Universal Signs for First Aid

A white cross on a green background is the internationally accepted symbol for first aid.
A white cross on a green background is the internationally accepted symbol for first aid.

First aid is a priority where medical intervention is needed — no matter the location.

Signage the world over has been designed to reflect the importance of first aid action and the need for immediate universal recognition.

This means when you travel to a foreign country, regardless of the language spoken there, you should be able to recognise and understand the first aid signage.

If an unfortunate incident were to happen, looking around in most cases, should lead to a familiar sign relevant to your first aid needs.


A white cross on a green background is the internationally accepted symbol for first aid. By providing directions to available first aid care, tools, or facilities, the purpose of the First Aid sign is to help preserve life, prevent medical conditions worsening, and promote recovery.


This sign indicates the presence of an Automated External Defibrillator.

In 2008, a universal AED sign was recommended for adoption throughout the world by the International Liaison Committee of Resuscitation.

Public access defibrillators are also brightly coloured to make sure they are highly visible in a time of emergency.

The most common places in which to find a defibrillator is discussed in this article.


Hospital signs, located to the side of the road, are coloured blue in most cases. The typical sign, as pictured here, can also be included on larger directional street signs, including highway exit signs.


The Rod of Asclepius is a serpent-entwined staff wielded by Asclepius, a deity in Greek mythology associated with healing and medicine.

The symbology continues in modern times to represent medicine and health care. The Rod of Asclepius appears in the logos of a number of organisations and services around the world, including:

  • Academy of Medicine of Malaysia
  • American Medical Association
  • Army Medical Department of the U.S. Army
  • Australian Medical Association
  • Emergency Medical Services in the United Kingdom
  • Medical Council of India
  • Star of Life, Symbol of Emergency Services
  • World Health Organisation


A fire extinguisher sign is designed to draw attention to the location of a fire extinguisher. This type of sign is quite compact and mounted near the fire extinguisher itself.

A fire extinguisher is an active protection device used to extinguish or control small fires. Designed for emergency situations, fire extinguishers are not intended to be used to fight out-of-control fires, such as ones in which flames already reach the ceiling.

Our DRSABCD article is a must-read for anyone dealing with a life-threatening medical emergency

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