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NFPA 704: Standard System for the Identification of the Hazards of Materials for Emergency Response

Abstract: This standard addresses the health, flammability, instability, and related hazards that are presented by short-term, acute exposure to a material under conditions of fire, spill, or similar emergencies.

This standard provides a simple, readily recognized and easily understood system of markings that provides a general idea of the hazards of a material and the severity of these hazards as they relate to emergency response. The objectives of the system are:

(a) To provide an appropriate signal or alert and on-the-spot information to safeguard the lives of both public and private emergency response personnel;

(b) To assist in planning for effective fire and emergency control operations, including clean-up;

(c) To assist all designated personnel, engineers, plant and safety personnel in evaluating hazards.

It is recognized that local conditions will have a bearing on evaluation of hazards; therefore, discussion shall be kept in general terms.

This standard is applicable to industrial, commercial, and institutional facilities that manufacture, process, use, or store hazardous materials.

This standard is not intended to address:

(a) Occupational exposure;

(b) Explosive and blasting agents, including commercial explosive material as defined in NFPA 495, Explosive Materials Code;

(c) Chemicals whose only hazard is one of chronic health hazards;

(d) Teratogens, mutagens, oncogens, etiologic agents, and other similar hazards.

This system is intended to provide basic information to fire fighting, emergency, and other personnel, enabling them to easily decide whether to evacuate the area or to commence emergency control procedures. It is also intended to provide them with information to assist in selecting fire-fighting tactics and emergency procedures.

This system identifies the hazards of a material in terms of three principal categories: "health," "flammability," and "instability." The system indicates the degree of severity by a numerical rating that ranges from four (4), indicating severe hazard, to zero (0), indicating minimal hazard.

For more information, contact:
The NFPA Library at (617) 984-7445 or e-mail

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