worldwide translators from the fire community and industry

Italian: Marco Aimo Boot ;Polish: Slawek Dechnik; Danish: Henrik Paulsen; Finnish: Mikko Saastamoinen; Portuguese: Antonio José M.N. Calinas; Czech: Jakub Klucho; Nordic: Svein Thelin Knutsen; Japanese: T Marty; Spanish: Carles Comeche Cuenca; Hungarian: Attila Fuchs; Chinese: Se Chen; Persian: Ali Zayerzadeh; Croatian: Kristian Bernatovic; BulgarianAsen Sapundzhiev; Romanian: Moghilas George Eugen; Greek: Kimon-Alexander Pantelides; Korean:  HyungEun Lee; Swedish: Bjorn Ulfsson/Tore Eriksson; Arabic: Ahmed Aly  (more to come!)

Special thanks to Shan Raffel for all his support in coordinating our translation efforts in South East Asia! 



QR Public Transport Vehicles


  • Public transport together with UITP




QR Heavy Duty Vehicles


  • Heavy duty vehicles




QR for First Responder Vehicles


  • First responders trucks



Bus with ISO symbol 



The initiative fitted in perfectly with the philosophy of the Commission. The fire services don’t want to be the last party in the safety chain to be confronted with unknown risks they are not prepared for,  and are  therefore actively demanding to be involved in technology and energy transition right from the start.

After achieving the first hurdle by realizing the identification of the vehicles themselves, the remaining parts of the standards have now been realized. 

Uniform rescue and safety instructions

The constructors were also involved in the process and cooperated to determinate agreements on standardized safety sheets.

"We wanted the information to be structured in the same way, so that care emergency responders  can quickly identify where the battery is located, what color the cable is etc...",says  Major Tom Van Esbroeck.

That is why the information sheets (the “Rescue Sheets”) always have the same structure and layout with the necessary information, uniform icons and standardized colors.


In the third part of the standard (ISO 17840-3) an especially designed model is proposed for the Emergency Response Guide. This specifies how the more extensive information, aligned to the Rescue Sheet, must be structured. 


Normative model

Normative model for the Emergency Response Guide (source ISO 17840)


0. Rescue sheet(s)  


1. Identification / recognition

RGB: 191,191,191

2. Immobilisation / stabilisation / lifting

RGB: 204,255,204

3. Disable direct hazards / safety regulations

RGB: 255,204,0

4. Access to the occupants

RGB: 102,255,51

5. Stored energy / liquids / gases / solids

RGB: 255,255,0

6. In case of fire

RGB: 255,0,0

7. In case of submersion

RGB: 0,0,255

8. Towing / transportation / storage

RGB: 255,204,153

9. Important additional information

RGB: 141,179,226

10. Explanation of the used symbols


The guide is provided both on paper and in electronic form.

The model for the Emergency Response Guide basically follows a flow chart for the main actions of the first and second  responders who arrive at the scene of the accident, or who subsequently carry out towing and other activities.

The Emergency Guide can relate to a specific vehicle model, to a family of comparable vehicle models or to a certain type of vehicle technology.

The model for the Emergency Guide offers a convenient template for entering the following necessary and useful information:

• relevant information for a vehicle involved in a traffic accident (including immobilization, elimination of hazards, access to the occupants, safety procedures, handling of stored propulsion energy);

• information in case of fire or submersion;

• information about towing, transport and storage.


Increasing the intervention speed, safety and efficiency

The time between the moment an accident occurs and when the victim can be treated in the hospital directly influences the chances of survival of the victim and should be kept as short as possible. 

"That is why it is important for the emergency services upon arrival at the scene of an accident to have as quickly as possible a clear picture of which energy source the impacted vehicle uses",  says Major Tom Van Esbroeck.


Fuel types


"In addition to gasoline and diesel vehicles, there are more and more vehicles with alternative energy sources such as LPG, CNG, or hydrogen, and hybrid vehicles with different energy sources. Each energy source requires a specific approach of the fire fighters, as well as specific equipment."

 “Not only the firefighters, but also the towing and storage services are asking for clear procedures. That is why, in addition to the manufactures and the fire services, other parties must also participate in this debate, such as insurance companies, towing services, operators of parking garages, recycling companies, etc. ", says Kurt Vollmacher. 


Source: ISO 17840-4

In addition, the standard not only specifies the colors and dimensions but also where it must be applied onto the various types of vehicles. There has also been some forward thinking, because there is also attention for the readability from the air by drones, for example. 



Local training and  implementation


Training on this subject is provided at the fire services and at the De Lijn, TEC, etc

At the local level, the City of Ghent, Ivago (disposing of the largest CNG fleet in Belgium) and the Fire Department Zone Centrum have joined forces to set a good example by providing the energy icons on their vehicles.


Euro Ncap project

In order to further implement the ISO standard, there is a second project in collaboration with EURO N-Cap, the European organization who awards the safety stars to vehicles through its "European New Car Assessment Program". A database and accompanying Apps are currently being developed, which include the "rescue sheets" for all passenger cars sold on the European market. These Apps would be available for free for all first and second responders. 


“In the next phase, the vehicle could be able to electronically send this information to the emergency services”, says Euro NCAP project leader Lt Colonel Michel Gentilleau.



Memorandum with transport companies

De Lijn, STIB / MIVB and the Federation of Belgian Bus and Coach Companies (FBAA) have committed themselves to apply  these international symbols onto their vehicles.


The UITP (International Association of Public Transport- uitp.org) with 1600 members in 99 countries also signed an MOU in April 2019.



UITP leaders, CTIF president Tore Eriksson and the president of CTIF Extrication & New Technology Commission Tom Van Esbroeck at the meeting in Casablanca in April 2019 , where the memorandum of understanding was signed between the two organizations,  with to goal to implement the new ISO firefighting standard. (Picture UITP)


The organization wants to widely spread the knowledge of ISO 17840. This also shows how national MOUs between ministries, transport companies and emergency services can accelerate the implementation of the ISO standard when investing in new vehicles. A task force was set up to achieve this.

The organization provides information packages that can help organizations and companies to implement the ISO series.

Furthermore, there is a desire to exert influence in European and international associations such as Clepa,   IRU and international organizations in Geneva, especially the working group GRSG within UNECE.



During the official signing ceremony of the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) in November 2018, Kurt Vollmacher received an award by CTIF from the President, Mr Tore Eriksson.

He earned this for his strong dedication and hard work as project leader of the strategic ISO 17840 project.


Shut off diagrams

Future work areas

“The ISO standard could easily be further developed into information about trams, trains and planes, which also increase the use of specific energy carriers.

With regard to the installations themselves, there are also many possibilities in the long run: just to name a few: an “all-in-one” rescue key to interrupt the electrical power or gas supply.

A communication between vehicles and emergency services based on the V2V protocol in which data such as GPS coordinates, brand and type, energy source, number of people, position of the vehicle, etc. are transmitted. ”, project leaders Tom Van Esbroeck and Kurt Vollmacher conclude.


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